Rick Gates is a former business associate of Paul Manafort, the ousted chairman of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign who also turned himself in to the FBI on Monday.
WASHINGTON — Rick Gates followed Paul Manafort to Eastern Europe, Africa, the Trump presidential campaign, and now a federal building where he surrendered Monday to the FBI.
Gates, 45, is a former business associate of Manafort, the ousted chairman of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign who also turned himself in to the FBI on Monday. The men are charged with money laundering and violations of tax and foreign lobbying laws. They are the first to be charged in a special counsel investigation that has dogged Trump’s first year in office.
Manafort has been charged with laundering more than $18 million to buy properties and services. Gates has been accused of transferring more than $3 million from offshore accounts. Both men are charged with making false statements.
The indictments are the first in the long-running investigation of Trump’s associates and possible ties to Russian interference in the 2016 election. Trump has railed against the special counsel investigation. On Monday morning, Trump said in a Twitter post that the charges had nothing to do with the Trump campaign, adding “there is NO COLLUSION!”
Separately, an early foreign policy adviser to Trump’s presidential campaign, George Papadopoulos, pleaded guilty Monday to lying to the FBI about a contact with a Russian professor with ties to Kremlin officials, prosecutors said.
More on the Russia investigation
- With first charges, Mueller sends warning to Trump, aides
- Lawmakers to Trump: Leave Mueller alone
- Trump blasts former aide Papadopoulos as 'liar'
- Tech companies find more evidence of Russian activity
- Fact check: Trump plays defense in investigation
- Analysis: Mueller's moves send a powerful message
- Court documents show Manafort’s spending on fancy suits, cars and decor
- Read the indictment »
- Read Papadopoulos' statement of offense »
A protégé of Manafort, Gates survived the Manafort exodus from the campaign and went on to have a central role in Trump’s inaugural committee and a lobbying group that was formed to advance the president’s agenda. Gates was forced out of that lobbying group in April amid questions about Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.
“As part of the scheme, Manafort and Gates repeatedly provided false information to financial bookkeepers, tax accountants and legal counsel, among others,” the indictment said.
Attempts to reach Gates on Monday were unsuccessful.
Manafort had been under federal investigation on suspicion of violating tax law, laundering money and whether he appropriately disclosed his foreign lobbying work. As Manafort’s business associate, Gates’ name is listed on documents that are linked to companies Manafort’s firm established in Cyprus for payments from politicians and businesspeople in Eastern Europe, according to records reviewed by The New York Times.
When the business partners worked in Ukraine, Gates flew to Moscow for meetings with associates of a Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska.
Gates and Manafort met years ago when Gates was interning at Manafort’s Washington consulting firm, Black, Manafort, Stone, Kelly. The firm was known for running Republican political campaigns and then lobbying the politicians after they won their elections.
In Washington, Manafort was known for representing dictators and strongmen, such as Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines. Manafort also represented the Trump Organization to lobby the Treasury Department regarding casino transaction rules.
Gates would later follow Manafort to a new firm, Davis Manafort, which worked on the campaign of Viktor F. Yanukovych, the pro-Russia former Ukranian president. This work connected the men with Deripaska, an aluminum magnate and ally of President Vladimir Putin of Russia. Deripaska has been denied a visa to travel to the United States because of allegations that he is linked to organized crime operations, charges Deripaska has denied.
In 2008, Gates took over the firm’s duties in Eastern Europe, where he worked on business development and contract negotiations.
And this work could be lucrative. Manafort was a multimillionaire with vacation homes in Palm Beach, Florida, and the Hamptons.
In 2007, Gates and his wife sold their home in Richmond, Virginia, for $700,000 and took out a $1.5 million loan for a house in one of the city’s wealthier neighborhoods, according to public records.
That same year that Davis Manafort embarked on a new venture — a private equity fund created to buy small companies in Russia and Eastern Europe. Deripaska was the biggest investor in the fund, called Pericles.
Gates has said he read news reports about Deripaska and his visa problems, but they did not raise concerns for him.
“We thought we had a good business model,” Gates has said. “We thought we were going to be successful.”
The fund floundered and the one deal with Deripaska turned into a legal dispute. The fund also raised red flags for investigators, particularly the transactions that flowed through offshore accounts in Cyprus.
According to handwritten ledgers found in a former office of Yanukovych’s political party, payments totaling $12.7 million were made to Manafort in undisclosed cash transactions between 2007 and 2012. Other documents suggest that one payment that was earmarked for Manafort was paid through an offshore bank account.
Manafort has said that the ledgers are forgeries and that he never received secret cash payments.
Davis Manafort used shell companies to process payments for its political and business activities. Gates was one of the employees who worked with the Cypriot law firm that registered these companies, according to documents reviewed by The Times.
Russian oligarchs and businesses have been using Cyprus as a tax haven for years. Gates has said he was told that the firm’s clients instructed Davis Manafort to use accounts in Cyprus for money transfers.
In early 2014, Yanukovych was ousted from power, sending Manafort and Gates to look for new political clients. The client search ultimately led them to the Republican presidential primary race in the United States.
Gates followed Manafort to the Trump campaign in spring 2016. Gates managed many of the campaign’s daily operations and often traveled with Trump and others working on the campaign.
After the election, Gates went on to help run Trump’s inaugural committee and later a lobbying group that raised money to advance Trump’s agenda.
But federal investigators remained interested in the work Gates did with Manafort.
The special counsel, Robert Mueller, said that the men made tens of millions of dollars as a result of their work in Ukraine and that they worked to hide the payments for about a decade.
The two men “laundered the money through scores of United States and foreign corporations, partnerships and bank accounts,” the indictment read.