Trump Organization hit with $1.6 million fine for criminal tax fraud scheme

Trump Organization hit with $1.6 million fine for criminal tax fraud scheme

The entrance to Trump Tower on 5th Avenue is pictured in the Manhattan borough of New York City, May 19, 2021.

Shannon Stapleton | Reuters

The Trump Organization, former President Donald Trump‘s business empire, was hit with a $1.6 million fine Friday for tax fraud and other crimes committed as part of a yearslong scheme to help some of its top executives avoid paying taxes on compensation.

The Trump Corp. and The Trump Payroll Corp., two subsidiaries of the Trump Organization, were both sentenced to the maximum possible fines under New York laws. The Trump Organization has denied all wrongdoing and is planning to appeal the verdict.

The subsidiaries were found guilty last month on 17 counts, including tax fraud, falsifying business records and conspiracyas part of what prosecutors had called a “sweeping and audacious” scheme to compensate company executives “off the books.” The verdict by a New York City jury marked the first-ever criminal convictions of Trump’s companies.

One of those executives was former Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg, who pleaded guilty to tax fraud charges last summer and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors against his longtime employer.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office accused Weisselberg of receiving more than $1.7 million in unreported compensation over more than a decade. That compensation came in the form of rent payments on luxury apartments, home furnishings, Mercedes-Benz cars for him and his wife, parking garage expenses, and private school tuition payments for his grandchildren, prosecutors alleged.

Prosecutors and Trump Organization lawyers gather at the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse for the sentencing hearing in New York City, U.S. January 13, 2023.

Adam Gray | Reuters

Weisselberg and Trump’s companies “conducted and benefitted from sweeping fraud for well over a decade,” Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg said in a statement after the sentence came down Friday morning.

“While corporations can’t serve jail time, this consequential conviction and sentencing serves as a reminder to corporations and executives that you cannot defraud tax authorities and get away with it. It is also an important reminder that our state law must change so that we can impose more significant penalties and sanctions on corporations that commit crimes in New York,” Bragg said.

The DA added that his office’s investigation of Trump and his businesses remains ongoing.

In a statement after the sentence came down, New York Attorney General Letitia James said it “proves once again that no one is above the law, not even Donald Trump or his business.”

James’ office is leading a civil probe into Trump, his family and his businesses regarding allegations of widespread financial fraud. She has filed a sweeping civil lawsuit against those parties and others seeking at least $250 million in damages.

Weisselberg, a 75-year-old former executive who has worked for Trump’s family since 1973, was sentenced Tuesday to five months in jail. Reuters reported that the Trump Organization is still paying Weisselberg’s lawyers, as well as a prison consultant to help prepare him for jail at New York’s notorious Rikers Island facility.

“Allen Weisselberg is a victim. He was threatened, intimidated and terrorized. He was given a choice of pleading guilty and serving 90 days in prison or serving the rest of his life in jail — all of this over a corporate car and standard employee benefits,” a Trump Organization spokesperson said in a statement later Friday morning.

The spokesperson also called Trump and his company victims, accusing the New York prosecutors of pursuing a political “witch-hunt” while ignoring other crimes in the city.

“We did nothing wrong and we will appeal this verdict,” the spokesperson said.

Trump himself was not charged in the case. He has decried the guilty verdict against his company as “a continuation of the Greatest Political Witch Hunt in the History of our Country.” The conviction came shortly after Trump announced his 2024 presidential campaign.

Weisselberg’s attorney, Nicholas Gravante, said in a statement Tuesday that Weisselberg “regrets the harm his actions have caused to the Trump Organization and members of the Trump family.”

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