The charges against the Trump Organization and Chief Financial Officer Alan Weisselberg include tax fraud, fraudulent schemes, conspiracy and falsification of business records.
The Trump Organization and its long-time chief financial officer pleaded not guilty to charges of fraud and theft in the first criminal case in a multi-year investigation of former President Donald Trump and his business dealings.
On Thursday afternoon, Chief Financial Officer Alan Weisselberg and the company’s lawyers appeared in a court in Lower Manhattan to accept 15 felony charges brought by the Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance. The charges against the two defendants read in court included tax fraud, fraudulent schemes, conspiracy and falsification of business records. The 73-year-old Wesselberg has been charged separately with multiple crimes, including gross theft, with a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.
During the interrogation of New York State Court Judge Juan Merchan, Assistant District Attorney Carey Dunne stated that the indictment involved a “thorough and bold” 15-year plan aimed at Avoid taxes on benefits such as cars, apartments, and private school tuition. Such benefits are usually regarded as compensation, and it is illegal to deliberately fail to pay taxes. Dunn said that Weisselberg personally received $1.76 million in such benefits.
Prosecutors said: “The plan is to allow certain employees to significantly underreport the Trump Organization’s compensation so that they can and do pay federal, state, and local taxes that are far below the amount they should pay.”
The chief financial officer was handcuffed and brought into the courtroom. At the end of the hearing, after surrendering his passport, he was released under his own guarantee.
Trump did not name the accusations, but the case may be just the opening remarks of the district attorney, and he has been investigating the company’s possible banking and insurance fraud. The allegations against Wesselberg have greatly increased the pressure on the CFO to cooperate with prosecutors.
Weisselberg’s cooperation may lead to a wider range of cases against the company and increase the possibility of historic and political prosecutions against the former president. Since it is unlikely that a trial will be held before next year, the chief financial officer will have a few months to decide whether to plead the charge or plead guilty, and may reach an agreement with the prosecutor. Wesselberg served as a Trump executive for four years and has a unique insight into the former president’s financial and business transactions.
Trump criticized the Democrat Vance’s investigation as a political persecution based on political motives. The Trump Organization issued a statement on Thursday that Wesselberg’s prosecution was “an attempt to harm the former president’s scorched earth” and that Vance was “initiating criminal proceedings involving employee benefits, the IRS or any other place. Prosecutors would never expect to file such a lawsuit.”