The company named after former US President Donald Trump and its chief financial officer were indicted by the Manhattan district attorney’s office on Thursday for tax and social fraud.
The Trump organization and CFO Allen Weisselberg have been accused of plotting since 2005 to defraud tax authorities by providing benefits to company executives in an unofficial manner.
The company and Weisselberg have pleaded not guilty.
Weisselberg, 73, has also been charged with concealing $ 1.76 million in income, including rent for an apartment in Manhattan, lease payments for two Mercedes-Benz vehicles, and membership fees. family, Trump himself signing checks for tuition fees.
“It was orchestrated by the most senior executives who were financially benefiting themselves and the company, securing secret salary increases at the expense of state and federal taxpayers,” the prosecutor said. Carey Dunne at arraignment.
Weisselberg, who worked for Trump for 48 years, was also charged with robbery in the 15-count indictment.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, who will step down at the end of the year, began the investigation nearly three years ago and recently worked with New York State Attorney General, Letitia James, on the case. Both are Democrats and attended Thursday’s appearance in Manhattan Criminal Court.
“The political witch hunt by the radical left Democrats, with New York now in charge, continues,” Trump said in a statement. “It divides our country like never before! “
Weisselberg was handcuffed in the courtroom.
“He is now being used by the Manhattan district attorney as a pawn in a scorched earth attempt to harm the former president,” a spokesperson for the Trump Organization said in a statement. “The district attorney is initiating a criminal prosecution involving fringe benefits that neither the IRS nor any other district attorney would ever have thought of initiating.
Lawyers for the Trump Organization said the case should be resolved by civil tax authorities.
“In our opinion, this case was brought because the name of the companies is Trump,” they said in a statement. “This case signals that now is the time for local prosecutors to target federal political opponents and adversaries.”
The Trump Organization operates hotels, golf courses, and resorts around the world.
Before entering the White House in January 2017, Trump placed the company in a trust run by sons Donald Jr. and Eric, as well as Weisselberg.
Trump himself has not been charged, but prosecutors noted that he signed some of the compensation checks at the center of the alleged program.
According to the indictment, from 2005 to this year, the Trump Organization and Weisselberg deprived the state and city of taxes by conspiring to pay senior executives through benefits and other means.
The most serious charge against Weisselberg, robbery, carries five to 15 years in prison. Charges of tax evasion against the company are punishable by a fine of double the amount of unpaid taxes, or $ 250,000, whichever is greater.
Weisselberg has come to the attention of prosecutors over questions about his son’s use of a Trump apartment. Barry Weisselberg, who ran a Trump-operated ice rink in Central Park, paid no declared rent while living in a Trump-owned apartment in 2018, and he was billed $ 1,000 a month – well below Manhattan average rents – while living in a Trump Apartment from 2005 to 2012, according to the indictment.
Allen Weisselberg, who lived for years in a modest house on Long Island, continued to claim the residence there despite living in a Manhattan apartment paid for by the company, prosecutors said.
In doing so, Weisselberg concealed that he was a resident of New York City and avoided paying around $ 900,000 in federal, state, and municipal income taxes, instead collecting around $ 133,000 in refunds to which he was not entitled, according to the indictment.
Weisselberg reportedly paid the rent on his Manhattan apartment with company checks and ordered the company to pay its utility and parking bills. The company also paid tuition fees at private schools for Weisselberg’s grandchildren, as well as for Mercedes-Benz cars driven by Weisselberg and his wife.
Trump’s company also issued checks at Weisselberg’s request to pay for personal expenses and improvements to his homes and an apartment used by one of his sons, such as new beds, flat-screen TVs. , carpet and furniture, prosecutors said.
Weisselberg has a reputation for being a workaholic devoted to Trump’s interests, the Associated Press reported. There is no indication that he would turn against Trump in this matter. Weisselberg started working for real estate developer Fred Trump, the father of the former president, after responding to a newspaper ad for an accountant in 1973.
Keeping a low profile – other than a 2004 appearance as a judge on Trump’s reality TV show “The Apprentice” – Weisselberg was barely mentioned in press reports before Trump started running for office. the presidency and questions arose about the boss’s finances and charity.
Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney who cooperated with Vance’s investigation, said Weisselberg decided to secretly reimburse him a $ 130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels, the star of the pornographic actress who said he had an affair with Trump.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this story.