Rick Gates, left, leaves the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia with his attorney, Shanlon Wu, right. Credit: Diego M. Radzinschi / ALM

Special Counsel Robert Mueller III’s team raised concerns Monday that a defense lawyer for Rick Gates, a former business partner of Paul Manafort, could have a conflict of interest that prevents him from participating in the money laundering case against the two men in Washington federal court.

Prosecutors asked U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the District of Columbia to review Gates’ legal representation to ensure he is aware of any possible conflict posed by his representation from Walter Mack, a partner in New York’s Doar Rieck Kaley & Mack.

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Mack is a defense lawyer in an unrelated wire fraud case in New York where one of the defendants, Steven Brown, faces charges that bilked investors of supposed film projects out of more than $12 million. On Monday, Prosecutors said Gates has longstanding ties to Brown and argued that he could be a witness in the New York case. Mack represents Brown in the case in New York.

“The conduct for which Brown is charged in the Southern District of New York is separate and apart from the charges pending in the instant action,” prosecutors said. “Gates and Brown, however, are believed by the government to have had a long-term personal and business relationship that creates areas of potential factual overlap between the two cases.”

Mack is one of several lawyers representing Gates, charged in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in an alleged money laundering scheme that involved advocacy for foreign nationals. Mack, who joined Gates’ defense earlier this month, was not reached for comment Monday.

Gates and Manafort were indicted in late October on money laundering and conspiracy charges, along with allegations that the two failed to properly disclose their lobbying work for the Ukrainian government.

Just as they argued that Gates could be a witness against Brown, Mueller’s team raised the possibility Monday that Brown might have information valuable to the Manafort case. Prosecutors filed a similar letter in Brown’s case in the Southern District of New York on Monday.

“Similarly, Brown may have knowledge of Gates’s activities on behalf of foreign principals or other financial dealings that would be relevant to the case pending in this court. It is at least possible that Gates or Brown could become a witness for the government or that information Mr. Mack learned from Brown or Gates could be relevant to the defense of the other,” prosecutors said in a court filing. “However unlikely those propositions are, if any of them were to occur, Mr. Mack’s obligation to advocate diligently on behalf of his clients would come into conflict with his responsibilities to protect privileged information and to uphold his duties of confidentiality and loyalty.”

The prosecutors asked Jackson to determine whether Gates is aware of the “risks” associated with Mack’s involvement in the case. Mack, the prosecutors said, “may, at some point, have divided loyalties.” Gates can waive any conflict, however.

The government’s court filing in Washington is posted below:

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