Who Is Rick Gates?
Rick Gates first found his footing in the world of political consulting as an intern for Washington insider Paul Manafort's firm in the mid-1990s. The following decade he rejoined Manafort in Ukraine, where they allied themselves with powerful businessmen and political figures and allegedly concealed much of the income they made while doing so. They then joined Donald Trump's presidential campaign in 2016, though news reports of their overseas history hinted at the troubles ahead. Gates and Manafort were indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller on conspiracy and money laundering charges in October 2017, prompting Gates to agree to a plea deal and testify against his old boss the following year.
Paul Manafort Trial Witness
On August 6, 2018, six days after the start of Paul Manafort's trial on 18 felony counts of tax and bank fraud charges in Alexandria, Virgina, his protégé, Rick Gates, took the stand as the prosecution's star witness. The two had been ensnared in special counsel Robert Mueller's wide-ranging investigation into Russian attempts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential race, which uncovered their illicit financial activities on foreign shores.
Gates testified as to how, under the instructions of Manafort, he concealed millions of dollars received from their work in Ukraine for former President Viktor Yanukovych and powerful oligarchs over a period spanning 2006 to 2015. He said he had set up 15 bank accounts in the names of shell companies in Cyprus, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and the Seychelles, through which they avoided paying taxes on some $16.47 million in earnings. After their cash flow dried up, Gates said he altered financial documents to help Manafort qualify for loans stateside so he could pay off his mortgages and maintain a lavish lifestyle.
Gates was then subjected to withering cross-examination, with the defense describing him as the mastermind behind the fraudulent activities and Manafort too busy to notice. They pressed him about his lengthy list of misdeeds, which included embezzling hundreds of thousands from his boss and hiding $3 million of his own income, and even attempted to paint him as a serial adulterer who lied to his wife and investigators about his numerous affairs. When asked why the jury should trust his account of events, Gates replied, "I made a decision — I'm here to tell the truth," adding that he took responsibility for his actions and was "trying to change."
Working for Manafort
Gates first came into Manafort's orbit in the mid-1990s as a research intern at Black, Manafort, Stone, Kelly, a Washington consulting firm that counted foreign dictators like the Phillippines' Ferdinand Marcos and entities like the Trump Organization among its clients. While Manafort left the firm shortly afterward, the hardworking Gates made a strong impression on its remaining members, including well-connected lobbyist Rick Davis.
In 2006 Gates reunited with his old mentors at their new company, Davis Manafort. Based in the Ukranian capital of Kiev, the men used their expertise to rebrand the political prospects of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, helping him earn election to the country's presidency in 2010. They also forged connections with oligarchs like aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, who became a primary investor in the Davis Manafort private equity fund Pericles. When Davis left the company to manage John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign, Gates assumed many of his duties and strengthened his relationship with Manafort.
This period was not without its difficulties, as the two men were named in a 2011 racketeering lawsuit filed in the U.S. over their work for Yanukovych, and later were questioned by the FBI as part of a joint American-Ukrainian forfeiture investigation. Of greater concern was Yanukovych's departure from office in 2014, which robbed the company of its most lucrative client and left Manafort in deep debt by the start of 2016.
Trump Campaign Aide and Supporter
In the spring of 2016, when Manafort joined the upstart presidential campaign of Donald Trump as chief strategist, he brought Gates into the fold as his trusted second. Gates helped his boss track delegates for the Republican nomination, along the way forging relationships with key campaign members like digital director Brad Parscale and Trump's first chief of staff, Reince Priebus.
Manafort's ascension to campaign manager in June placed Gates in the position of deputy campaign manager, though the arrangement was short-lived: In August, with the media reporting on the duo's work in the Ukraine, Manafort was dismissed from the campaign. Gates survived, though he was transferred to the role of liaison to the Republican National Committee.
Gates eventually struck up a friendship with wealthy investor and Trump confidant Tom Barrack, who tapped the younger operative to assist him on the Presidential Inaugural Committee. From there, Gates joined Parscale and other former campaign associates to found the pro-Trump nonprofit America First Policies.
In March 2017, with Manafort and Gates back in the news over reports of their professional dealings, Gates was let go from America First. He subsequently became a consultant for Barrack's company, Colony NorthStar, and reportedly maintained access to White House personnel for months afterward.
Gates's Indictments and Plea Deal
On October 30, 2017, special counsel Robert Mueller indicted Manafort and Gates on 12 charges apiece on counts that included conspiracy to launder money, conspiracy against the U.S. and failure to report foreign financial accounts and transactions. Both men pleaded not guilty, with Gates released on a $5 million bond and confined to house arrest.
After Mueller unsealed a new indictment of 32 counts against the two in February 2018, Gates changed his tune and pleaded guilty to financial fraud and lying to federal investigators. In exchange for his cooperation, prosecutors said they would recommend a reduced prison sentence ranging from four years, nine months to six years.
Background and Schools
Little is publicly known about the early life of Richard W. Gates III. Reportedly born on April 27, 1972, he is the son of a career Army officer, lieutenant colonel Richard W. Gates Jr., and spent much of his childhood abroad before the family settled in Prince George County, Virginia.
Gates graduated with a B.A. in Government from the College of William & Mary in 1994, and later earned his Master's in Public Policy from George Washington University.
Following his time at Black, Manafort, Stone, Kelly, Gates worked at the gaming companies GTech and Scientific Games Corporation. He also continued his political consulting work with Business Strategies and Insight, LLC and co-founded Capital Strategies, LLC.
Gates was on the board of directors for ID Watchdog Inc., an identity-theft protection company, from 2011 to '16. He also served as chairman of the advisory board of his father's management consultant business, Gates Group International.
Gates lives in the Near West End area of Richmond, Virginia, with his wife, Sarah Brooke Gates, and four children. Neighbors say he has been active in the community as a youth soccer coach.
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