Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, and convicted felon, Paul Manafort was sentenced to over seven years in prison for various charges related to tax fraud, money laundering and obstruction of justice. Manafort served a little over one year before he was released to home confinement during the COVID pandemic. If Manafort had served his full prison term, he would still be behind bars. Instead, Manafort now has a new consulting job.
Paul Manafort is listed as a Board Member and Consultant for Verthermia. Their website states that the mission of Verthermia is “to extend and enhance life for people with advanced unresponsive cancer” and that they provide “Hyperthermic Extracorporeal Applied Tumor Therapy (HEATT®) to patients with advanced tumors that are unresponsive to traditional cancer treatments.”
He is listed as a director of Verthermia Acquisition, Inc. which was incorporated on 30 March 2018 in Nevada.
Manafort spent decades lobbying for some of the worst dictators in the world before becoming Trump’s campaign manager for a few months in 2016, and was subsequently indicted and convicted of multiple felonies. His association with Verthermia as a board member and consultant, based on their website, is one of the few known — and previously unreported — details about his activities since Manafort was released from prison to home confinement.
Political work and ‘The Torturers’ Lobby’
In 1980 Manafort created a lobbying firm with Charles Black and Roger Stone called Black, Manafort & Stone, later renamed Black, Manafort, Stone, Kelley or BMSK when Peter Kelly joined. In 1991-1992 the firm was listed as one of the top five firms receiving money from what Public Integrity called ‘The Torturers’ Lobby’ in a report that described how human rights-abusing nations were represented in Washington.
Paul Manafort spent decades as a lobbyist and political consultant for dictators ranging from Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines to former president of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych who fled to Russia in 2014 and was charged and convicted of treason.
Yanukovich left Ukraine after three months of protests during which more than 100 demonstrators were killed in clashes in the Ukrainian capital.
A Ukrainian court […] sentenced former president Viktor Yanukovych in absentia to 13 years in jail on treason charges, a judge said, saying his conduct in office had opened the door to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Paul Manafort was a senior advisor and key figure in Ukraine for many years and worked for people who helped lay the groundwork for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that has resulted in ongoing human rights violations and war crimes.
Few people have covered Manafort better than Franklin Foer who profiled him in 2018 in The Atlantic “Paul Manafort, American Hustler – Decades before he ran the Trump campaign, Paul Manafort’s pursuit of foreign cash and shady deals laid the groundwork for the corruption of Washington.”
Links to Russia through Kilimnik and Deripaska
Manafort ran Donald Trump’s campaign from May to August 2016 — allegedly working for free — until damaging news came out about a black ledger that showed handwritten entries of $12.7 million in payments made by the pro-Russian party of Yanukovych to Manafort.
Starting around 2004, Manafort was involved in several business deals with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, including a failed deal to buy the Drake Hotel in New York, which I covered here. In 2015 Deripaska filed a lawsuit in Virginia accusing Manafort of failing to pay Deripaska $19 million related to the Drake Hotel investment.
During the time that Manafort was working for ‘free’ heading the Trump campaign, he was in close contact with a former employee who had worked for him in Ukraine named Konstantin Kilimnik. In 2021 Kilimnik was labelled a Russian agent and sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury and he is wanted by the FBI, which has offered a $250,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.
The U.S. government said “Kilimnik provided the Russian Intelligence Services with sensitive information on polling and campaign strategy.” I wrote a piece for Byline Times about some overlooked details in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) report on Russia on Kilimnik’s interactions with not only Paul Manafort, but also with Sam Patten, who had worked with Cambridge Analytica and later set-up a company with Kilimnik.
While Paul Manafort was campaign manager for Donald Trump he was in frequent contact with Russian agent Kilimnik and shared information about campaign strategy and polling. After he was replaced as campaign manager Manafort continued his contact with Kilimnik, and while he was being investigated and questioned, he obstructed justice.
Manafort’s indictments and convictions
Manafort was indicted multiple times from 2017 to 2019.
In 2017 Manafort was indicted, along with his business partner Rick Gates in the District of Columbia for conspiracy against the United States, for money laundering and other charges. He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy against the U.S. and one count of obstructing justice due to attempts to tamper with witnesses
“He had been charged with bank fraud, tax fraud, failure to report foreign bank accounts and conspiracy. Some of the fraud activity overlapped with his time chairing the Trump election campaign… Prosecutors presented evidence that Manafort had lied to banks in seeking personal loans and lied to the Internal Revenue Service in reporting income related to his political consulting work in Ukraine and elsewhere.”
In March 2019 Manafort was charged by the Manhattan District Attorney with mortgage fraud and more than a dozen state felonies for activity that occurred from December 2015 through January 2017. In December 2019 those charges against Manafort were dismissed.
Manafort was sentenced to 47 months in prison, and had served slightly over a year in jail when in May 2020 he was released from prison to home confinement because of concerns related to the COVID pandemic and his age of 71 years and pre-existing health conditions.
In March 2023, Manafort paid $3.15 million to settle a civil case with the DOJ over undeclared foreign bank accounts.
If not for COVID or any other early release condition, Manafort would be in prison now.
Manafort and Verthermia
There is no information based on the website about the nature of Paul Manafort’s work as a consultant or board member. There is no indication that anyone at Verthermia has any connection to his prior activities or any kind of wrongdoing. Many of the executives, directors and advisors of Verthermia have extensive medical and business experience.
Following are some highlights on the background of Verthermia’s CEO Mitchel May and the company that helped raise funds for Vertherimia for many years, Cova Capital.
The CEO of Verthermia is Mitchel K. May JD, and the bio on the website describes his 30 years of experience and a law degree from Fordham University.
Mitchel May’s LinkedIn page does not list Verthermia and appears as though it may not have been updated in several years. The LinkedIn page lists a few jobs including Partner of AQ: Athletes Quarterly from 2009 to present, Mitchel May Corporate Consulting from 2008 to present, and Senior Vice President of Business Development for In the Car LLC, from 2009 to present. On Pitchbook May is listed as a co-founder of In the Car.
Twitter researcher braisincapital brought to my attention a 2016 Fox article called ‘Life After Lehman Brothers: Dick Fuld’s Murky Investment Secrets’ describes how the former chairman of Lehman, which went bankrupt under Fuld’s leadership and ushered in the 2008 financial crisis, went on to work on a murky investment called In the Car:
“One of his first deals—and possibly the biggest for Fuld since leaving Lehman– involved an insurance company called “In The Car.”… “But today In The Car is anything but a success story.”…
An archived page on the Wayback Machine from 2020 shows Mitchel May as EVP and Director of In the Car and describes him as a principal investor.
Mitchel May was previously an officer of Lifewatch, Inc. which was fined $23.5 million in 2019 by the FTC as part of a crackdown on illegal robocalls, which was based on a complaint filed against Mitchel May and other defendants in 2015.
Verthermia and Cova Capital
From 2016 through 2021, Verthermia, Inc. and Verthermia Acquisition, Inc. filed several SEC Form D notices of securities offerings with Cova Capital Partners run by Edward Gibstein. Verthermia’s CEO Mitchel May and Cova Capital’s Edward Gibstein were spotlighted together here. Cova Capital’s website lists a 2019 transaction for $1,365,000 for Verthermia.
Per a May 2022 investor alert Cova Capital had listed three owners and officers, Avco Capital Corp, Edward Gibstein and Barbara Diane Halpern, Finop (financial and operations principal). Barbara Halpern’s FINRA brokercheck report shows that she was registered with Cova Capital from December 2019 to May 2022. In March 2022 the SEC instituted public administrative proceedings against Halpern for “improper professional conduct” related to auditing work in 2015 and 2016 for Laurence Allen, who was sued by the New York Attorney General for a $17 million fraud. Halpern does not appear to have any current affiliation with Cova Capital.
One of Cova Capital’s most recent financing deals is acting as the intermediary for an offering by Gab AI, a social networking site founded by Andrew Torba that is known for having a far-right userbase. An April 3, 2023 offering statement shows the target offering amount of $500,000 and maximum of $4,999,500 by October 3, 2023.
The Anti-Defamation League described GAB AI CEO Torba as someone who “regularly promotes antisemitism, right-wing extremist ideologies and conspiracy theories across various platforms, including Gab.” and provides numerous examples of antisemitic comments by Torba and by Gab’s social media accounts here.
Note that there is no indication that Cova’s work with Gab AI is connected to any other client including Verthermia. And there is no indication that Cova Capital is still doing business with Verthermia. However, in addition to Mitchel May and Edward Gibstein’s Verthermia and Cova connection, they both had a prior connection to another company called Islet Sciences.
Mitchel May, Edward Gibstein and Islet Sciences
Mitchell May (spelled with two l’s instead of one) is listed as president of Islet Sciences in OpenCorporates. A 2021 Bankruptcy Memorandum filing for Islet Sciences has the spelling that matches Verthermia – the 2021 bankruptcy memo notes that “Mitchel K. May” is a board member of the reorganized debtor Islet Sciences.
May’s financing partner at Verthermia, Edward Gibstein was involved in a financial judgement against Islet Sciences that preceded the bankruptcy. In 2019 Brighthaven Ventures LLC was awarded over $46 million in judgments in civil claims against Islet Sciences, Inc., including Edward Gibstein and Cova:
BHV filed counter claims against Islet and third-party claims against John F. Steel IV, Edward T. Gibstein, and COVA Capital Partners, LLC. The Court found Islet, Steel, Gibstein, and COVA liable on the BHV claims and awarded damages to BHV in excess of $46 million on its claims against Islet and Steel. BHV entered into a confidential settlement agreement with Gibstein and COVA, the terms of which were not disclosed.
After a multi-million dollar judgment was awarded to Brighthaven Ventures against Islet Sciences, Edward Gibstein and Cova in 2019, Mitchel May was involved in the bankruptcy reorganization in 2021, overlapping within the same time frame that Cova and Gibstein were financing Verthermia where May was CEO.
There is little known about what Paul Manafort is now doing as a consultant and board director at Verthermia and there is no indication of any wrongdoing based on his association with the company.
But Manafort has a track record over many decades of lobbying for dictators, helping get Trump elected, and being convicted of multiple felonies. Many of the people who were in Trump’s orbit — from Steve Bannon and Erik Prince to Roger Stone and Paul Manafort — keep re-appearing in new ventures and political efforts supporting far-right candidates and politicians. It’s important to continue covering and providing transparency into their recent activities and political and business networks.