NEW YORK, N.Y. – A longtime business partner of President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen, whose business dealings are being scrutinized by federal prosecutors, pleaded guilty on Tuesday in a state tax fraud case that requires him to co-operate in any ongoing investigation, according to a person briefed on the deal.
Yellow cab magnate Evgeny “Gene” Freidman, the so-called Taxi King of New York, pleaded guilty to a single count of tax fraud in an Albany courthouse, almost a year after state prosecutors and tax authorities charged him with pocketing $5 million in mandatory, per-ride transportation fees.
For years, Freidman has managed hundreds of taxi medallions, the physical plates affixed to cabs that owners are required to display, including more than two dozen owned by Cohen, Trump’s longtime fixer. The two men, both lawyers, also have been close personally for decades — Freidman told the real estate publication the Real Deal last February that Cohen helped him name his eldest son.
Still, it wasn’t immediately clear what if any information Freidman could provide to investigators probing Cohen’s financial dealings. His lawyer, Patrick Egan, declined to discuss the deal and said he couldn’t comment on what the plea “indicates regarding any case other than my client’s.”
Cohen’s attorney didn’t return phone and email messages seeking comment.
In announcing the deal, the attorney general’s office made no mention of potential co-operation, saying that Freidman would be required to pay back the money he was charged with pocketing, including $500,000 within 30 days of his plea.
The person familiar with the case wasn’t authorized to publicly discuss it and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
FBI agents last month raided Cohen’s home, office and hotel room as part of a monthslong probe into the Trump fixer’s finances, including his dealings in the taxi industry, according to court papers and people familiar with the investigation.
The case was referred to Manhattan federal prosecutors by Robert Mueller, the special counsel overseeing the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russians.
Cohen has emerged in recent months at the centre of controversies facing Trump, most notably for his role facilitating a $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels just days before Election Day.
Trump denies having an affair with Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. But she and her publicity-friendly attorney have pressed their case in courtrooms in Los Angeles and in New York, as well as on Twitter, claiming that Cohen’s campaign-era non-disclosure agreement to keep Clifford from discussing the alleged 2006 affair with the then-reality TV star is invalid.
Agents who took part in the April raid of Cohen’s homes and offices obtained records pertaining to that deal among other documents, people familiar with the probe have told the AP.