This is from the DOJ press release of Michael Cohen’s guilty plea following the “Filing of Eight Count Criminal Information Alleging Concealment of More Than $4 Million in Unreported Income, $280,000 in Unlawful Campaign Contributions.” The details of how they orchestrated the campaign contributions crime are truly byzantine, involving the machinations of at least one unnamed David Pecker.
On June 16, 2015, Individual-1 began his presidential campaign. While COHEN continued to work at the Company and did not have a formal title with the campaign, he had a campaign email address and, at various times, advised the campaign, including on matters of interest to the press, and made televised and media appearances on behalf of the campaign.
In August 2015, the Chairman and Chief Executive of Corporation-1, a media company that owns, among other things, a popular tabloid magazine (“Chairman-1” and “Magazine-1,” respectively”), in coordination with COHEN and one or more members of the campaign, offered to help deal with negative stories about Individual-1’s relationships with women by, among other things, assisting the campaign in identifying such stories so they could be purchased and their publication avoided. Chairman-1 agreed to keep COHEN apprised of any such negative stories.
Consistent with the agreement described above, Corporation-1 advised COHEN of negative stories during the course of the campaign, and COHEN, with the assistance of Corporation-1, was able to arrange for the purchase of two stories so as to suppress them and prevent them from influencing the election.
First, in June 2016, a model and actress (“Woman-1”) began attempting to sell her story of her alleged extramarital affair with Individual-1 that had taken place in 2006 and 2007, knowing the story would be of considerable value because of the election. Woman-1 retained an attorney (“Attorney-1”), who in turn contacted the editor-in-chief of Magazine-1 (“Editor-1”), and offered to sell Woman-1’s story to Magazine-1. Chairman-1 and Editor-1 informed COHEN of the story. At COHEN’s urging and subject to COHEN’s promise that Corporation-1 would be reimbursed, Editor-1 ultimately began negotiating for the purchase of the story.
On August 5, 2016, Corporation-1 entered into an agreement with Woman-1 to acquire her “limited life rights” to the story of her relationship with “any then-married man,” in exchange for $150,000 and a commitment to feature her on two magazine covers and publish more than 100 magazine articles authored by her. Despite the cover and article features to the agreement, its principal purpose, as understood by those involved, including COHEN, was to suppress Woman-1’s story so as to prevent it from influencing the election.
Between late August 2016 and September 2016, COHEN agreed with Chairman-1 to assign the rights to the non-disclosure portion of Corporation-1’s agreement with Woman-1 to COHEN for $125,000. COHEN incorporated a shell entity called “Resolution Consultants LLC” for use in the transaction. Both Chairman-1 and COHEN ultimately signed the agreement, and a consultant for Corporation-1, using his own shell entity, provided COHEN with an invoice for the payment of $125,000. However, in early October 2016, after the assignment agreement was signed but before COHEN had paid the $125,000, Chairman-1 contacted COHEN and told him, in substance, that the deal was off and that COHEN should tear up the assignment agreement.
Second, on October 8, 2016, an agent for an adult film actress (“Woman-2”) informed Editor-1 that Woman-2 was willing to make public statements and confirm on the record her alleged past affair with Individual-1. Chairman-1 and Editor-1 then contacted COHEN and put him in touch with Attorney-1, who was also representing Woman-2. Over the course of the next few days, COHEN negotiated a $130,000 agreement with Attorney-1 to himself purchase Woman-2’s silence, and received a signed confidential settlement agreement and a separate side letter agreement from Attorney-1.
COHEN did not immediately execute the agreement, nor did he pay Woman-2. On the evening of October 25, 2016, with no deal with Woman-2 finalized, Attorney-1 told Editor-1 that Woman-2 was close to completing a deal with another outlet to make her story public. Editor-1, in turn, texted COHEN that “[w]e have to coordinate something on the matter [Attorney-1 is] calling you about or it could look awfully bad for everyone.” Chairman-1 and Editor-1 then called COHEN through an encrypted telephone application. COHEN agreed to make the payment, and then called Attorney-1 to finalize the deal.
The next day, on October 26, 2016, COHEN emailed an incorporating service to obtain the corporate formation documents for another shell corporation, Essential Consultants LLC, which COHEN had incorporated a few days prior. Later that afternoon, COHEN drew down $131,000 from the fraudulently obtained HELOC and requested that it be deposited into a bank account COHEN had just opened in the name of Essential Consultants. The next morning, on October 27, 2016, COHEN went to Bank-3 and wired approximately $130,000 from Essential Consultants to Attorney-1. On the bank form to complete the wire, COHEN falsely indicated that the “purpose of wire being sent” was “retainer.” On November 1, 2016, COHEN received from Attorney-1 copies of the final, signed confidential settlement agreement and side letter agreement.
COHEN caused and made the payments described herein in order to influence the 2016 presidential election. In so doing, he coordinated with one or more members of the campaign, including through meetings and phone calls, about the fact, nature, and timing of the payments. As a result of the payments solicited and made by COHEN, neither Woman-1 nor Woman-2 spoke to the press prior to the election.
In January 2017, COHEN in seeking reimbursement for election-related expenses, presented executives of the Company with a copy of a bank statement from the Essential Consultants bank account, which reflected the $130,000 payment COHEN had made to the bank account of Attorney-1 in order to keep Woman-2 silent in advance of the election, plus a $35 wire fee, adding, in handwriting, an additional “$50,000.” The $50,000 represented a claimed payment for “tech services,” which in fact related to work COHEN had solicited from a technology company during and in connection with the campaign. COHEN added these amounts to a sum of $180,035. After receiving this document, executives of the Company “grossed up” for tax purposes COHEN’s requested reimbursement of $180,000 to $360,000, and then added a bonus of $60,000 so that COHEN would be paid $420,000 in total. Executives of the Company also determined that the $420,000 would be paid to COHEN in monthly amounts of $35,000 over the course of 12 months, and that COHEN should send invoices for these payments.
On February 14, 2017, COHEN sent an executive of the Company (“Executive-1”) the first of his monthly invoices, requesting “[p]ursuant to [a] retainer agreement, . . . payment for services rendered for the months of January and February, 2017.” The invoice listed $35,000 for each of those two months. Executive-1 forwarded the invoice to another executive of the Company (“Executive-2”) the same day by email, and it was approved. Executive-1 forwarded that email to another employee at the Company, stating: “Please pay from the Trust. Post to legal expenses. Put ‘retainer for the months of January and February 2017’ in the description.”
Throughout 2017, COHEN sent to one or more representatives of the Company monthly invoices, which stated, “Pursuant to the retainer agreement, kindly remit payment for services rendered for” the relevant month in 2017, and sought $35,000 per month. The Company accounted for these payments as legal expenses. In truth and in fact, there was no such retainer agreement, and the monthly invoices COHEN submitted were not in connection with any legal services he had provided in 2017.
During 2017, pursuant to the invoices described above, COHEN received monthly $35,000 reimbursement checks, totaling $420,000.