Federal prosecutors have recommended a ‘substantial’ prison term for President Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen.
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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
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UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
18 Cr. 602 (WHP)
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THE GOVERNMENTaS SENTENCING MEMORANDUM
Acting United States Attorney for the
Southern District of New York
One St. Andrewas Plaza
New York, New York 10007
Andrea M. Griswold
Assistant United States Attorneys
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
BACKGROUND ........................................................................................................................... 2
COHENaS OFFENSE CONDUCT .............................................................................................. 2
Background ..................................................................................................................... 3
Cohenas Willful Tax Evasion.......................................................................................... 4
Cohenas False Statements to Financial Institutions ........................................................ 8
Cohenas Illegal Campaign Contributions...................................................................... 11
Cohenas False Statements to Congress ......................................................................... 14
COHENaS MEETINGS WITH LAW ENFORCEMENT ................................................................ 14
APPLICATION OF THE SENTENCING GUIDELINES ..................................................... 17
THE PROBATION DEPARTMENTaS CALCULATION ............................................................... 17
COHENaS CHALLENGES TO THE GUIDELINES CALCULATION .............................................. 17
The PSRas Grouping Analysis is Correct ..................................................................... 17
The Guidelines Enhancements Are Not aOverlappinga ............................................... 20
THE PROBATION DEPARTMENTaS RECOMMENDATION ....................................................... 22
DISCUSSION .............................................................................................................................. 22
A SUBSTANTIAL TERM OF IMPRISONMENT IS WARRANTED ............................................... 22
The Nature and Seriousness of the Offenses ................................................................ 22
The Need to Promote Respect for the Law and to Afford Adequate Deterrence ......... 28
COHENaS REQUEST FOR A SENTENCE OF TIME SERVED IS MERITLESS ............................... 30
CONCLUSION ........................................................................................................................... 38
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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
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UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
18 Cr. 602 (WHP)
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Defendant Michael Cohen is scheduled to be sentenced on December 12, 2018. The United
States Attorneyas Office for the Southern District of New York (the aOfficea) respectfully submits
this memorandum in connection with that sentencing and in response to the defendantas sentencing
memorandum dated November 30, 2018 (aDef. Mem.a).
Cohen, an attorney and businessman, committed four distinct federal crimes over a period
of several years. He was motivated to do so by personal greed, and repeatedly used his power and
influence for deceptive ends. Now he seeks extraordinary leniency a a sentence of no jail time a
based principally on his rose-colored view of the seriousness of the crimes; his claims to a
sympathetic personal history; and his provision of certain information to law enforcement. But
the crimes committed by Cohen were more serious than his submission allows and were marked
by a pattern of deception that permeated his professional life (and was evidently hidden from the
friends and family members who wrote on his behalf).
Cohen did provide information to law enforcement, including information that assisted the
Special Counselas Office (aSCOa) in ongoing matters, as described in the SCOas memorandum to
the Court, and the Office agrees that this is a factor to be considered by the Court pursuant to Title
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18, United States Code, Section 3553(a). But Cohenas description of those efforts is overstated in
some respects and incomplete in others. To be clear: Cohen does not have a cooperation
agreement and is not receiving a Section 5K1.1 letter either from this Office or the SCO, and
therefore is not properly described as a acooperating witness,a as that term is commonly used in
As set forth in the Probation Departmentas Presentence Investigation Report (aPSRa), the
applicable United States Sentencing Guidelines (aGuidelinesa) range is 51 to 63 monthsa
imprisonment. This range reflects Cohenas extensive, deliberate, and serious criminal conduct,
and this Office submits that a substantial prison term is required to vindicate the purposes and
principles of sentencing as set forth in Section 3553(a). And while the Office agrees that Cohen
should receive credit for his assistance in the SCO investigation, that credit should not approximate
the credit a traditional cooperating witness would receive, given, among other reasons, Cohenas
affirmative decision not to become one. For these reasons, the Office respectfully requests that
this Court impose a substantial term of imprisonment, one that reflects a modest downward
variance from the applicable Guidelines range.1
Cohenas Offense Conduct
As described in the PSR, in Criminal Information 18 Cr. 602, as well as in Criminal
Information 18 Cr. 850, Cohen committed four separate and serious crimes over the course of
several years. These crimes a willful tax evasion, making false statements to a financial institution,
illegal campaign contributions, and making false statements to Congress a were distinct in their
harms, but bear a common set of characteristics: They each involve deception, and were each
The Probation Department has similarly recommended a modest variance from the Guidelines
range, recommending a sentence of 42 monthsa imprisonment, albeit for different reasons.
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motivated by personal greed and ambition. While Cohen a as his own submission makes clear a
already enjoyed a privileged life, his desire for even greater wealth and influence precipitated an
extensive course of criminal conduct, described below.
Cohen is a licensed attorney and has been since 1992. (PSR AP 149.) Until 2007, Cohen
practiced as an attorney for multiple law firms, working on, among other things, negligence and
malpractice cases. (PSR APAP 156-157.) For that work, Cohen earned approximately $75,000 per
year. (Id.) In 2007, Cohen seized on an opportunity. The board of directors of a condominium
building in which Cohen lived was attempting to remove from the building the name of the owner
(aIndividual-1a) of a Manhattan-based real estate company (the aCompanya). (PSR AP 155.) Cohen
intervened, secured the backing of the residents of the building, and was able to remove the entire
board of directors, thereby fixing the problem for Individual-1. (Id.) Not long after, Cohen was
hired by the Company to the position of aExecutive Vice Presidenta and aSpecial Counsela to
Individual-1. (Id.) He earned approximately $500,000 per year in that position. (Id.)
In January 2017, Cohen formally left the Company and began holding himself out as the
apersonal attorneya to Individual-1, who at that point had become the President of the United
States. In January 2017, Cohen also launched two companies: Michael D. Cohen and Associates,
P.C., a legal practice, and Essential Consultants LLC, a consulting firm. (PSR AP 152.) Both
businesses were operated from the offices of a major law firm located in New York, and that firm
paid Cohen $500,000 per year as salary. (Id.) Cohen also secured a substantial amount of
consulting business for himself throughout 2017 by marketing to corporations what he claimed to
be unique insights about and access to Individual-1. But while Cohen made millions of dollars
from these consulting arrangements, his promises of insight and access proved essentially hollow.
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Documents obtained by the Government and witness interviews revealed that Cohen performed
minimal work, and many of the consulting contracts were ultimately terminated.
During and subsequent to his employment with the Company, Cohen also maintained
additional sources of income. Most significantly, Cohen owned taxi medallions in New York City
and Chicago worth millions of dollars. Cohen held these medallions as investments and leased
them to operators who paid Cohen a specified monthly rate per medallion. (PSR APAP 158-160.)
Cohen has also made substantial investments in real estate and other business ventures. (PSR
2. Cohenas Willful Tax Evasion
Between tax years 2012 and 2016, Cohen evaded taxes by failing to report more than $4
million in income to the Internal Revenue Service (aIRSa), which resulted in the avoidance of
more than $1.4 million due to the United States Treasury Department. Specifically, Cohen failed
to report several different streams of income on his tax returns, which he swore were true and
accurate. (PSR APAP 18-19.)
The largest source of undisclosed income was more than $2.4 million that Cohen received
from a series of personal loans that he made to a taxi operator to whom Cohen leased certain of
his Chicago taxi medallions (aTaxi Operator-1a), between 2012 and 2015, for a total principal of
$6 million. Each of these loans carried an interest rate in excess of 12 percent. Cohen funded the
majority of these loans from a line of credit with an interest rate of less than 5 percent (such that
Cohen was earning a substantial spread on the difference between the two loan rates). At Cohenas
direction, Taxi Operator-1 made the interest payment checks to Cohen personally. The checks
were deposited in Cohenas personal bank account or in an account in his wifeas name. In total,
Cohen received more than $2.4 million in interest payments from Taxi Operator-1 between 2012
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and 2016. Cohen did not inform his accountant of this arrangement or provide him with
documentation in support of these loans and interest payments, and intentionally reported none of
that income to the IRS in order to hide it and evade paying taxes. (PSR APAP 20-23.)
Cohen also concealed more than $1.3 million in income he received from another taxi
operator to whom Cohen leased some of his New York taxi medallions (aTaxi Operator-2a). This
income took two forms. First, in 2012, Taxi Operator-2 paid Cohen a bonus of at least $870,000
to induce Cohen to allow him to operate some of Cohenas taxi medallions. Cohen did not report
$710,000 of this bonus payment. (PSR AP 25). In addition, Cohen arranged with Taxi Operator-2
to receive a portion of the medallion income personally a as opposed to having the income paid to
Cohenas medallion entities. That is, while most of the medallion income was paid to Cohenas
medallion entities a whose bank statements were provided to his accountant for the purpose of
calculating the income for these entities and preparing Cohenas tax returns a certain income was
provided by Taxi Operator-2 directly to Cohen personally and deposited into his personal account.
Cohen again chose not to notify his accountant of this arrangement or identify this additional
income to be reported. (PSR AP 26).
Finally, Cohen hid several other sources of income from his accountant and the IRS. For
example, in 2014, Cohen received $100,000 for brokering the sale of a piece of property in a
private aviation community in Florida. In 2015, Cohen made approximately $30,000 in profit
from the sale of a rare and highly valuable French handbag. In 2016, Cohen received more than
$200,000 in consulting income from an assisted living company. Cohen reported none of this to
the IRS or his accountant. (PSR AP 27.)
Cohenas evasion of these taxes was willful.
In his sentencing submission and his
submissions to the Probation Department in connection with the preparation of the PSR, Cohen
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repeatedly attempted to minimize the seriousness of his decision not to report millions of dollars
of income over a period of years by blaming his accountant for not uncovering the unreported
income. Specifically, Cohenas submission to the Probation Department asserted that aall relevant
bank records were provided annually by Cohen to [his accountant] for the relevant years.a (PSR
at 45). Cohen repeats these efforts to blame his accountant in his sentencing submission:
Michaelas case stands out for comparative purposes in that a failure to reasonably
identify all income to a tax preparer who received all client-related bank statements
is quite different in kind from the sophisticated and complex schemes typical of
criminal tax evasion cases.
(Def. Mem. at 15) (emphasis added). Cohenas assertions are simply false. As the Government
was prepared to prove at trial, the defendant did not provide his accountant with aall client-related
bank statementsa (Def. Mem. at 15 n.8), and the information Cohen did provide to his accountant
could not have led his accountant to uncover the unreported income. Between 2014 and 2016, but
not for 2012 or 2013, Cohen provided his accountant with certain bank records and instructed his
accountant to identify potential tax deductions. Cohenas accountant did not go through Cohenas
bank statements looking for potential sources of income, nor did Cohen ever request this. Indeed,
Cohen routinely refused to pay for any work by his accountant not specifically approved by Cohen.
In addition, even if Cohenas accountant had gone beyond the agreed scope of the
assignment, the accountant was not provided with records that would have allowed him to
reasonably identify the unreported income. Specifically, the bank records Cohen provided to his
accountant were limited to monthly statements and did not include images of deposited checks or
deposit slips. The records thus included reference to certain adeposita or acredita entries in
particular amounts, but did not include additional detail that would have allowed the accountant to
identify the source of these deposits or credits. For example, a page from Cohenas bank records
from May 12, 2015 included a $15,312.50 adeposit.a While the Officeas investigation identified
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this as a loan interest payment from Taxi Operator-1 to Cohen, his accountant had no information
indicating the source of the deposit, nor that it concerned interest income that source was paying
to Cohen. In sum, any bank records provided by Cohen to his accountant awere insufficient for
[the accountant] to identify additional sources of income absent additional information from
Cohen.a (PSR at 47.) As the Probation Department noted in evaluating Cohenas efforts to blame
his accountant for Cohenas voluntary and intentional efforts to evade taxes, athe defendantas
contention that he provided the accountant with all relevant bank records appears to minimize his
responsibility in the instant offense and attempts to place the burden on his accountant.a (PSR at
Finally, not only did Cohen fail to identify the unreported income for Accountant-1, on at
least two occasions Cohen took steps to conceal the interest income he was receiving from Taxi
Operator-1. Specifically, in a memorandum that Cohenas accountant prepared in 2013 when
Cohen became a client, the accountant flagged the fact that a personal financial statement prepared
by Cohenas prior accountant ashows Loans Receivables of $4,250,000, but there is no related
interest income reported on your 2012 personal income tax returns relative to this loan.a Cohen
and his accountant did not discuss the aloans receivablesa further at the time because Cohen told
his accountant he did not ask for and would not pay for the memorandum. Later, when Cohenas
accountant was helping him prepare an updated personal financial statement to provide to Bank2, discussed below, in connection with the renegotiation of certain medallion loans, Cohen crossed
out the aloans receivablea line item altogether from his personal financial statement, leading his
accountant to conclude that the entry was mistaken and there was no outstanding personal loan, or
that it had been paid off, neither of which was true.
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3. Cohenas False Statements to Financial Institutions
In December 2015, Cohen contacted a bank (aBank-3a) to apply for a home equity line of
credit (aHELOCa). In his application for the HELOC, Cohen made false statements about his net
worth and monthly expenses. Specifically, Cohen failed to disclose more than $20 million in debt
he owed to another bank (aBank-2a), and also materially understated his monthly expenses to
Bank-3 by omitting at least $70,000 in monthly interest payments due to Bank-2 on that debt.
(PSR AP 34). These statements were the latest in a series of false statements Cohen made to financial
institutions in connection with credit applications.
By way of background, by February 2013, Cohen had obtained a $14 million line of credit
from another bank (aBank-1a), collateralized by his taxi medallions.2 In November 2014, Cohen
refinanced this medallion debt at Bank-1 with Bank-2.3 The transaction was structured as a
package of individual loans to the entities that owned Cohenas New York medallions, totaling
more than $20 million, and personally guaranteed by Cohen. Following the closing of these loans,
the $14 million line of credit with Bank-1 was closed. (PSR APAP 28-30.)
In 2013, Cohen made a successful application to Bank-3 a the bank to which he later would
make false statements in connection with the HELOC application a for a mortgage on his Park
Avenue condominium. In that application, Cohen did not disclose the $14 million line of credit
he had with Bank-1 at the time. (PSR AP 31.)
In February 2015, Cohen attempted to secure financing from Bank-3 to purchase a summer
home for approximately $8.5 million. Once again, he concealed the $14 million line of credit,
Cohen separately maintained a $6.4 million medallion-related loan with Bank-1. This loan was
disclosed in Cohenas subsequent credit applications to Bank-2 and Bank-3.
Bank-2 shared the debt with a New York-based credit union, pursuant to a participation
agreement. For ease of reference, this memorandum will simply refer to the debt at Bank-2.
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which by this point took the form of the $20 million in refinanced loans with Bank-2. In
connection with the summer home application, Cohen had to go to great and deliberate lengths to
keep the debt hidden from Bank-3. Specifically, in connection with this proposed transaction,
Bank-3 obtained a personal financial statement that Cohen had provided to Bank-2 in connection
with the $20 million refinancing with Bank-2 in 2014. This personal statement listed the $14
million line of credit Cohen was seeking to refinance and increase with Bank-2. A representative
of Bank-3 specifically asked Cohen about the $14 million line of credit reflected on that statement
(which, as noted, had not been reflected on Cohenas 2013 application to Bank-3 for a mortgage).
Cohen falsely stated that the $14 million line of credit was undrawn and that he would close it. In
truth, Cohen had effectively overdrawn the line of credit, by swapping it out for a fully drawn,
larger $20 million loan from Bank-2. Moreover, when Bank-3 informed Cohen that it would only
provide financing if Cohen closed the line of credit, Cohen lied again, misleadingly stating in an
email that a[t]he medallion line was closed in the middle of November 2014.a (PSR APAP 32-33.)
This series of lies culminated in Cohenas application for a HELOC. As noted, Cohen failed
to disclose the more than $20 million in refinanced medallion liability on that application, and
Bank-3 had no reason to question Cohen about the omission of this liability, because he had
affirmatively told the bank that the $14 line of credit was closed.
In addition to failing to disclose more than $20 million in medallion liability, Cohen also
intentionally omitted the tens of thousands in monthly interest payments he was making on that
debt. Cohenas monthly cash flow or adebt ratioa of expenses to income was a core component of
Bank-3as underwriting processes that considered an applicantas ability to make loan payments and
guard against the bankas need to enter into lengthy foreclosure proceedings. In evaluating
prospective loans, Bank-3 typically required that a borroweras monthly expenses represent no more
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than 45 percent of his monthly income. Based on the incomplete information contained in the
HELOC application, Cohenas debt ratio appeared to be below the benchmark set by Bank-3. Had
Cohen truthfully disclosed his expenses, including the extent of the monthly interest payments he
was required to make to Bank-3, Cohenas debt ratio would have significantly exceeded the
benchmark. In April 2016, Bank-3 approved Cohen for a $500,000 HELOC, which it would not
have approved but for Cohenas concealment of truthful information about his financial condition.
(PSR APAP 34-35.)
Notably, each of the foregoing false statements involved Cohen overstating his assets or
understating his liabilities, as in these instances it served his purposes to appear to have a higher
net worth. In contrast, when it served Cohenas purposes to understate his net worth to financial
institutions, he did so by concealing income and assets from his creditors. Specifically, documents
and witness interviews from the Governmentas investigation revealed that in 2017 and early 2018,
Cohen wanted Bank-2 to restructure his more than $20 million in medallion debt on terms more
favorable to Cohen. Cohen thus shifted gears, halting monthly payments to Bank-2 and falsely
representing orally and in writing that he had a negative net worth and less than $1.5 million in
cash, despite his receipt of nearly $4 million in aconsultinga fees between January 2017 and March
2018. By early April 2018, Bank-2 and Cohen reached a deal in principle, premised on Bank-2as
receipt of an updated personal financial statement confirming, in writing, the negative financial
information represented by Cohen. On April 9, 2018, the FBI executed a series of search warrants
on Cohen, including at his residence, hotel, and office, which put him on notice that he was being
investigated for, among other things, bank fraud and explicitly referenced Bank-2. Following the
execution of the warrants, counsel for Cohen informed Bank-2 that Cohen would be unable at that
time to provide the previously promised updated personal financial statement. To save the deal,
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Cohen agreed to post his Park Avenue residence as collateral, which he had previously refused to
do. An updated financial statement Cohen provided at closing reflected a positive $17 million net
worth in addition to previously undisclosed liquid assets, a nearly $20 million increase from the
false financial information Cohen had provided to Bank-2 just weeks earlier in the negotiations.
Thus, the false statement to Bank-3 to which Cohen pleaded guilty was far from an isolated
event: It was one in a long-series of self-serving lies Cohen told to numerous financial institutions.
4. Cohenas Illegal Campaign Contributions
On approximately June 16, 2015, Individual-1, for whom Cohen worked at the time, began
an ultimately successful campaign for President of the United States. Cohen had no formal title
with the campaign, but had a campaign email address, and, at various times advised the campaign,
including on matters of interest to the press. Cohen also made media appearances as a surrogate
and supporter of Individual-1. (PSR AP 39).
During the campaign, Cohen played a central role in two similar schemes to purchase the
rights to stories a each from women who claimed to have had an affair with Individual-1 a so as
to suppress the stories and thereby prevent them from influencing the election. With respect to
both payments, Cohen acted with the intent to influence the 2016 presidential election. Cohen
coordinated his actions with one or more members of the campaign, including through meetings
and phone calls, about the fact, nature, and timing of the payments. (PSR AP 51). In particular, and
as Cohen himself has now admitted, with respect to both payments, he acted in coordination with
and at the direction of Individual-1. (PSR APAP 41, 45). As a result of Cohenas actions, neither
woman spoke to the press prior to the election. (PSR AP 51).
Cohen Causes the Magazine to Pay Woman-1
In approximately June 2016, a model and actress (aWoman-1a) began attempting to sell
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her story of her alleged extramarital affair with Individual-1. Woman-1 knew that the story would
be of considerable value because of Individual-1as candidacy for president. Woman-1 retained an
attorney (aAttorney-1a) to represent her in this matter. (PSR AP 41).
Attorney-1 then contacted the editor-in-chief (aEditor-1a) of a popular tabloid magazine
(aMagazine-1a) and offered to sell the story to Magazine-1. The Chairman and Chief Executive
Officer (aChairman-1a) of the media company that owns Magazine-1 (aCorporation-1a) had a
prior relationship with Individual-1 and Cohen. In August 2014, Chairman-1 had met with Cohen
and Individual-1, and had offered to help deal with negative stories about Individual-1as
relationships with women by identifying such stories so that they could be purchased and akilled.a
Consistent with that offer, after Editor-1 told Chairman-1 about Woman-1as story, they contacted
Cohen to tell him about the offer. (PSR APAP 40-41).
At Cohenas urging and with his promise that Corporation-1 would be reimbursed, Editor1 began negotiating the purchase of Woman-1as story. On August 5, 2016, Corporation-1 entered
into an agreement with Woman-1 to acquire the alimited life rightsa to the story of her relationship
with aany then-married man,a in exchange for $150,000 and a commitment to feature her on two
magazine covers and publish over one hundred magazine articles authored by her.
agreementas principal purpose was to suppress Woman-1as story so as to prevent the story from
influencing the election. (PSR APAP 41-42).
Between August 2016 and September 2016, Cohen agreed with Chairman-1 to assign the
rights to the non-disclosure portion of Corporation-1as agreement with Woman-1 to Cohen for
$125,000. Cohen then incorporated a shell entity called aResolution Consultants LLCa to be used
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
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$125,000. That assignment was never completed, however. (PSR APAP 43-44).
Cohen Pays Woman-2
On October 8, 2016, an agent for an adult film actress (aWoman-2a) 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 contacted Cohen and put him in touch with Attorney1, who was also representing Woman-2. Over the course of the next few days, Cohen negotiated
a $130,000 agreement with Attorney-1 to purchase Woman-2as silence. Cohen received a signed
confidential settlement agreement and a separate side letter from Attorney-1. (PSR AP 45).
Cohen did not immediately execute the settlement agreement, nor did he pay Woman-2.
On the evening of October 25, 2016, with no final deal in place with Woman-2, Attorney-1 told
Editor-1 that Woman-2 was close to completing a deal with a media outlet, under which she would
make her story public. Editor-1 texted Cohen that a[w]e have to coordinate something on the
matter [Attorney-1 is] calling you about or it could look awfully bad for everyone.a 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. (PSR AP 46).
On October 26, 2016, Cohen emailed an incorporating service to obtain the corporate
formation documents for another shell corporation, Essential Consultants, LLC, which he had
incorporated a few days prior. That afternoon, he directed that $131,000 from his HELOC a the
same HELOC he had obtained by means of false statements, see p. 8-10, supra a be deposited into
an account he had just opened in the name of Essential Consultants LLC. The next day, Cohen
wired $130,000 from that account to Attorney-1. On the wire form, Cohen falsely indicated that
the purpose of the wire was to pay a aretainer.a On November 1, 2016, Cohen received copies of
the final, signed confidential settlement agreement and side letter agreement from Attorney-1.
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(PSR APAP 47-50).
After the election, Cohen sought reimbursement for election-related expenses, including
the $130,000 payment he had made to Woman-2. Cohen presented an executive of the Company
with a copy of a bank statement reflecting the $130,000 wire transfer. Cohen also requested
reimbursement of an additional $50,000, which represented a claimed payment for campaignrelated atech services.a Executives of the Company agreed to reimburse Cohen by adding
$130,000 and $50,000, agrossing upa that amount to $360,000 for tax purposes, and adding a
$60,000 bonus, such that Cohen would be paid $420,000 in total. Executives of the Company
decided to pay the $420,000 in monthly installments of $35,000 over the course of a year. (PSR
At the instruction of an executive for the Company, Cohen sent monthly invoices to the
Company for these $35,000 payments, falsely indicating that the invoices were being sent pursuant
to a aretainer agreement.a The Company then falsely accounted for these payments as alegal
expenses.a In fact, no such retainer agreement existed and these payments were not alegal
expensesa a Cohen in fact provided negligible legal services to Individual-1 or the Company in
2017 a but were reimbursement payments. Cohen then received the $420,000 during the course
of 2017. (PSR APAP 54-56).
5. Cohenas False Statements to Congress
Cohen also deliberately made false statements to the Congress. The offense conduct
regarding Cohenas false statements in set forth in the sentencing submission being filed by the
SCO in 18 Cr. 850 (WHP). (See also PSR APAP 62-73).
Cohenas Meetings with Law Enforcement
Since his guilty plea, Cohen has provided information to various law enforcement entities,
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including representatives of this Office and the SCO. As set forth in the submission being filed
by the SCO in 18 Cr. 850 (WHP), this Office understands that the information provided by Cohen
to the SCO was ultimately credible and useful to its ongoing investigation.
To be clear, neither the SCO nor this Office is making a motion under U.S.S.G. ASS 5K1.1.
No such motion is being made because, as detailed herein, Cohen repeatedly declined to provide
full information about the scope of any additional criminal conduct in which he may have engaged
or had knowledge. However, this Office acknowledges and agrees that Cohenas provision of
information to the SCO in connection with its investigation is a mitigating factor that the Court
should consider in imposing sentence. Indeed, Cohenas provision of information to the SCO is the
reason that this Office is not seeking a Guidelines sentence here, but rather is acknowledging that
a modest variance is appropriate.
While Cohenas provision of information to the SCO merits credit, his description of his
actions as arising solely from some apersonal resolvea a as opposed to arising from the pendency
of criminal charges and the desire for leniency a ignores that Cohen first reached out to meet with
the SCO at a time when he knew he was under imminent threat of indictment in this District. As
such, any suggestion by Cohen that his meetings with law enforcement reflect a selfless and
unprompted about-face are overstated.
With respect to Cohenas provision of information to this Office, in its two meetings with
him, this Office assessed Cohen to be forthright and credible, and the information he provided was
largely consistent with other evidence gathered. Had Cohen actually cooperated, it could have
been fruitful: He did provide what could have been useful information about matters relating to
ongoing investigations being carried out by this Office. But as Cohen partially acknowledges, it
was his decision not to pursue full cooperation, and his professed willingness to continue to provide
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information at some later unspecified time is of limited value to this Office, both because he is
under no obligation to do so, and because the Officeas inability to fully vet his criminal history and
reliability impact his utility as a witness.
Indeed, his proffer sessions with the SCO aside, Cohen only met with the Office about the
participation of others in the campaign finance crimes to which Cohen had already pleaded guilty.
Cohen specifically declined to be debriefed on other uncharged criminal conduct, if any, in his
past.4 Cohen further declined to meet with the Office about other areas of investigative interest.
As the Court is undoubtedly aware, in order to successfully cooperate with this Office, witnesses
must undergo full debriefings that encompass their entire criminal history, as well as any and all
information they possess about crimes committed by both themselves and others. This process
permits the Office to fully assess the candor, culpability, and complications attendant to any
potential cooperator, and results in cooperating witnesses who, having accepted full responsibility
for any and all misconduct, are credible to law enforcement and, hopefully, to judges and juries.
Cohen affirmatively chose not to pursue this process. Cohenas efforts thus fell well short of
cooperation, as that term is properly used in this District.5
For this reason, Cohen is not being offered a cooperation agreement or a 5K1.1 letter.
At the time that Cohen met twice with this Office, through his attorneys, he had expressed that he
was considering a but not committing to a full cooperation. Cohen subsequently determined not to fully
Cohenas provision of information to the Office of the New York Attorney General (aNY AGa)
warrants little to no consideration as a mitigating factor. This Officeas understanding is that the information
Cohen provided was useful only to the extent that he corroborated information already known to the NY
AG. More importantly, Cohen provided information to the NY AG not as a cooperating witness who was
exposing himself to potential criminal or civil liability but instead as a witness who could have been
compelled to provide that testimony. Fulfilling that basic legal responsibility voluntarily does not warrant
a reduced sentence a particularly when one waits until he is charged with federal crimes before doing so.
Similarly, this Officeas understanding is that the New York State Department of Taxation and Financial
Services (aNYSDTFa) subpoenaed Cohen for information about the payment of his own state taxes, and
any claimed acooperationa with NYSDTF appears to consist solely of providing that entity information
that they would otherwise have obtained via subpoena.
Case 1:18-cr-00602-WHP Document 27 Filed 12/07/18 Page 19 of 40
Within the confines of the SCO investigation itself, the Office does not dispute that Cohenas
assistance to the SCO was significant. But because Cohen elected not to pursue more fulsome
cooperation with this Office, including on other subjects and on his own history, the Office cannot
assess the overall level of Cohenas cooperation to be significant. Therefore, the Office submits
that, in fashioning a sentence on its case, the Court afford Cohen credit for his efforts with the
SCO, but credit that accounts for only a modest variance from the Guidelines range and does not
approach the credit typically given to actual cooperating witnesses in this District.
APPLICATION OF THE SENTENCING GUIDELINES
The Probation Departmentas Calculation
The Office agrees with the Probation Departmentas calculation of the total offense level as
24, see PSR AP 110, and the Criminal History Category as I, see PSR AP 114. Based upon these
calculations, Cohenas advisory Guidelines range is 51 to 63 monthsa imprisonment. (PSR AP 174.)
Cohenas Challenges to the Guidelines Calculation
Cohen challenges the Probation Departmentas calculation on two grounds. (Def. Mem. at
22-26.) Each claim is meritless.
1. The PSRas Grouping Analysis is Correct
Cohen claims that the Probation Departmentas grouping of the tax evasion counts with the
other counts in Information 18 Cr. 602 was incorrect because the counts are not aclosely related.a
This argument is contrary to the text of the applicable Guidelines and controlling Second Circuit
The PSR groups all eight counts in Information 18 Cr. 602 pursuant to U.S.S.G. ASS 3D1.2,
which provides that a[a]ll counts involving substantially the same harm shall be grouped together
Case 1:18-cr-00602-WHP Document 27 Filed 12/07/18 Page 20 of 40
into a single Group.a6 Subsection (d) of the Guideline specifies that asubstantially the same harma
includes a[w]hen the offense level is determined largely on the basis of the total amount of harm
or loss.a U.S.S.G. ASS 3D1.2(d). The subsection also includes a list of specifically enumerated
Guidelines that are to be grouped. Id. All three of the Guidelines at issue here a U.S.S.G. ASS 2B1.1,
which applies to the false statements count, ASS 2C1.8, which applies to the illegal campaign
contribution counts, and ASS 2T1.1, which applies to the tax evasion counts a are included on that
list. Thus, using the plain text of the Guidelines, all of the offenses here should be grouped.7 The
commentary to the Guidelines further supports this conclusion. It states that acounts involving
offenses to which different offense guidelines apply are grouped together under subsection (d) if
the offenses are of the same general type,a and further specifies that a[t]he asame general typea of
offense is to be construed broadly.a U.S.S.G. ASS 3D1.2 app. n. 6.
Second Circuit case law supports the plain-text reading of the Guidelines. The Second
Circuit has held that Section 3D1.2(d) must be used to group tax crimes with fraud and other
offenses for which the offense level is principally determined by the amount of loss. United States
v. Gordon, 291 F.3d 181, 192 (2d Cir. 2002); see also United States v. Fitzgerald, 232 F.3d 315,
320 (2d Cir. 2000) (holding that tax evasion, fraud and conversion should be grouped under
Section 3D1.2(d) because they are offenses of the same general type); United States v. Petrillo,
The false statements to Congress count charged in 18 Cr. 850 does not group with the other
counts, but it does not affect the Guidelines calculation. (PSR AP 88).
Cohen argues that the listing of specific Guidelines in this subsection does not make grouping
mandatory. See Def. Mem. at 23 (citing United States v. Napoli, 179 F.3d 1, 9 n.4 (2d Cir. 1999)). But
saying that grouping is not mandatory does not mean that it is not appropriate a particularly where, as here,
the Guidelines in question are each ones in which the offense level is determined largely on the basis of the
total amount of loss. See Napoli, 179 F.3d at 9 n.4 (citing as an example where grouping would not be
appropriate fraud and drug counts, because one measures harm by dollar losses whereas the other measures
harm by drug weights). Here, each of the listed offenses measures harm by dollar amounts, meaning that
Napoli, cited by Cohen, actually supports the Officeas position.
Case 1:18-cr-00602-WHP Document 27 Filed 12/07/18 Page 21 of 40
237 F.3d 119, 124-25 (2d Cir. 2000) (holding that tax evasion and mail fraud should be grouped
under Section 3D1.2(d)); United States v. Bernstein, 43 Fed. Appax 429, 431 (2d Cir. 2002)
(affirming grouping of mail fraud and tax fraud offenses under Section 3D1.2(d)).8
Cohen attempts to distinguish Petrillo, arguing that the tax and mail fraud offenses in that
case were factually intertwined and that it was decided at a time when the tax and fraud tables had
the same thresholds. (Def Mem. at 24). But even if Petrillo were read as limited to the facts of
that case, Gordon resolves any uncertainty. Analyzing Petrillo and Fitzgerald, the Second Circuit
held in Gordon that even if those cases do not require grouping under Section 3D1.2(d), the
structure of the Guidelines does in fact arequirea that acrimes falling within the special category
of quantifiable-harm offensesa be grouped under ASS 3D1.2(d). Gordon, 291 F.3d at 193. That was
so even though, at the time, the tax and fraud offense tables no longer had identical thresholds.
Nevertheless, the Circuit held that the district court committed clear and obvious error by not
applying Section 3D1.2(d) to group the fraud and tax evasion offenses in that case. Id.9
Moreover, Cohenas position a that the campaign finance and false statements counts should
group, but the tax evasion counts should not a does not make sense. All three sets of counts are
offenses for which the offense level is based principally on a quantifiable amount of harm or loss,
and qualify as offenses of athe same general typea as each other. But even if the foregoing
precedent were set aside, and the phrase ageneral typea were construed narrowly so that tax crimes
were not of the same general type as false statements or campaign finance offenses, then the false
Cohen argues that the avast majority of Circuit courtsa have held otherwise, citing United States
v. Doxie, 813 F.3d 1340, 1345 (11th Cir. 2016). But as Doxie recognizes, the Second Circuit has concluded
that afraud counts and tax counts should be grouped together under ASS 3D1.2(d).a Id. at n.3. That holding
is binding here in the Second Circuit.
The concurrence in Gordon cited by Cohen did not command a majority of the panel and thus is
not controlling precedent.
Case 1:18-cr-00602-WHP Document 27 Filed 12/07/18 Page 22 of 40
statements and campaign finance crimes would similarly not be of the same ageneral type.a
Indeed, the false statements and campaign finance crimes are no more similar as a general matter
or related as a factual matter than the tax crimes are with the other offenses. Thus, there is no
rational basis to group some but not all of the offenses in this case. 10
2. The Guidelines Enhancements Are Not aOverlappinga
In the plea agreement, the parties have stipulated that two-level enhancements are
warranted for both (i) Cohenas used of asophisticated means,a and (ii) his use of his aspecial skilla
as a licensed attorney in a manner that significantly facilitated the commission and concealment
of his crimes. The PSR also applies these enhancements. (PSR APAP 92, 94). While not contesting
their applicability as a legal matter, Cohen argues that they address overlapping conduct, such that
the resulting Guidelines range overstates the offense. (Def. Mem. at 24-25). This argument is
meritless. The asophisticated meansa and aspecial skilla enhancements address different aspects
of Cohenas conduct, and each serves a unique purpose under the Guidelines.
The asophisticated meansa enhancement is addressed to Cohenas use of complex means to
carry out and disguise his crimes. For example, Cohen created shell companies for his commission
of the campaign finance crimes, including one shell entity (Resolution Consultants) for use in the
transaction with Woman-1 and another shell entity (Essential Consultants) for use in the
transaction with Woman-2. (PSR APAP 43, 47.) Cohen also agreed to structure the reimbursement
for his payment to Woman-2 in monthly installments, and to disguise those payments by creating
fake invoices that referenced a non-existent aretainer.a (PSR AP 54.) These actions clearly
constitute the use of asophisticated means,a and Cohen does not and cannot argue to the contrary.
See, e.g., U.S.S.G. ASS 2B1.1 cmt. n. 9(B) (a[c]onduct such as hiding assets or transactions, or both,
If that were the case a that none of the counts grouped a then the total offense level would likely
be 27, yielding a much higher Guidelines range of 70 to 87 monthsa imprisonment.
Case 1:18-cr-00602-WHP Document 27 Filed 12/07/18 Page 23 of 40
through the use of fictitious entities [or] corporate shells . . . ordinarily indicates sophisticated
meansa); United States v. Amico, 416 F.3d 163, 169 (2d Cir. 2005) (creation of false bank
documents, appraisals, and blueprints constituted sophisticated means); see also United States v.
Regensberg, 381 F. Appax 60, 62 (2d Cir. 2010) (creation of fake loan documents and fraudulent
earnings statements constituted sophisticated means).
By contrast, the aspecial skilla enhancement is directed at a different aspect of Cohenas
conduct a his use of his education, training, and licensure as an attorney to facilitate and conceal
the campaign finance crimes. For example, in order to facilitate the hush money payment to
Woman-2, Cohen used his skills and experience as an attorney to negotiate and finalize a
settlement agreement with Woman-2, which included both a principal agreement and a separate
side letter that was designed specifically to conceal the identities of the parties. (PSR AP 45).
Moreover, Cohenas role as the attorney for one of the individuals involved in both settlement
agreements allowed him to use his position to attempt to cloak his criminal conduct under the veil
of attorney-client privilege. Indeed, in conversations he recorded with reporters, he claimed that
beyond his public statements on the matter, he could not answer questions about his role in the
payments because of attorney-client privilege. This sort of conduct implicates the aspecial skilla
enhancement. See, e.g., United States v. Mancuso, 428 Fed. Appx. 73, 2011 WL 2580228, at *7
(2d Cir. June 30, 2011) (enhancement warranted where attorney used legal skills to create a power
of attorney, draft a backdated partnership agreement, and form a company in furtherance of the
offense); United States v. Kelly, 147 F.3d 172, 178 (2d Cir. 1998) (defendant used his skill as an
experienced attorney to prepare an assignment of income in an effort to avoid income tax).
These two enhancements are thus directed at different actions that carry unique harms. For
that reason, Cohenas argument that the enhancements are aoverlappinga and should thus be
Case 1:18-cr-00602-WHP Document 27 Filed 12/07/18 Page 24 of 40
discounted is meritless. See, e.g., United States v. Minneman, 143 F.3d 274, 283 (7th Cir. 1998)
(rejecting adouble-countinga argument where the special skill adjustment focused on the
defendantas use of his legal training, while the sophisticated means enhancement was based on his
use of multiple accounts and corporate names); United States v. Rice, 52 F.3d 843, 851 (10th Cir.
1995) (noting that a[t]he purpose of the special skill enhancement is to punish those criminals who
use their special talents to commit crime,a whereas the sophisticated means enhancement is
adesigned to target criminals who engage in complicated criminal activity because their actions
are considered more blameworthy and deserving of greater punishment than a perpetrator of a
simple version of the crimea).
The Probation Departmentas Recommendation
Taking into account the factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. ASS 3553(a), including Cohenas age and
background, the nature and circumstances of his offenses, and the need to avoid unwarranted
sentencing disparities, the Probation Department recommends a sentence of 42 monthsa
imprisonment and a $100,000 fine. (PSR at 53-54.) The Probation Departmentas recommendation
does not, however, consider Cohenas provision of information to the SCO.
A Substantial Term of Imprisonment Is Warranted
As set forth herein, consideration of the factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. ASS 3553(a) weighs
heavily in favor of a substantial term of imprisonment. In particular, the nature and seriousness of
the offenses and the need to promote respect for the law and afford adequate deterrence are
especially weighty considerations.
1. The Nature and Seriousness of the Offenses
In his submission, Cohen states that athe facts and circumstances surrounding this case are
Case 1:18-cr-00602-WHP Document 27 Filed 12/07/18 Page 25 of 40
unique and unprecedented.a (Def. Mem. at 28-29.) That may be so, but it is not exclusively for
the reasons given by Cohen. It is also unique because Cohen managed to commit a panoply of
serious crimes, all while holding himself out as a licensed attorney and upstanding member of the
bar. His offenses strike at several pillars of our society and system of government: the payment
of taxes; transparent and fair elections; and truthfulness before government and in business.
First, Cohenas commission of two campaign finance crimes on the eve of the 2016 election
for President of the United States struck a blow to one of the core goals of the federal campaign
finance laws: transparency. While many Americans who desired a particular outcome to the
election knocked on doors, toiled at phone banks, or found any number of other legal ways to make
their voices heard, Cohen sought to influence the election from the shadows. He did so by
orchestrating secret and illegal payments to silence two women who otherwise would have made
public their alleged extramarital affairs with Individual-1. In the process, Cohen deceived the
voting public by hiding alleged facts that he believed would have had a substantial effect on the
It is this type of harm that Congress sought to prevent when it imposed limits on individual
contributions to candidates. To promote transparency and prevent wealthy individuals like Cohen
from circumventing these limits, Congress prohibited individuals from making expenditures on
behalf of and coordinated with candidates.
Cohen clouded a process that Congress has
painstakingly sought to keep transparent. The sentence imposed should reflect the seriousness of
Cohenas brazen violations of the election laws and attempt to counter the public cynicism that may
arise when individuals like Cohen act as if the political process belongs to the rich and powerful.
Cohenas submission suggests that this was but a brief error in judgment. Not so. Cohen
knew exactly where the line was, and he chose deliberately and repeatedly to cross it. Indeed, he
Case 1:18-cr-00602-WHP Document 27 Filed 12/07/18 Page 26 of 40
was a licensed attorney with significant political experience and a history of campaign donations,
and who was well-aware of the election laws.11 In fact, Cohen publicly and privately took credit
for Individual-1as political success, claiming a in a conversation that he secretly recorded a that
he astarted the whole thing . . . started the whole campaigna in 2012 when Individual-1 expressed
an interest in running for President. Moreover, not only was Cohen well aware of what he was
doing, but he used sophisticated tactics to conceal his misconduct.
He arranged one of the
payments through a media company and disguised it as a services contract, and executed the
second non-disclosure agreement with aliases and routed the six-figure payment through a shell
corporation. After the election, he arranged for his own reimbursement via fraudulent invoices for
non-existent legal services ostensibly performed pursuant to a non-existent aretainera agreement.
And even when public reports of the payments began to surface, Cohen told shifting and
misleading stories about the nature of the payment, his coordination with the candidate, and the
fact that he was reimbursed.
This was not a blind act of loyalty, as Cohen has also suggested. His actions suggest that
Cohen relished the status of ultimate fixer a a role that he embraced as recently as May 2018.12
Cohen was driven by a desire to further ingratiate himself with a potential future Presidentafor
whose political success Cohen himself claimed creditaand arranged for the payments in an
attempt to increase his power and influence. Indeed, after Cohen caused the media company to
Cohen was previously the subject of an FEC complaint for making unlawful contributions to
Donald Trumpas nascent campaign for the 2012 presidency. The complaint was dismissed for jurisdictional
reasons, but it certainly put Cohen on notice of the applicable campaign finance regulations. See In the
Matter of Donald J. Trump, Michael Cohen, et al., MUR 6462 (Sept. 18, 2013).
Michael Cohen (@michaelcohen212), Twitter (May 8, 2018, 6:19 PM),
https://twitter.com/michaelcohen212/status/971933570146201600?lang=en (thanking @CNN afor your
accurate depiction of me and my role for our @POTUS @realDonaldTrump! #loyalty #RayDonovan
#fixer). The phrase a#RayDonovana is a reference to the fictional afixera character on the Showtime
television crime drama Ray Donovan.
Case 1:18-cr-00602-WHP Document 27 Filed 12/07/18 Page 27 of 40
make an illegal expenditure, in a secretly recorded meeting Cohen took credit for the payment and
assured Individual-1 that he was aall overa the transaction. And after making the payment to the
second woman, and after Individual-1 was elected President, Cohen privately bragged to friends
and reporters, including in recorded conversations, that he had made the payment to spare
Individual-1 from damaging press and embarrassment.
Cohenas criminal violations of the federal election laws were also stirred, like his other
crimes, by his own ambition and greed. During and after the campaign, Cohen privately told
friends and colleagues, including in seized text messages, that he expected to be given a prominent
role and title in the new administration. When that did not materialize, Cohen found a way to
monetize his relationship with and access to the President.
Cohen successfully convinced
numerous major corporations to retain him as a aconsultanta who could provide unique insights
about and access to the new administration. Some of these corporations were then stuck making
large up-front or periodic payments to Cohen, even though he provided little or no real services
under these contracts. Bank records reflect that Cohen made more than $4 million dollars before
the contracts were terminated.
Second, Cohen undertook similar acts of deception in his private life. He concealed
significant amounts of income from the IRS, and lied about his financial status in his dealings with
banks. These offenses warrant significant punishment. For at least half a decade, Cohen willfully
evaded paying taxes. Cohen, who himself studied tax in law school and displayed an awareness
of complicated tax laws in real estate transactions, took purposeful steps to avoid paying taxes on
millions of dollars in income over a five-year period. He made private loans at double-digit interest
rates and did not report the millions of dollars in income it generated. The fact that these loans
were cash generators was not lost on Cohen: At one point, he offered to sell the loans to other
Case 1:18-cr-00602-WHP Document 27 Filed 12/07/18 Page 28 of 40
investors. Cohen also failed to report hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting income and
legal work, and underreported payments he received from his ownership of taxi medallions.
Cohenas sentencing memorandum attempts to downplay the seriousness of this conduct,
labeling it aunsophisticateda because this case does not involve unreported cash transactions,
offshore accounts, phony deductions, or obstructive conduct. (Def. Mem. at 14.) But the nature
of Cohenas criminal conduct is apparent from the manner in which he dealt with his own
accountant: Cohen provided incomplete information to his accountant, lied about the existence or
value of certain assets and income sources, and rebuffed questions that would have revealed
income he deliberately concealed. Moreover, Cohenas crimes were not ones of necessity. To the
contrary, he relied on his unreported income to maintain his opulent lifestyle and purchase luxury
items. Indeed, in some years, the amount of money that Cohen spent on expenses a including
credit card bills, fine art purchases, and payments for private school a exceeded the gross amount
of income listed on Cohenas tax returns.
Third, Cohen similarly flouted his obligation to be truthful in business when seeking
financing. To secure loans, Cohen falsely understated the amount of debt he was carrying, and
omitted information from his personal financial statements, to induce a bank to lend based on
incomplete information. To explain why he submitted a false statement to a bank that failed to
disclose more than $20 million in liabilities as well as tens of thousands in monthly expenses,
Cohen notes that it was his private banker who provided Cohen with an inaccurate application,
which Cohen failed to correct. But this was no mere error of omission: As noted above, Cohen
was specifically asked about the omission, and covered it up by misleadingly telling Bank-3 that
the liabilities had been expunged, when in fact they had been re-established at another bank. This
false statement was the latest in a series of false statements Cohen had made to this banker and
Case 1:18-cr-00602-WHP Document 27 Filed 12/07/18 Page 29 of 40
others. See p. 8-11, supra. And indeed it was one of these prior false statements a in which Cohen
told the banker that he had closed the $14 million line of credit in question a that led the banker to
omit that liability from the draft of his application.
Cohen is loath to acknowledge these false statements to banks. Likewise at his guilty plea
proceeding, the Court had to press Cohen to acknowledge that he understood he was lying to a
bank. This signals that Cohenas consciousness of wrongdoing is fleeting, that his remorse is
minimal, and that his instinct to blame others is strong.
While he has legally accepted
responsibility, the Court should consider at sentencing these transparent efforts at minimizing
Cohenas false statements and criminal conduct. As the Probation Department recognized in
rejecting these arguments, Cohen is attempting ato lessen [his] culpability and place the burden on
Bank-3.a (PSR at 48.)13
Finally, Cohen has pled guilty to making false statements to Congress in connection with
a congressional investigation.
This offense is described in detail in the SCOas sentencing
Taken alone, these are each serious crimes worthy of meaningful punishment. Taken
together, these offenses reveal a man who knowingly sought to undermine core institutions of our
democracy. His motivation to do so was not borne from naivetA(c), carelessness, misplaced loyalty,
or political ideology. Rather, these were knowing and calculated acts a acts Cohen executed in
In a further attempt at undermining the seriousness of this offense, Cohen observes that there
has been no monetary loss to any bank. (Def. Mem. at 18.) Financial loss, however, should not be the only
measure of the seriousness of the offense. Cohenas argument fails to recognize the important federal interest
at stake, which is reflected in the purpose and history of 18 U.S.C. ASS 1014. Section 1014 was designed to
aprotect federally insured institutions from losses stemming from false statements or misrepresentations
that mislead the institutions into making financial commitments, advances, or loans,a and thereby to
aprotect the integrity of the system of credit generated and maintained by federally insured banks.a United
States v. Zahavi, No. 12 Cr. 288 (JPO), 2012 WL 5288743, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 26, 2012). If borrowers
obtain loans based on false information, and cannot fulfill their obligations, that can have tremendous
negative effects on lenders and the banking system as a whole.
Case 1:18-cr-00602-WHP Document 27 Filed 12/07/18 Page 30 of 40
order to profit personally, build his own power, and enhance his level of influence. The nature
and seriousness of each of Cohenas crimes warrant a substantial sentence in this case. See 18
U.S.C. ASS 3553(a)(1), (2)(A).
2. The Need to Promote Respect for the Law and to Afford Adequate Deterrence
The need for the sentence to promote respect for the law and to afford adequate deterrence
further supports imposition of a significant sentence of imprisonment. Congress provided for
strong criminal sanctions as a general deterrent to tax evasion, false statements to financial
institutions, and campaign finance violations. Given the magnitude and brazenness of the conduct
in this case, the interests of deterrence are best served by the imposition of a substantial term of
Cohenas years-long pattern of deception, and his attempts to minimize certain of that
conduct even now, make it evident that a lengthy custodial sentence is necessary to specifically
deter him from further fraudulent conduct, whether out of greed or for power, in the future.
Certainly, Cohen has no prior convictions, and is well-educated and professionally successful.
Generally, such characteristics suggest that a defendant is unlikely to re-offend in the future. But
where, as here, the nature, multitude, and temporal span of criminal behavior betray a man whose
outlook on life was often to cheat a an outlook that succeeded for some time a his professional
history and lack of prior convictions are not a significant mitigating factor.
For much the same reasons, the time-served sentence that Cohen seeks would send
precisely the wrong message to the public. General deterrence is a significant factor here.
Campaign finance crimes, because they are committed in secret and hidden from the victims, are
difficult to identify and prosecute. Nonetheless, they have tremendous social cost, described
above, as they erode faith in elections and perpetuate political corruption. Effective deterrence of
Case 1:18-cr-00602-WHP Document 27 Filed 12/07/18 Page 31 of 40
such offenses requires incarceratory sentences that signal to other individuals who may
contemplate conduct similar to Cohenas that violations of campaign finance laws will not be
tolerated. Particularly in light of the public interest in this case, the Courtas sentence may indeed
have a cognizable impact on that problem by deterring future candidates, and their afixers,a all of
whom are sure to be aware of the Courtas sentence here, from violating campaign finance laws.
Additionally, a significant sentence of imprisonment would also generally deter tax
evasion and other financial crimes by sending the important message that even powerful
individuals cannot cheat on their taxes and lie to financial institutions with impunity, because they
will be subject to serious federal penalties. This is particularly important in the context of a tax
evasion prosecution. Hundreds of billions of dollars are lost annually because people like Cohen
a who otherwise take full advantage of all that taxes bring, such as schools, paved roads, transit
systems, and Government buildings a shirk their responsibilities as American taxpayers.
Meaningful sentences a that is, ones that, through their terms, speak loudly and clearly a must be
given in cases like this one so that others are forewarned of the consequences for engaging in tax
crimes. As the United States Sentencing Commission has explained, a[b]ecause of the limited
number of criminal tax prosecutions relative to the estimated incidence of such violations,
deterring others from violating the tax laws is a primary consideration underlying these guidelines.
Recognition that the sentence for a criminal tax case will be commensurate with the gravity of the
offense should act as a deterrent to would be violators.a U.S.S.G. Ch. 2, Part T, intro. Cmt. Where
the incidence of prosecution is lower, the level of punishment must be higher to obtain the same
level of deterrence. See generally Louis Kaplow and Steven Shavell, aFairness Versus Welfare,a
114 Harv. L. Rev. 961, 1225-1303 (2001); see also United States v. Hassebrock, 663 F.3d 906,
922 (7th Cir. 2011) (affirming as reasonable a within-Guidelines 32-month sentence for a tax
Case 1:18-cr-00602-WHP Document 27 Filed 12/07/18 Page 32 of 40
evader when the district court explained that aa sentence of probation would not promote respect
for the law, but encourage people to flaunt ita). Indeed, a[s]tudies have shown that salient
examples of tax-enforcement actions against specific taxpayers, especially those that involve
criminal sanctions, have a significant and positive deterrent effect.a Joshua D. Blank, In Defense
of Individual Tax Privacy, 61 Emory L.J. 265, 321 (2011-2012). Our system of voluntary
compliance would be undermined if wealthy and successful individuals such as Cohen come to
believe that the most severe sanctions that they will face, in the relatively unlikely case that they
are caught cheating on their taxes, are the payment of back taxes, interest, and penalties. The
Guidelines therefore recognize the harm tax crimes inflict on society and recommend prison
sentences for cases like this one.
In sum, the nature of Cohenas conduct underscores the need for a substantial period of
incarceration as a means both to promote respect for the law and to deter future abuses by other
individuals seeking improperly to influence the electoral process, evade taxes, or lie to financial
institutions. 18 U.S.C. ASS 3553(a)(2)(A) & (a)(2)(B).
Cohenas Request for a Sentence of Time Served is Meritless
In his submission, Cohen requests a sentence of time served, which would effectively be a
sentence of a matter of hours a 99.5% lower than what the Sentencing Guidelines and Probation
When considering athe kinds of sentences available,a 18 U.S.C.
ASS 3553(a)(3), this Court should view with great skepticism a request for a nonincarceratory sentence when the Guidelines recommend a substantial prison term. See United
States v. Goldberg, 491 F.3d 668, 673 (7th Cir. 2007) (aWhen the guidelines, drafted by a respected
public body with access to the best knowledge and practices of penology, recommend that a
defendant be sentenced to a number of years in prison, a sentence involving no . . . imprisonment
Case 1:18-cr-00602-WHP Document 27 Filed 12/07/18 Page 33 of 40
can be justified only by a careful, impartial weighing of the statutory sentencing factors.a). Cohen
presses four principal arguments in support of his request, but none warrants the extraordinary
variance that he seeks.
First, Cohen argues that the emotional toll of his convictions on him and his family, the
loss of his law license and other business, and civil tax penalties, aamount to an alternative form
of punishment,a which warrants a sentence of time served. (Def. Mem. at 26.) They do not.
Congress, through the Guidelines, has pointedly addressed and rejected this aIave been punished
enougha argument from privileged citizens who bemoan the collateral consequences of a
guidelines sentence to persons like themselves. See 28 U.S.C. ASS 994(d) (aThe Commission shall
assure that the guidelines and policy statements are entirely neutral as to . . . socioeconomic status
of offenders.a); U.S.S.G. ASS 5H1.10 (socioeconomic status not relevant); see also U.S.S.G. ASS 5H1.2
(vocational skills and education not ordinarily relevant); U.S.S.G. ASS 5H1.5 (employment record
not ordinarily relevant); U.S.S.G. ASS 5H1.6 (family ties and responsibilities not ordinarily relevant).
The federal courts have repeatedly agreed. See, e.g., United States v. Prosperi, 686 F.3d 32, 47
(1st Cir. 2012) (a[I]t is impermissible for a court to impose a lighter sentence on white-collar
defendants than on blue-collar defendants because it reasons that white-collar offenders suffer
greater reputational harm or have more to lose by conviction.a); United States v. Musgrave, 761
F.3d 602, 608a09 (6th Cir. 2014) (impermissible for the district court to rely heavily on the fact
that the defendant had already abeen punished extraordinarilya through years of legal process, the
loss of his CPA license, and his felony conviction).
There is nothing about Cohenas family circumstances warranting the extraordinary
sentence that he seeks. On the contrary, rather than a factor warranting any decreased
imprisonment, Cohenas education, resources and opportunities should, in the event that they are
Case 1:18-cr-00602-WHP Document 27 Filed 12/07/18 Page 34 of 40
relevant at all, weigh in favor of holding him to an exacting standard. Cohen did not need to
commit the crimes that he did, yet he committed them for personal gain. He was motivated in part
by greed and the desire to live an opulent and lavish lifestyle. And for all of Cohenas outward
rectitude, he has lived a double life, which weighs heavily against a variance. While Cohen has
submitted letters describing his good nature, the evidence collected and witnesses interviewed in
this investigation paint a decidedly different picture a a picture of someone who was threatening
and abusive when he wanted to get his way. For instance, in 2015, Cohen threatened a journalist
for investigating a negative story about Individual-1, telling him:
I will make sure that you and I meet one day while weare in the courthouse. And I
will take you for every penny you still donat have. And I will come after your
[employer] and everybody else that you possibly know. . . . So Iam warning you,
tread very fucking lightly, because what Iam going to do to you is going to be
fucking disgusting. You understand me?14
On another call a which Cohen secretly recorded a with bankers from Bank-2 with whom Cohen
was seeking to renegotiate his medallion debt on terms more favorable to him, Cohen threatened:
Iam gonna teach [the bank and its government conservator] a lesson theyave never
seen before in their life. Because Iam gonna hit everybody up with a lawsuit thatas
gonna spin everyoneas head. And Iam looking forward to that, by the way. And Iam
not saying it as a threat. Itas a fact.
Cohen himself said in an interview in 2011 that, aIf you do something wrong, Iam going to come
at you, grab you by the neck and Iam not going to let you go until Iam finished.a 15 These are just
a few of the many examples of Cohenas abuse of both his standing as an attorney and his
relationship to a powerful individual a examples of the type of conduct that is repugnant from
anyone, let alone an attorney of the bar. They stand in marked contrast to the letters of support for
The full recording is available at: www.npr.org/player/embed/615843930/615845621.
See ABC News, Meet Michael Cohen (Apr. 16, 2011), available at:
Case 1:18-cr-00602-WHP Document 27 Filed 12/07/18 Page 35 of 40
On balance, like most others who stand before this Court for sentence, Cohen is neither all
good nor all bad. His personal interactions in private life should not be this Courtas principal
consideration. Rather, it is Cohenas serious crimes that should be the Courtas lodestar.
Second, in support of his argument for a time-served sentence, Cohen makes mention of
his financial support and fundraising for his childrenas former school, as well as his support for
other charitable causes. (Def. Mem. at 9-11.) But charitable aand similar prior good works are
not ordinarily relevant in determining whether a sentence should be outside the applicable
U.S.S.G. ASS 5H1.11.
For good reason: Prior charitable works, however
commendable and extensive, by professionally successful defendants rarely, if ever, are materially
mitigating factors at sentencing because courts recognize that it is not extraordinary for such
defendants to be involved in charities and to have strong professional and personal relationships.
See, e.g., United States v. Barbera, No. 02 Cr. 1268 (RWS), 2005 WL 2709112, at *12-13
(S.D.N.Y. Oct. 21, 2005); see also United States v. Fishman, 631 F. Supp. 2d 399, 403 (S.D.N.Y.
2009) (a defendantas agood name and good worksa should not serve as athe human shield he raises
to seek immunity or dramatic mitigation of punishment when he is caughta). Moreover, it is no
doubt far easier to give generously to charities when the donor is simultaneously evading the
payment of taxes on millions of dollars in income. Cohen was, in effect, donating other peopleas
money. As Chief Judge McMahon has explained, aUsing other peopleas money to do what
qualifies as good works by your likes and then suggesting to me that I give you credit for the fact
that you didnat use the money to buy a Lamborghini is something that I find and have always found
to be contemptible, especially since all too frequently charity is a means to bolster the esteem in
which one is held by others.a United States v. Binday, 12 Cr. 152 (CM), Dkt. 349, at 44-45.
Case 1:18-cr-00602-WHP Document 27 Filed 12/07/18 Page 36 of 40
Third, in support of his request for a time-served sentence, Cohen cites several cases in
which the defendant received little or no jail time. (Def. Mem. at 15-17, 19-20.) The cases selected
by Cohen do not bear any particular factual similarity to the instant case. Indeed, in none of the
cases cited by Cohen did the defendant commit the particular array of crimes that Cohen has. As
set forth below, the Court can just as easily identify numerous examples of cases where more
substantial sentences were imposed. Thus, the cases cited by Cohen do not provide a template for
sentencing in this matter, and the Court must decide it based on the particular facts and
circumstances of this case.
For instance, Cohen highlights United States v. Lacy Doyle as a case in which Judge Carter
imposed a non-incarceratory term of four yearsa probation. Cohen fails, however, to acknowledge
that the advisory guidelines range in that case was just 6 to 12 monthsa imprisonment based on a
guilty plea to one count of subscribing to a false and fraudulent tax return for a single year.16
Cohen also highlights the sentence imposed in the prosecution of Earl Simmons, a tax evasion case
in which the defendant received a year of imprisonment. In that case, Judge Rakoff focused on
the need for imprisonment in tax evasion cases, regardless of their complexity, to ensure general
deterrence: aPeople who are considering tax evasion . . . greatly exaggerate their chances of getting
away with it . . . . That is why prison is important.a Sent. Tr. at 32, United States v. Earl Simmons,
17 Cr. 172 (JSR) (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 23, 2018) (ECF No. 39). While it is true that the methods by
which Simmons evaded taxes may have been more complex than here, both men made the
calculated decision that they could get away with not paying taxes. Finally, in contrast to
Simmons, tax evasion is but one of the crimes for which sentence is to be imposed in this case.
Cohen also overlooks several tax evasion cases in which courts have recently imposed
In addition, because the advisory guidelines in Doyle were in Zone B, a term of probation was
considered explicitly authorized. U.S.S.G. ASS 5B1.1(a)(2).
Case 1:18-cr-00602-WHP Document 27 Filed 12/07/18 Page 37 of 40
custodial terms. See United States v. Trupin, 475 F.3d 71, 76 (2d Cir. 2007) (holding that sevenmonth prison sentence for multi-year tax evasion scheme with a tax loss of $1.2 million failed to
reflect seriousness of offense, observing that a tax evader, in effect, asteal[s] from his fellow
taxpayers through his deceptionsa); Sent. Tr. at 22-23, United States v. Joseph Ciccarella, 16 Cr.
738 (AKH) (S.D.N.Y. March 3, 2017) (imposing an 18-month sentence for a defendant who
caused a tax loss between $250,000 and $550,000, noting that athe obligation to pay taxes is basic
to our civilizationa). Finally, in United States v. Erwin Mayer, 09 Cr. 581 (WHP), this Court
imposed a custodial term of imprisonment on a cooperating defendant whose level of cooperation
was described as aunequaled in [that] case, and essentially in any other white-collar case, in which
the experienced prosecutors had been engaged.a Sent. Tr. at 32, United States v. Erwin Mayer,
09 Cr. 581 (WHP) (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 19, 2014) (ECF No. 849). In imposing a custodial sentence on
such a cooperating defendant, this Court noted the aneed in these kinds of cases for general
Cohen also asserts that anumerous allegations of unpaid taxes are routinely asserted by the
IRS outside of the criminal context,a and cites to news articles about individuals who failed to pay
their taxes. (Def. Mem. at 16-17.) But Cohen did not just fail to pay assessed taxes. He willfully
evaded taxes by hiding entire income streams over a period of years. His acts were fraudulent and
evasive, and not the product of mistake, negligence, or a failure of his accountant. Cohenas
suggestion that his case should have been handled outside the criminal process ignores the fact
that his tax crimes were uncovered in the midst of an investigation of his numerous other crimes.
And his complaints about pre-charge process ignore the fact that Cohen was well aware he was
under investigation for months before he was charged, and his counsel was given several
opportunities to present to the Office as to why he should not be charged and in fact made such a
Case 1:18-cr-00602-WHP Document 27 Filed 12/07/18 Page 38 of 40
presentation. Finally, Cohenas complaints about process and his attempts to blame his accountant
make evident the need for an incarceratory sentence to reflect what Cohen still plainly does not
perceive: His actions were not just technically criminal, but serious offenses against the
Government and the public.
The two unlawful campaign contribution cases cited by Cohen are similarly of little value
in crafting an appropriate sentence here. (Def. Mem. at 19.) The defendants in those cases made
excessive contributions through straw donors, but the amounts of money involved were less
substantial, and the effect of the crimes were less severe. Cohenas crimes are particularly serious
because they were committed on the eve of a Presidential election, and they were intended to affect
that election. Thus, the gravity of the offense is considerably greater than the offenses committed
in United States v. Dinesh DaSouza, No. 14 Cr. 34 (RMB), or United States v. Jia Hou and Xing
Wu Pan, No. 12 Cr. 153 (RJS). Moreover, neither case related to the making of a coordinated
expenditure a a different offense under the campaign finance laws.
Cohen omits the numerous campaign finance cases, including many more analogous to the
facts here, where substantial custodial sentences were imposed for campaign finance offenses.
See, e.g., United States v. Stephen Stockman, No. 17 Cr. 116 (S.D. Tex. 2018) (defendant sentenced
to 120 monthsa incarceration for making excessive campaign contributions, wire fraud, money
laundering, and filing false tax returns); United States v. Tyler Harber, No. 14 Cr. 373 (LO) (E.D.
Va. 2015) (defendant sentenced to 24 monthsa incarceration following guilty plea for making
coordinated expenditures and false statements to the FBI); United States v. John Rowland, No. 14
Cr. 79 (JBA) (D. Conn. 2015) (defendant sentenced to 30 monthsa incarceration for making illegal
campaign contributions, falsifying records, and causing false statements to be made to the FEC);
United States v. Joseph Bigica, No. 2:12 Cr. 318 (FSH) (D.N.J. 2012) (defendant sentenced to 60
Case 1:18-cr-00602-WHP Document 27 Filed 12/07/18 Page 39 of 40
monthsa incarceration following guilty plea to tax violation and conduit scheme involving $98,600
in illegal contributions); United States v. Robert Braddock, Jr., No. 3:12 Cr. 58 (LRH) (D. Conn.
2013) (defendant sentenced to 38 monthsa incarceration following jury trial involving nearly
$28,000 conduit scheme). As these cases amply demonstrate, custodial sentences for serious
violations of the campaign finance laws are a regular occurrence, and the Court should impose
such a sentence here for the reasons stated above.
Lastly, Cohen places heavy reliance on his provision of information to law enforcement.
(Def. Mem. at 1-5). To be sure, this case is in some respects unique, and Cohenas decision to plead
guilty and provide information to law enforcement in matters of national interest is deserving of
credit. Indeed, it is the principal reason the Office is not seeking a Guidelines sentence here. But
as noted in more detail above, Cohen was well aware of the standard debriefing process in which
cooperators in this District regularly participate, and declined to participate. While he answered
questions about the charged conduct, he refused to discuss other uncharged criminal conduct, if
any, in which he may have participated.
This precludes him from being given credit for
asubstantial assistancea and obtaining a 5K1.1 letter. The Court should not sentence Cohen as if
he has one. That is, the credit given to Cohen should not approximate the credit that a witness
with a cooperation agreement and a 5K1.1 letter would merit.
Finally, Cohenas further assertion that he is deserving of leniency because he acould have
fought the government and continued to hold the party line, positioning himself for a pardon or
clemencya reflects a continuation of his mindset that, at his own option, he is above the laws
reflected in his crimes of conviction. (Def. Mem. at 5). Every defendant in every criminal case
has the right to fight the charges against him. But where, as here, the evidence of their guilt is
overwhelming, defendants often make the choice to plead guilty. After cheating the IRS for years,
Case 1:18-cr-00602-WHP Document 27 Filed 12/07/18 Page 40 of 40
lying to banks and to Congress, and seeking to criminally influence the Presidential election,
Cohenas decision to plead guilty a rather than seek a pardon for his manifold crimes a does not
make him a hero.
For the reasons set forth above, the Office respectfully requests that this Court impose a
substantial term of imprisonment, one that reflects a modest variance from the applicable
Guidelines range. The Office also requests that the Court impose forfeiture in the amount of
$500,000, and a fine.
December 7, 2018
New York, New York
Acting United States Attorney
Andrea M. Griswold
Assistant United States Attorneys