Manhattan DA opens probe into Weinstein money settlements
Producer Harvey Weinstein speaks at the ceremony for the unveiling of the star for Italian composer Ennio Morricone on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood, California February 26, 2016. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni - GF10000324983
Hey, they got Al Capone for tax evasion.
As the public gets distracted by each new wave in the flood of sexual-misconduct claims against Hollywood, Washington and media titans, the Manhattan district attorney is quietly working to ensure Harvey Weinstein doesn’t escape prosecution on his watch for a second time, The Post has learned.
Cyrus Vance Jr. is hedging his bets by pursuing a potential embezzlement case tied to hush-money settlements with Weinstein’s accusers, in addition to seeking evidence of his alleged sex crimes, law-enforcement sources said.
One source described the Vance investigation as “wide-ranging and aggressive,” and said authorities had served more than two dozen subpoenas demanding documents for the probe.
Several current and former Weinstein employees have also appeared with their lawyers for voluntary interviews at the DA’s office in recent weeks, sources said.
Vance’s prosecutors asked them what they knew about the slew of sordid accusations against Weinstein, sources said.
Those allegations include claims by Lucia Evans, then a college student, that Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex on him inside his Tribeca office in 2004, and claims by “Boardwalk Empire” actress Paz de la Huerta that Weinstein raped her on two occasions in 2015.
The DA’s Office is also investigating whether Weinstein misappropriated money from The Weinstein Company — which fired him in October — or his former company, Miramax, to buy his accusers’ silence, sources said.
Weinstein reportedly struck settlements with around a dozen accusers over the past 20-plus years, and New York’s statute of limitations for fraud and larceny are six years and up to five, respectively.
But even if charges can’t be brought, any evidence that’s uncovered could potentially be used to bolster sex-assault charges, law-enforcement sources said.
Vance — who’s suffered defeats in several high-profile prosecutions — “wants to be really sure” of a conviction if he pursues charges against Weinstein, one source said.
“He doesn’t want another black eye,” the source added.
One payment, of $1 million, reportedly went to model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, who went to cops in 2015 after Weinstein allegedly groped her in his Tribeca office.
Despite an incriminating recording made during an NYPD sting operation, Vance declined to prosecute, and he came under fire when the secret audio was leaked to the New Yorker in October.
Weinstein has repeatedly denied “any allegations of non-consensual sex” with his accusers and a source close to Weinstein said: “They are looking at this stuff now, because they understand how weak and unreliable the rape claims are.”
A grand jury isn’t expected to start reviewing evidence until next year, sources said.
Weinstein defense lawyer Ben Brafman said Sunday: “Any financial settlements by Mr. Weinstein were fully vetted and approved by legal counsel for Mr. Weinstein and The Weinstein Company.
“There was never any intent by Mr Weinstein to violate the law and as a result, we do not believe that any criminal charges will be filed once all of the facts are carefully reviewed,” he added.
A Vance spokeswoman declined to comment.