WHITE COLLAR DISCOUNT
Manafort’s Judge Gave This Jamaican Woman More Time for Similar Crimes
She conned victims out of $385,000. He conned banks out of $25 million. The judge gave her six years. He got four.
Tessicar Jumpp’s sentencing didn’t attract too much notice. It was sandwiched in Judge T.S. Ellis III’s morning docket, and most in the packed courtroom stared blankly at the ceiling as they waited for the big event: the ninth day of Paul Manafort’s trial in Alexandria.
Manafort, a wealthy Republican political operative, and Jumpp, a slight Jamaican woman born into poverty, couldn’t be more different in their backgrounds, but in court they were just two thieves and liars in the dock. Mail fraud. Wire fraud. Tax fraud. Bank fraud. They violated different statues but committed the same offense: They stole through deceit.
On that day in August, Ellis sentenced Jumpp to six years. On Thursday, he gave Manafort fewer than four.
Jumpp cruelly conned victims out of $385,000 through a fake lottery scam. Her victims suffered their last years in penury and shame and she had chosen elderly targets specifically for their vulnerability. One, Charles Bennett, a veteran of the Korean War who had once owned his own business, lost nearly $50,000 on the pretext that Jumpp was “Stephanie” from Publishers Clearing House and needed his financial information to send along his winnings.
She robbed another person, a retired teacher in Virginia identified only as “Victim 1,” of $335,000 with a similar ruse.
Their pain lingered on in the relatives, who sat in court amid the Manafort watchers, as they waited to give victim impact statements. “Stephanie,” they said through strained tears, had logged hundreds of calls to alternately browbeat and sweet-talk their lonely, confused family members.
Manafort’s victims—at least in this case—were more abstract. But the scale of his financial misdeeds was much, much bigger. He hid $55 million dollars of income in offshore accounts, skipped out on $6 million in taxes, and conned three banks out of $25 million in loans on false premises, according to prosecutors
The financial professionals Manafort cheated required no such browbeatings. Many, in fact, bent over backwards and accepted personal liability to accommodate his crimes.
Manafort tried to enlist his accountant, Cindy LaPorta, to help him lie about his income and cut his tax bill. “I could have called Mr. Manafort and Mr. Gates liars,” she told the court. But Manafort was “a longtime client of the firm and I didn't think I should do that either.” Instead, with the help of an immunity pledge from the government, she testified about how she helped Manafort doctor financial paperwork to reclassify income as a loan. The ruse saved Manafort $400,000 that year. KWC, where LaPorta worked, fired her shortly after the trial.
Prosecutors claimed that Manafort dangled Trump administration cabinet jobs in front of Federal Savings Bank CEO Steve Calk to get him to grease a loan application based on lies. Dennis Raico, a Federal Savings vice president, testified under an immunity agreement that he was “uncomfortable” passing messages between Manafort and Calk as he saw Manafort’s loan application rammed through the approval process.
Banks were less obliging to Jumpp. In 2010, she was laid off from her call center job providing tech support at Sirius XM radio. The tips that family members survived on in the hospitality industry dried up as tourists stayed home amid a global recession. She asked her bank for leniency on the mortgage to a house she’d purchased in 2008 but was told she had 60 days to pay up or else. Jumpp had been homeless once before and her lawyers say it was the “terror, the horrors of being homeless with a family to take care of” that drove her to join relatives in a scam to milk elderly people out of their savings.
Manafort had no such pressures on him when he chose to cheat the IRS and banks. He committed tax fraud when he was richer than he’d ever been. As he raked in millions from his pro-Russian clients in Ukrainian politics, he cut his tax bill by paying for high end home entertainment gear, landscaping services, luxury cars, ostrich skin couture, and other extravagances with international wire transfers from offshore accounts.
When his consulting business dried up, Manafort could have easily cut back on his lifestyle or sold off one of his properties to raise cash. He chose bank fraud. At his sentencing on Thursday, the special counsel’s office said that despite his legal bills and the collapse of his career, Manafort is still a wealthy man with at least $4 million available to him.
Jumpp left the lottery scam years before she or anyone else from the fraud ring was arrested, a decision she said came out of independent guilt and penitence. She took a job raising chickens and pigs, had two children, joined the PTA, and took care of her mother as she suffered from cancer.
Manafort’s crimes continued even after he was indicted and didn’t stop until a few months ago. He obstructed justice by reaching out to two witnesses in his Washington, D.C., lobbying case in February 2018 in an attempt to sway their testimony. He copped a plea deal with prosecutors in September; a court ruled he broke the law and blew up that agreement by lying to law enforcement just weeks later.
Both Manafort and Jumpp professed remorse for their crimes.
“My life—personally and professionally—is in shambles,” Manafort told Ellis on Thursday. “Humiliated and shamed would be a gross understatement.”
In court in August and in a sentencing memo, Jumpp said one victim’s cancer diagnosis struck a chord with her. “When I read that Marcia [Jumpp’s victim in Virginia] had died of cancer, I felt it was karma and that God gave my own mom cancer to punish me! I deserve this,” she said in a sentencing memo.
Judge Ellis doesn’t have a reputation for handing down long prison terms. He has routinely argued against mandatory minimum sentences in drug cases and told Congress that it’s “grossly excessive and unjust" to “stack” them rather than allowing defendants to serve them concurrently.
The guideline range in Jumpp’s case was 87 to 108 months. Prosecutors asked for 90, a “significant term of imprisonment,” they said, and a mid point between the sentences received by the scam ring’s leader and a lesser player—a reflection of Jumpp’s role as management in the theft.
Ellis took note of Jumpp’s repentance and how she’d chosen to leave the scam ring of her own volition. He balked at the prosecutors’ recommendation and gave her six years.
Manafort is not the most sympathetic of defendants, certainly not in the public eye. He made a career polishing the images of the some of the world’s worst dictators as part of the “torturers’ lobby.” His firm Black, Manafort and Stone worked Washington on behalf of Warlords like Jonas Savimbi, whose Angolan political party UNITA was known for indiscriminate killings of civilians, recruiting child soldiers, and sexual abuse of women. The Ukrainian money Manafort failed to pay taxes on—money used to pay an assortment of oligarchs and kleptocrats—wasn’t much cleaner, but Ellis forbade any reference to the character of its contributors at trial by banning the word “oligarch.”
When Manafort appeared before him on Thursday, Ellis was merciful and said he’d lead an “otherwise blameless life.”
Ellis sentenced Manafort to 47 months.