Trump Organization found guilty on all counts of criminal tax fraud

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CNN

A Manhattan jury has found two Trump Organization companies guilty of multiple charges of criminal tax fraud and falsifying corporate records related to a 15-year plan to defraud tax authorities by failing to file and pay taxes on compensation for top managers.

The Trump Corp. and Trump Payroll Corp. were found guilty of all charges they faced.

Donald Trump and his family were not charged in this case, but the former president was repeatedly cited by prosecutors during the trial about his connection to the benefits awarded to certain executives, including company-funded apartments, car leases and personal expenses.

The Trump Organization could be fined up to $1.61 million if convicted in mid-January. The company is not at risk of dissolution because there is no mechanism under New York law that would dissolve the company. However, a felony conviction may affect the ability to conduct business or obtain loans or contracts.

The guilty verdict comes as Trump comes under scrutiny from federal and state prosecutors over his handling of classified documents, attempt to overturn the 2020 election results, and the accuracy of the Trump Organization’s business records and financial statements. He also faces a $250 million civil lawsuit from the New York Attorney General alleging that he and his adult children were involved in a decade-long fraud. Among other things, the Attorney General is seeking to permanently bar them from serving as officers or directors of any New York State corporation.

“This was a case of greed and deceit,” said Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. “The Trump Corporation and the Trump Payroll Corporation got away with a scheme that grants top executives generous benefits and allowances while deliberately hiding the benefits from the IRS to avoid paying taxes. Today’s verdict holds these Trump companies accountable for their long-running criminal scheme.”

CNN senior legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Elie Honig said Bragg’s approach is justified.

“Obviously this is a setback for the Trump Org. — a major setback for the Trump Org. They have now been found guilty of criminal conduct, criminal tax fraud,” Honig told CNN’s Victor Blackwell on “Newsroom.”

“It’s kind of a win for the Manhattan district attorney, too,” Honig said. “Their theory, now, that part of the income for employees, including Allen Weisselberg, was paid through benefits to avoid tax liability – that theory is justified.”

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass concluded by telling the jury that Trump “explicitly approved” tax fraud and urged them to reject the defense’s argument that former Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg was a rogue employee who was motivated by his own personal greed.

“This whole story about Donald Trump being blissfully ignorant is just not true,” Steinglass said.

The jury heard that Trump agreed on a whim to pay the private school fees for his Weisselberg’s grandchildren and signed a lease on a Manhattan apartment to shorten the principal’s commute. Trump personally signed his employees’ bonus checks over Christmas and he initialed a memo cutting the salary of another top executive, which prosecutors said suggested he knew about the fraudulent scheme all along.

Prosecutors alleged that for years top executives reduced their reported salaries by the amount of benefits issued by the company to avoid paying required taxes.

Weisselberg, who is on paid leave from the company, sat on the witness stand for three days. He pleaded guilty to 15 felonies for failing to pay taxes on $1.76 million in income. As part of his plea, he is sentenced to five months in prison if the judge rules that he has testified truthfully.

In his testimony, Weisselberg admitted to paying taxes on compensation, totaling about $200,000 in one year, which included a luxury Manhattan apartment overlooking the Hudson River, two Mercedes Benz car leases, parking, utilities, furniture, and private school tuition. for his grandchildren. He also testified that he paid bonuses to himself and other executives as if they were independent advisers, allowing the Trump companies to evade taxes on them.

Weisselberg testified that he carried out the plan with the help of his subordinate, Trump Organization controller Jeffrey McConney. McConney, who was granted immunity for testifying before the grand jury, admitted to some of the illegal conduct in his testimony.

After Trump was elected president, Weisselberg testified, there was a “cleanup” and many of the illegal practices stopped.

He revealed conversations he had with Trump, Eric Trump, and Donald Trump Jr., but told the jury when questioned by the Trump attorneys that he had no plans or conspired with anyone in the Trump family.

Weisselberg got emotional at times, telling the jury he was “ashamed” of his behavior and that he “betrayed” the Trump family, who has been his employer for 49 years.

Prosecutors and lawyers called out Weisselberg’s divided allegiances — he wanted to honor his plea deal and serve a lesser prison sentence and his loyalty to the Trump family, which could pay him $1 million in damages this year.

To prove the company’s guilt, prosecutors had to show that either Weisselberg or McConney was a “senior executive agent” who committed the crimes in the course of his employment and “on behalf” of the company.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys argued in circles about what “on behalf of” meant.

Judge Juan Merchan also wrestled with how to explain the phrase to the jury and turned to two legal treaties to arrive at a definition.

The judge explained it to the jury, saying, “Under the definition of ‘on behalf’, it is not necessary that the criminal acts actually benefit the company. But an agent’s actions are not “on behalf of” a company if they were taken solely to further the agent’s own best interests. In other words, if the agent’s actions were committed solely for personal gain, they were not “on behalf of” the company.

Weisselberg walked a thin line in his testimony, telling the jury that he never wanted to harm the company, was driven by greed and most of all wanted to pay less tax. But, he also said, he knew at the time that the company would benefit to some extent from his plans.

In his testimony, Weisselberg said, “It was a benefit to the company, but it was mostly down to my greed.” He told the jury that the company saved money by paying less tax on its off-the-books compensation and acknowledged when prosecutor Susan Hoffinger asked him if, while his primary goal was to evade taxes, it was also a benefit to the company. yielded.

“To some extent, yes,” Weisselberg testified.

Weisselberg said he and McConney knew at the time that the company would pay less payroll taxes through the arrangement, though he said they never explicitly discussed it.

The Trump attorneys repeatedly argued to the jury that “Weisselberg did it for Weisselberg” to emphasize that he was motivated solely by his personal greed.

On cross-examination, Weisselberg agreed that the decision not to pay taxes was his decision and was made solely to benefit himself.

“That was my intention,” Weisselberg said when questioned by the Trump lawyers, “to help myself.”

The Trump entities’ lawyers called only one fact-witness, longtime real estate company accountant Donald Bender of Mazars USA, who dropped Trump as a client earlier this year.

Trump lawyers said Bender either knew about the off-the-books compensation or should have tracked down the tax fraud and they accused him of lying on the stand.

When questioned by prosecutors, Bender testified that he trusted and relied on Weisselberg, who testified that he concealed the illegal plan.

Steinglass, the district attorney, told the jury that the Trump companies were guilty and that the illegal plan was devised “so that the employees can get more take-home pay while costing the Trump Corporation less. It’s a win-win – unless you’re the IRS.”

This story has been updated with additional details.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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