Trump Organization faces criminal tax trial

If found guilty, the Trump Organization could be fined more than $1 million and could have difficulty securing new loans and transactions.

NEW YORK – For years, as Donald Trump rose from reality TV star to the White House, his real estate empire is spending massive perks on some of his top executives, including luxury apartments and cars.

Now Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, is on trial for tax fraud – a charge that prosecutors say was a 15-year plan by his most trusted lieutenant to avoid paying taxes. pay taxes on those fringe benefits.

In Monday’s opening statement, prosecutors and defense attorneys contested the company’s crimes against the actions of Allen Weisselberg, who pleaded guilty and agreed to act as a witness indicting the star. in exchange for a five-month prison sentence.

Later, another Trump Organization executive, vice president and senior controller Jeffrey McConney, directed the prosecutor through financial records, including Weisselberg’s payroll and ledger forms. shows that the company paid for Weisselberg’s car rental contracts. He will testify again on Tuesday.

McConney, who prosecutors allege helped Weisselberg by falsely reporting his income to tax authorities, was given immunity from testifying last year before a grand jury and again to testify at criminal trial. He said he appeared before the grand jury eight times on a variety of Trump-related issues.

The tax fraud case is the only criminal trial to arise from the Manhattan district attorney’s three-year investigation into the former president and is one of three involving Trump or the company in a New York court. .

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger argued in her opening statement that the Trump Organization — through its subsidiaries Trump Corp. and Trump Payroll Corp. – be held accountable because Weisselberg, the company’s longtime chief financial officer, is a “senior management agent” entrusted to act on behalf of the company and its various organisations.

The company benefits, she said, because it doesn’t have to pay Weisselberg and at least two other executives, who have received a lot of salary and bonus perks – Weisselberg’s total is close to $1 million. la a year.

The company also saves money on Christmas bonuses by paying top executives as independent contractors through subsidiaries, such as the golf courses and ice rinks it manages. manager in Central Park, Hoffinger said.

“This case is about greed and fraud – tax fraud,” Hoffinger told jurors. “(The Trump Organization) paid their executives better by helping them cheat taxes.”

A lawyer for the Trump Organization, Michael van der Veen, countered that Weisselberg was fraudulent and betrayed the trust of the company. Weisselberg concocted the plan without Trump or the Trump family’s trust, cheated on his personal income taxes and lied to the company about what he did, van der Veen said.

“This case is about personal, personal greed and the abuse of trust needed to feed that greed. Allen Weisselberg is someone who has fallen for that greed,” said van der Veen.

“Weisselberg did it for Weisselberg,” he said.

Weisselberg pleaded guilty to receiving $1.7 million in off-the-books compensation. The apartment in Manhattan, the Mercedes-Benz car for him and his wife and the school fees for his grandchildren are all paid for by the company. Prosecutors said his son and another Trump Organization executive also received off-the-books compensation.

When they say the Trump company, “they really mean that Allen Weisselberg did something illegal with the intent to benefit Allen Weisselberg, his friend, or his son,” another attorney for the company. company, Susan Necheles, told jurors.

If found guilty, the Trump Organization could be fined more than $1 million and could have difficulty securing new loans and transactions. Some partners and government organizations may seek to sever ties with the company. It could also hinder the ability to do business with the US Secret Service, which sometimes pays the company for accommodation and services while protecting Trump as a former president.

Neither Trump nor any of his children have worked as chief executives of the Trump Organization have been charged or accused of misconduct. Trump signed several checks at the heart of the case, but Necheles said evidence would show he knew nothing about the plan.

The Trump Organization is the organization through which Trump manages many of his business ventures, including investments in golf courses, luxury towers and other real estate, various marketing transactions, and field pursuits. his television industry.

Prosecutors said they expected to call 15 witnesses, including Weisselberg, McConney and other Trump Organization officials. Judge Juan Manuel Mercan said he expected the trial to last at least four weeks.

In addition to the criminal case, Trump and the Trump Organization are defendants in a lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James, who alleges that Trump and the company inflated their net worth by billions of dollars. la and fool banks and others for years in value. of various assets.

A hearing in that case is scheduled for Thursday.

Meanwhile, in the Bronx, jury selection was scheduled to begin Monday in a lawsuit brought by protesters, who say they were beaten by security officers outside the Tower Trump brutally attacked. The former president announced impeachment in that case last year. Trump Organization faces criminal tax trial

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