Trump Org. CFO will explain tax fraud to New York jury, prosecutors say
In opening statements, Hoffinger addressed allegations that Trump personally paid for private school for Weisselberg’s grandchildren and signed a lease for the lieutenant’s Upper West Side apartment overlooking the Hudson River. , because he wanted him to live in Manhattan rather than commute from Long Island.
Trump Corp. attorney Susan Necheles, meanwhile, tried to isolate the former president and urged the jury not to let their views of Trump cloud their judgment.
“You should not consider this case to be a referendum on President Trump or his policies,” he said. “It started and ended with Allen Weisselberg. Allen Weisselberg did this.”
Weisselberg he pleaded guilty in August to all 15 counts he faced, including tax fraud and theft. Now he will play a star witness in the month-long trial, where prosecutors have to convince a jury that Trump Org. units – the Trump Corporation and the Trump Payroll Corporation – share responsibility for hiding $1.76 million in compensation.
Necheles claimed that Weisselberg only involved the company to avoid a long prison sentence. If he fulfills his plea agreement and testifies truthfully, he is expected to be sentenced to five months at Rikers Island. If he violates the agreement, he could face up to 15 years in prison.
“The prosecutors paraded him in front of the cameras in handcuffs. Mr. Weisselberg understood that this was not only public humiliation, but a potential prison sentence that could last for years,” he said. “I ask you to consider the extreme pressure he is under.”
Prosecutors said Weisselberg and the corporate defendants also avoided taxes by reporting some of their bonuses as paid to an independent contractor rather than an employee. They also did not disclose that he lived in New York City, which allows him to avoid paying local income tax.
Weisselberg reported directly to Trump for 35 years, Hoffinger said. And Trump trusted him so much that he made Weisselberg a trustee when he became president and put his personal assets in a trust. The fraudulent tax practices came to an end after Trump became president, prompting the company to clean up its act out of concern about increased scrutiny, the assistant DA said.
If convicted, the company could be fined $1.6 million. The corporations are charged with nine felony counts, including felony tax fraud, conspiracy and falsifying business records.
The case is one of a number of legal threats that lead to the former president. Even in New York, Attorney General Tish James brought a lawsuit against Trumphis children and his company last month, accusing them of large-scale fraudulent financial practices.
This suit accuses Trump of falsely inflating his assets for more than a decade and seeks to prevent him and members of his family from engaging in real estate transactions or serving as officers of any business in New York.
A separate Department of Justice investigation into Trump’s handling of classified documents led to an FBI raid on his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, where a number of documents were seized.
A broader criminal investigation by the Manhattan DA into Trump’s business practices remains open, though stalled earlier this year when Bragg declined to bring charges against Trump personally. Bragg was in the courtroom for Monday’s opening argument.
Prosecutors hoped to compel Weisselberg to cooperate with that broader probe, but he has not agreed to do so as part of his plea deal.
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