A former Chicago bank executive was found guilty Tuesday of charges alleging he conspired with onetime Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort to exchange risky bank loans for a high-ranking position in the presidential administration.
Stephen Calk, the former chairman and CEO of The Federal Savings Bank, was found guilty of one count of financial institution bribery and one count of conspiracy to commit financial institution bribery. The charges carry 30 and 5-year maximum prison sentences, respectively.
Calk was ultimately never offered nor accepted any positions within the administration and the bank incurred a multimillion-dollar loss when Manafort defaulted on the loans.
Calk and his attorneys did not comment to the press as he left court Tuesday. He was not remanded into custody and his sentencing is scheduled in Manhattan federal court on January 10, 2022.
Prosecutors called Calk greedy, hungry and desperate to get into the Trump administration, telling jurors during closing arguments Monday that the bank CEO pushed his employees to approve Manafort’s risky loans despite debt and properties in foreclosure.
“No matter how many problems the loans just would not die. Why not? Because Calk wanted them to close,” prosecutor Paul Monteleoni said. “That’s the second of seven reasons why you know Calk had corrupt intent because he gave Manafort such special treatment. And he did it with both eyes open. So the idea that everyone else was moving alone forward and keeping things from Calk is 100% backwards. Calk was deep in the weeds on this loan.”
Several of the 14 government witnesses were bank employees and board members who testified about their unsure feelings over the risky loans.
Calk’s defense attorneys argued that Calk didn’t know he was doing anything wrong in giving Manafort $16 million in loans, saying it was Manafort who committed fraud by lying about his wealth to get the loans approved.
The jury deliberated for less than two hours over two days before delivering the verdict.
Days after Calk’s bank approved the first loan in 2016, Manafort appointed Calk to the Economic Advisory Council for Trump’s campaign, an unpaid role that put Calk in the spotlight giving media interviews as a surrogate for the campaign.
Prosecutors showed the jury text messages Calk sent to Manafort on election night in 2016 informing him that his bank could issue a second loan despite what they said were “red flags” in Manafort’s financial position.
Former Trump staffer Anthony Scaramucci testified that Manafort asked him to get Calk an interview for the position of secretary of the Army during the transition after Trump was elected president in 2016.
Calk eventually interviewed at Trump Tower in New York for the position of Under Secretary of the Army and did not get the post.
At the time, Scaramucci was on the self-proclaimed “tiger team” with Jared Kushner and other inner-circle Trump advisers, which was overseeing interviews for undersecretary and deputy secretary positions across the administration.
Scaramucci testified that he didn’t know Calk, but it was not uncommon for people to contact him with recommendations for personnel picks.
Though Manafort had taken formal leave from Trump’s staff, Scaramucci said they had a good relationship and he “wanted to be helpful” to Manafort when he reached out pushing Calk and another friend for administration positions.
Calk’s attorney Paul Schoeman told the jury during closing arguments that Calk does not dispute that Manafort made calls on his behalf to further his goal of getting a job in the administration.
“Yes, Steve Calk was personally involved in making loans to Paul Manafort, and yes, Steve Calk, got some help and advice from Paul Manafort applying for a government job that he did not get. But what the government didn’t prove is that Mr. Calk thought at the time that he was doing these things that he was doing something wrong, something corrupt, something evil. They haven’t shown you that he wasn’t acting in good faith trying to make loans that he thought were great for his bank,” Schoeman said.
The defense put on a brief case that lasted less than a full court day. Calk opted not to testify.
Brigadier General Bernard Banks and Newsmax correspondent Steve Cortes testified for the defense about connections Calk had in high places around the Trump transition other than Manafort.
Cortes testified that while he was involved in the Trump presidential transition, he advocated for Calk to other internal members of the transition team.
Calk’s defense team argued that Calk was plenty qualified as a former army reserve soldier and career banker to realistically pursue positions in the administration.
“What really matters to Donald Trump is how you do on TV and Mr. Calk did well on TV and maybe that would put him in a position, just like Mr. Scaramucci was good on TV and he got a White House position. And it’s not like the Trump cabinet was full of all these you know, government, you know, longtime government people,” Schoeman said during the defense closing argument Monday.
The alleged “quid pro quo” between Calk and Manafort came up in 2018 at Manafort’s trial in Virginia.
Manafort was found guilty on eight counts of financial fraud, but jurors deadlocked on the four counts of bank fraud and conspiracy related to the fraudulent loans he had received from Calk’s bank.
Months later, Manafort pleaded guilty in a separate federal case in Washington, DC, and admitted to all the conduct alleged in the Virginia trial, including conspiring with Calk to commit bank fraud.
Former President Donald Trump pardoned Manafort and the March indictment in Calk’s case did not charge Manafort as part of the alleged conspiracy.
This story has been updated with additional details.
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