Manafort seeks sentence well below guidelines in Virginia case

FILE PHOTO: President Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort departs U.S. District Court after a motions hearing in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S., May 4, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Lawyers for Paul Manafort, U.S. President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, asked a federal judge in Virginia on Friday to hand down a sentence that is significantly below sentencing guidelines, according to a court filing.

Manafort, 69, who was convicted in August of eight charges of bank and tax fraud as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, is due to be sentenced on March 7.

Under federal guidelines, Manafort is eligible for a sentence ranging from 19-1/2 to 24 years.

In the court filing, Manafort’s lawyers asked Judge T.S. Ellis in Alexandria, Virginia, for a sentence “substantially below” the guidelines “in light of the fact that the defendant is a first-time offender and given the nature of the offenses.”

Prosecutors, in a court filing on Feb. 15, said Manafort deserved a sentence within the guidelines and a fine of between $50,000 and $24 million.

“While some of these offenses are commonly prosecuted, there was nothing ordinary about the millions of dollars involved in the defendant’s crimes, the duration of his criminal conduct or the sophistication of his schemes,” prosecutors said.

Prosecutors accused Manafort of hiding from U.S. tax authorities $16 million he earned as a political consultant for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine, money he used to fund an opulent lifestyle.

Later, when his lobbying work started to dry up following the ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, prosecutors said Manafort began lying to banks to secure $20 million in loans to maintain his lifestyle.

Manafort also pleaded guilty in a separate case in federal court in Washington last September to conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy to obstruct justice. He faces up to 10 years in prison on those charges and is due to be sentenced on March 13.

Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Bill Berkrot