US President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort arrives at a hearing in Washington. File picture: Yuri Gripas/Reuters
President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort has been moved from a minimum security prison near Scranton, Pennsylvania, to the federal correction center in Manhattan that recently housed the notorious Mexican drug lord known as "El Chapo," federal records show.

The move to the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City comes as Manafort is expected to appear in court there on state mortgage fraud charges. The New York Times had previously reported that Manafort would be headed to the notorious Rikers Island jail complex, but a Justice Department official said it was decided he would remain in federal custody after Manafort's attorneys raised concerns about his "health and personal safety."

The official said the attorneys proposed that Manafort stay in federal custody but be turned over to the state as needed, and New York prosecutors did not object.

"In light of New York's position, and Mr. Manafort's unique health and safety needs, the department determined to err on the side of caution by keeping Mr. Manafort in custody during the pendency of his state proceedings," the official said. Manafort would be made available as needed, and the arrangement would not affect his state case, the official added.

Manafort had been serving time for federal crimes at the minimum security prison camp at the U.S. Penitentiary at Canaan Township in Pennsylvania.

Manafort drew special attention during special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of possible coordination between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign for his business ties involving Ukraine and contacts with people connected to Russia.

He was ultimately charged with offenses related only to his Ukraine work - not for a conspiracy with Russia. He was convicted in August of tax- and bank-fraud charges after a weeks-long trial in federal court in Virginia, and he later pleaded guilty in a separate case in federal court in D.C.

Although Manafort admitted wrongdoing and agreed to cooperate with law enforcement, prosecutors accused him of lying even after that. He was ultimately sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison across both cases. Then, in March, he was indicted by a state grand jury in New York for mortgage fraud - a case that was viewed by some analysts as a safeguard in case Trump sought to pardon him for the federal crimes. The president cannot issue a pardon for state offenses.

When the New York charges were announced, Trump said a pardon for Manafort was "not something that's right now on my mind," but he added, "I do feel badly for Paul Manafort, that I can tell you." Manafort's attorneys are likely to argue that the state case is a form of double jeopardy, because the mortgage fraud stems from the same conduct that led to the federal case against Manafort.

The Metropolitan Correctional Center, which houses about 800 inmates, has been home to its share of high-profile inmates, including Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán and Bernie Madoff, who was convicted of orchestrating the biggest Ponzi scheme in history. The specific details of Manafort's detention there could not immediately be learned. Justice Department and prison officials did not immediately return messages late Monday and early Tuesday.

Washington Post