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Michael Cohen's business partner, known as "Taxi King," pleads guilty in deal

Last Updated May 23, 2018 5:14 PM EDT

A business partner of longtime Trump lawyer Michael Cohen has pleaded guilty to criminal tax fraud, after he held onto the $5 million in taxes he owed the state from his taxicabs, according to the New York Attorney General's Office.

The New York Times reported the business partner, Russian immigrant Evgeny Freidman, who is known as the "Taxi King," struck a plea deal to avoid jail time, and will aid prosecutors in state or federal investigations. The guilty plea comes at a critical time for special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, as those close to Cohen fear he could flip on the president in Cohen's own criminal investigation. Cohen's apartment and office were raided in April.

As a part of his guilty plea, Freidman will have to repay the $5 million to the state. Freidman, the CEO of Taxiclub Management Inc, managed a fleet of more than 800 medallion taxicabs out of Manhattan, Brooklyn and surrounding areas, and failed to pay those taxes over a four-year period. 

"Today, the 'Taxi King' admitted that he built his empire by stealing from New Yorkers," Attorney General Barbara Underwood said in a statement. "Freidman pocketed money that should have provided much-needed investment in our transit system – and he'll now have to pay back every cent. Our office will continue to hold accountable those who cheat the system."

But the guilty plea could prompt concern for Cohen and even the White House, as Cohen faces his own criminal investigation for matters related to his business deals. Cohen has been under investigation for months, with his case now playing out in federal court in New York. Meanwhile, the White House has kept its distance from Cohen. Mr. Trump's latest legal hire, Rudy Giuliani, has told CBS News Cohen is no longer the president's attorney.   

Cohen tweeted Wednesday that he is not and has never been Freidman's partner in the taxi business: "I am one of thousands of medallion owners who entrust management companies to operate my medallions according to the rules of the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission. Gene Freidman and I are not partners and have never been partners in this business or any other." #MediaWrongAgain."