Donald Trump’s company and its long-term treasurer were charged on Thursday with a tax fraud scheme that prosecutors described as “complete and bold.” Trump executives allegedly received more than $1.7 million in off-book compensation. Including apartment rent, car payment and school tuition.
This is the first criminal case resulting from a two-year investigation of the former president by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. Trump himself was not charged, but prosecutors pointed out that he signed some compensation checks at the center of the so-called plan.
According to the indictment, from 2005 to this year, the Trump Organization and Chief Financial Officer Alan Wesselberg conspired to pay taxes to senior managers to defraud state and city taxes. Wesselberg included, Through lucrative fringe benefits and other methods.
Neither Wesselberg nor Trump Organization’s lawyers pleaded guilty. Weisselberg was ordered to surrender his passport and was released without bail. He left the court without comment.
The 73-year-old Wesselberg has worked for the company for nearly 5 years and has a thorough knowledge of the Trump Organization’s financial transactions. The allegations against him will allow the prosecutor to pressure him to cooperate with the investigation and tell them what he knows.
Trump called the case a “witch hunt”
In a statement, Trump called the case a “political witch hunt for the radical left-wing Democratic Party.” Wesselberg’s lawyers stated that he would “fight against these allegations.”
The case was led by the Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. and New York Attorney General Letitia James, both Democrats.
Vance, who stepped down at the end of the year, has been conducting extensive investigations into various issues involving Trump and the Trump Organization, such as paying hush fees to women on behalf of Trump, and whether the company has manipulated the value of its property to obtain loans or reduce Its tax bill.
As the news broke, Trump had been discussing more seriously the presidential campaign that might make a comeback in 2024. He increased his public appearances, including holding his first rally since leaving the White House.
When announcing the grand jury indictment, the chief prosecutor of the district attorney’s office, Carey Dunne, said; “Politics has no role in the jury, and I can assure you that it has no effect here. “
He outlined the Trump Organization’s 15-year plan “orchestrated by the most senior managers.”
Trump’s adult son is in charge
The Trump Organization is the entity in which the former president manages many of his entrepreneurial affairs, including his investments in office buildings, hotels and golf courses, many of his marketing transactions, and his television career. Donald Jr. and Eric, Trump’s eldest sons, have been responsible for the company’s daily operations since they became president.
Part of the reason Weisselberg was under scrutiny was about his son’s use of Trump’s apartment for little or free.
Barry Weisselberg-who manages Trump’s skating rink in Central Park-did not pay any rent when living in a Trump-owned apartment in 2018. When he lived in Trump, he charged only $1,000 a month-much lower than the typical price in Manhattan. The indictment stated that the apartment was from 2005 to 2012.
Watch | Weisselberg received a federal exemption agreement in 2018:
The prosecutor said that Alan Weisselberg himself was a very private person. He lived in a simple house on Long Island for many years. Although he lived in a Manhattan apartment paid for by the company, he continued to claim to live there.
The prosecutor said that by doing so, Wesselberg concealed that he was a New York City resident and avoided paying more than $900,000 in federal, state, and city income taxes. Instead, he collected about $133,000 in refunds he was not entitled to. paragraph.
The company pays rent, tuition, vehicles
According to the indictment, Wesselberg used a company check to pay the rent of his Manhattan apartment and instructed the company to pay his utility bills and parking fees.
The company also paid private school tuition with Trump’s signed cheques for Weisselberg’s grandchildren, as well as a Mercedes-Benz car driven by Weisselberg and his wife. He was given cash around the festival to distribute tips.
The prosecutor said that such benefits were listed in Trump’s internal documents as part of Weisselberg’s employee compensation, but were not included in his W-2 form or otherwise reported, and the company did not report on them. Value withholding tax.
Prosecutors said Trump’s company also issued checks at Wesselberg’s request to pay for personal expenses and upgrade his house and an apartment used by one of his sons, such as new beds, flat-screen TVs, and carpets. And the furniture of his Florida residence. .
Barry Weisselberg’s ex-wife, Jen Weisselberg, has been cooperating with investigators and handed over a large number of tax records and other documents.
Wesselberg is known for being deeply committed to Trump’s interests.
The indictment stated that two other Trump executives who were not named also received a large amount of secret compensation, including payments for accommodation and car rental.
District attorney fights for tax records
Trump has stated that his company’s behavior is standard practice in the industry and is by no means a crime. The Trump Organization accused the District Attorney’s Office of using Wesselberg as a “pawn in a scorched earth attempt to harm the former president.”
Vance has fought a long-term struggle to obtain Trump’s tax records and has been summoning documents and interviewing company executives and other Trump insiders.
James Repetit, a tax attorney and professor at the Boston College School of Law, said that companies like the Trump Organization are generally responsible for withholding taxes not only for wages, but also for other forms of compensation.
Another well-known New York City real estate figure, the late Leona Helmsley, was convicted of tax fraud in a federal case for failing to report it as income because her company paid to renovate her house.
Repetit said: “The IRS often looks for abuses of fringe benefits when auditing closed companies.”