Until recently, Michael Cohen’s longtime partner in the taxi business was facing a high risk of spending the rest of his life in prison. Federal prosecutors had accused Evgeny Freidman of evading more than $5 million in taxes, and committing four counts of criminal tax fraud and one of grand larceny. Each of those felonies, by itself, could have secured Freidman as many as 25 years behind bars.
But then, Freidman agreed to cooperate with state and federal prosecutors as a potential witness in some unspecified investigations, the New York Times reports. And so the government decided to let Freidman plead guilty to a single count of evading $50,000 in taxes. Now, assuming Freidman makes good on his promise of cooperation, he will face a mere five years of probation for his many (alleged) felonies.
The judge that presided over Freidman’s guilty plea Tuesday evinced incredulity at the sweetness of his deal.
“Do you understand the nature of the benefit your attorneys have accomplished on your behalf?” Judge Patrick Lynch asked Freidman during the proceeding at his Albany County court.
“I greatly understand that and appreciate it,” Michael Cohen’s business partner replied.
Cohen and Freidman have collaborated in the taxi trade for years, forming a partnership so strong, Cohen allowed Freidman to continue managing his cab business “even after New York City regulators barred Mr. Freidman last year from continuing to manage medallions,” the Times reports.
When FBI agents raided Cohen’s home, office, and hotel room last month, many analysts interpreted it as a sign that investigators had substantial evidence that Donald Trump’s lawyer was involved in crimes, as the threshold for securing such a warrant is high.
It seems reasonable to assume that the threshold for securing five-years probation — for allegedly committing more than 100-prison-years-worth of felonies — is also rather high; and thus, that Evgeny Freidman has substantial evidence that Michael Cohen was involved in crimes.
Donald Trump surrounds himself with people who have serious legal liabilities — and those people, apparently, surround themselves with other people who have serious legal liabilities.
This could prove quite convenient for federal prosecutors who wish to get someone to tell them things that Donald Trump does not want them to know.