A jury from former President Donald Trump’s hometown of New York City convicted the company at the center of his business empire of a roughly 13-year tax fraud scheme.
The verdict on Tuesday caps off a trial of more than a month, which followed an investigation that began more than three years earlier.
New York prosecutors and regulators set their sights on the Trump Organization in 2019, after the former president’s ex-lawyer Michael Cohen told Congress that the company habitually inflated and deflated assets to reap tax benefits.
Then-Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance and New York Attorney General Letitia James, both Democrats, launched parallel investigations shortly thereafter. Vance’s culminated in an indictment against the Trump Organization, its subsidiary Trump Payroll Corp, and its former chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg.
“Beginning from at least 2005 to on or about June 30, 2021, the defendants and others devised and operated a scheme to defraud federal, New York State, and New York City tax authorities,” the indictment said. “One of the largest individual beneficiaries of the defendants’ scheme was Allen Weisselberg. During the operation of the scheme, the defendants arranged for Weisselberg to receive in direct employee compensation from the Trump Organization in the approximate amount of $1.76 million.”
After Vance’s successor Alvin Bragg (D)inherited the case, Weisselberg pleaded guilty on the eve of his trial and agreed to cooperate against the company. That blockbuster testimony included a claim that Trump himself played in a role in the fraud scheme, and prosecutors said that Trump knew about it during closing arguments, according to accounts from the trial.
Jurors ultimately convicted the Trump Organization and Trump Payroll Corp. of all 17 felony charges of the indictment. Both companies were convicted of one count of scheme to defraud in the first degree, a count of conspiracy in the fourth degree, two counts of criminal tax fraud in the third degree, a count of criminal tax fraud in the fourth degree, and three counts of falsifying business records in the first degree.
In addition, the Trump Organization was convicted of a separate count of falsifying business records in the first degree.
Celebrating the outcome, Bragg declared in a statement: “This was a case about greed and cheating.”
“In Manhattan, no corporation is above the law,” the DA said. “For 13 years the Trump Corporation and the Trump Payroll Corporation got away with a scheme that awarded high-level executives with lavish perks and compensation while intentionally concealing the benefits from the taxing authorities to avoid paying taxes. Today’s verdict holds these Trump companies accountable for their long-running criminal scheme, in addition to Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg, who has pled guilty, testified at trial and will now be sentenced to serve time in jail.”
A spokesperson for the Trump Organization tried to pass the blame to Weisselberg in a statement, citing his trial testimony.
“Mr. Weisselberg testified under oath that he ‘betrayed’ the trust the company had placed in him and that he, at all times, acted ‘solely’ for his ‘own personal gain’ and out of his ‘own personal greed,'” the spokesperson said. “The notion that a company could be held responsible for an employee’s actions, to benefit themselves, on their own personal tax returns is simply preposterous.”
Prosecutors called Weisselberg the primary beneficiary of the scheme, as the recipient of $1.76 million in unreported compensation. Some of his perks included rent on a luxury Manhattan apartment, utilities, parking garage expenses, Mercedes Benz cars for himself and his wife, home furnishings, cash for personal holiday tips and payment of his grandchildren’s private school tuition, the DA said.
In addition to criminal liability, the Trump Organization also faces an active civil lawsuit filed by James this past September. Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron put the Trump Organization under court monitoring until the case is resolved at trial next year.
James, who assisted in the DA’s investigation, also remarked upon the verdict.
“We can have no tolerance for individuals or organizations that violate our laws to line their pockets,” she said in a statement. “I commend Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and his team for their successful prosecution of the Trump Organization, and I was proud to assist in this important case. This verdict sends a clear message that no one, and no organization, is above our laws.”
Other legal woes, civil and criminal, continue to mount for the former president as he pursues his 2024 campaign. The Justice Department’s special counsel Jack Smith is in charge of investigating Trump’s handling of classified documents and other government records at Mar-a-Lago and his role in the Jan. 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol. Two federal judges rejected Trump’s claim of immunity in multiple civil lawsuits related to Jan. 6th.
Sentencing has been slated for Jan. 13, 2023.
(Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)
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