Manafort's banker seeks to move his trial from New York to Chicago

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The former bank CEO who faces a bribery charge in connection with multimillion-dollar loans to President Trump’s disgraced campaign chair is seeking to move his trial from New York to Chicago, and so is the bank at the center of the case.

Stephen Calk was chairman and chief executive of The Federal Savings Bank until he was indicted in May. He still holds a 67% ownership stake in the Chicago-based bank’s holding company, federal prosecutors have said.

Calk, who lives in Northfield, Ill., said in a court filing Thursday that a large majority of the conduct at issue in the case took place in the Northern District of Illinois. He also argued that a trial in Chicago would be far less disruptive to the bank’s operations than one held in Manhattan.

Federal Savings Bank echoed the latter argument, with the bank’s chief operating officer stating in court papers that at least 13 current bank employees are potential trial witnesses, and that nine of them live and work in Chicago.

Prosecutors oppose the request to move the trial. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan, which has noted that Federal Savings has an office within walking distance of the New York courthouse.

Prosecutors also argue that key events that led to the criminal charges against Calk took place in New York. For instance, the loans to Trump’s onetime campaign chief, Paul Manafort, were extended from Federal Savings Bank’s New York office. One of the loans was secured by a brownstone that Manafort owned in the Carroll Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Prosecutors allege that Calk approved the loans to Manafort in exchange for a potential high-ranking job in the Trump administration.

In opposing the motion to move the trial, the prosecution has noted that Trump’s presidential campaign was based in Manhattan, and has said that Calk was seeking an interview in Manhattan with the presidential transition team.

In January 2017, Calk was interviewed for undersecretary of the Army, according to the indictment. He did not ultimately get a job in the administration.

Calk has entered a not guilty plea and is free on a $5 million bond. His lawyers note that the loans to Manafort were overcollateralized and approved by the bank’s loan committee with high interest rates and large cash prepayments.

“Those loans were not a bribe for anything,” Calk attorney Jeremy Margolis said in a statement in May.

After Calk was indicted, Federal Savings Bank said in a statement that its former chairman and CEO no longer had any control over or involvement in the bank.

Prosecutors have portrayed Federal Savings Bank as a victim of Calk’s corrupt scheme. But on at least one occasion, the bank has portrayed itself as a victim of fraudulent conduct by Manafort, who is currently in prison after being convicted of a slew of financial crimes.

The loans, which totaled more than $15 million, defaulted after Manafort was indicted in October 2017. The bank has written off more than $12 million as a loss, according to the Calk indictment.

U.S. District Judge Lorna Schofield has scheduled a status conference in Calk’s case for Feb. 27.

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