The Slatest

Michael Cohen’s Taxi Business Partner Flips, Will Cooperate With Prosecutors

New York City cabs pass by a  balloon of 'Uncle Sam' in front of a building on Madison Avenue in New York March 1, 2018.
Sorry, Uncle Sam. TIMOTHY A. CLARY/Getty Images

The heat is already turned up pretty high on Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen, but Tuesday it got just a little bit hotter when the New York Times reported that Cohen’s longtime business partner Evgeny “the Taxi King” Freidman had agreed to assist prosecutors in return for a reduced sentence on the four felony counts of tax fraud and a single charge of felony grand larceny for failing to pay more than $5 million in taxes to the MTA. Under the terms of the agreement, Freidman, an immigrant from Russia, pleaded guilty to a lesser tax crime and will not do any time in jail return for his cooperation.

Michael “Cashews” Cohen*, however, is not sitting as pretty with the law as it is a very bad sign, among many other very bad signs in Cohen’s life right now, that your business associate—one the Times referred to as a “significant business partner”—not only was committing frauds, but that he apparently has something to offer prosecutors on you. How close were the two? Well, Cohen had a lot of money tied up in taxi medallions, which feels like having your savings all-in on reviving Off-Track-Betting or CD players, and, according to the Times, the Taxi King managed Cohen’s cabs even after Freidman was barred from being involved in the taxi industry altogether. The concern currently emanating from Cohen surely reaches the White House where President Trump and his allies are bracing themselves for the increasing possibility that Cohen himself will flip and bring with him whatever damning info he has on Trump and the dirty deeds he’s done in his name over the past decades.

While those yet-to-be-determined crimes may amount to high crimes and misdemeanors, Friedman’s crimes were much more those of a New York City movie wiseguy. Freidman was nabbed on his failure to pay taxes on 50-cent MTA surcharges on millions of rides of a fleet of some 800 cabs he managed between 2012 and 2015. “The vast majority of those rides were subject to a 50-cent New York State Tax known as the ‘MTA Tax,’ which was automatically collected from passengers as part of their fare,” according to a statement by the New York state attorney general. “Instead of remitting that tax to the DTF as required by law, Freidman and [his CFO] allegedly orchestrated a scheme to withhold that money by improperly filing returns, failing to file returns, failing to remit the tax on filed returns and by filing falsified returns which underreported the true number of taxable rides.” Friedman was also accused of not paying drivers properly, which resulted in a 2013 settlement for $1.2 million and a 2016 consent order in New York Supreme Court requiring him to pay damages and a fine.

*not an historically accurate nickname