Prosecutor outlines tax evasion allegations against Trump Organization

The opening arguments began on Monday in the high profile criminal tax evasion case against the Trump Organization, the former president’s family business that helped make him a household name.

“This case is about greed and cheating,” prosecutor Susan Hoffinger told jurors in her opening statement about what she called a “clever scheme.”

Two companies that are part of the company, Trump Corporation and Trump Payroll Corp., “paid their already well-paid executives even more by cheating on their taxes,” Hoffinger said.

Donald Trump is listed as a possible witness in the New York trial, where prosecutors will argue the company he ran for decades engaged in a 15 year plan to compensate senior executives “off the books” to help them – and the company – avoid paying taxes.

Trump, who has not been charged with any wrongdoing, blasted the investigation into the company he has led for decades as a politically motivated “witch hunt.”

Presiding over the case, acting New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan told potential jurors last week that in addition to the former president, his three oldest children — Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump- could be called as witnesses. All three have held key positions within the company.

Prosecutors’ star witness will be Allen Weisselberg, the company’s longtime chief financial officer who is currently on paid leave from the Trump Organization. He was indicted alongside the Trump Organization last year after a year-long investigation into the company’s financial practices by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. Wesselberg, 75 years old, pleaded guilty to 15 felony charges in August.

No other individual has been charged in this case.

Referring to Weisselberg, Hoffinger told the jury that “for 35 years he reported directly to Donald Trump.” He had “signing authority for bank accounts,” she said.

As part of his plea deal, Weisselberg agreed to pay nearly $2 million in taxes, interest and penalties, in addition to testifying “truthfully at the upcoming Trump Organization trial.” If he doesn’t, prosecutors have said he could face a sentence closer to what he originally faced if convicted at trial – 5 to 15 years in prison.

Weisselberg is expected to take a stand next week.

Trump Company attorney Susan Necheles told jurors that Weisselberg was the bad guy in the case, not the Trump Organization.

The “evidence will show it was Allen Weisselberg,” Necheles said.

Weisselberg “had a great life at a prestigious company” which fell apart upon his arrest, Necheles said.

“Allen Weisselberg had everything a man could want and he realized he could lose it all, so he made a deal. He would plead guilty and cooperate” against the Trump Companies, Necheles said. only way to get that big prize is if he has to testify. Think of the extreme pressure he’s under,” she added, telling jurors he was the one who benefited from the scheme – not the Trump organization.

Necheles also asked that the jurors “not treat this case as a referendum on President Trump.”

“The evidence will be clear that Donald Trump did not know that Allen Weisselberg was cheating on his personal taxes,” she said.

Trump Payroll Corp. attorney Michael van der Veen also pointed the finger at Weisselberg, saying “greed led him to cheat on his taxes and betray a 50-plus-year trust” that had been placed in him. first placed by Trump’s father, Fred Trump.

“He was trusted to protect the business and given tremendous independent autonomy to carry out his work,” he said.

Van der Veen also said that Weisselberg had been forgiven by society, likening his situation to that in the biblical story of the prodigal son. He told jurors that Weisselberg, 75, is no longer the chief financial officer but is still on the company’s payroll.

The judge told potential jurors last week that the case involves allegations that the company “conceived and implemented a long-term scheme to not report its income on tax forms.”

The crimes that the charge alleges that the company committed conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud, criminal tax evasion and falsification of business records.

The indictment states that the “scheme was intended to allow certain employees to significantly understate their compensation from the Trump Organization so that they could and do pay federal, state and local taxes in amounts significantly below the amounts that should have been paid”.

The alleged scheme also allowed the company “to evade payment of payroll taxes that the Trump Organization was required to pay as part of employee compensation,” according to the indictment.

According to documents filed by prosecutors, the biggest beneficiary of the alleged scheme was Weisselberg, who received $1.76 million in “indirect employee compensation” from the company. This included a rent-free apartment, expensive cars, private school tuition for her grandchildren, and new furniture.

Jury selection ended on Friday. The panel is made up of four women and eight men, with five alternates for what is expected to be a month-long trial.

The Trump Organization faces up to approximately $1.6 million in penalties if convicted on all counts. A conviction could also hamper the company’s ability to obtain future financing, experts told NBC News.

The company faces other legal issues. Jury selection begins Monday in the Bronx — about 10 miles north of Merchan’s courtroom in Manhattan — in a civil case brought against Trump, the Trump Organization and his 2016 campaign by a group of protesters who say being brutalized by the candidate’s security guards at the time. outside the Trump tower.

They are seeking unspecified damages, and the trial will feature videotaped testimony Trump gave in the case last year. Trump denied knowing about the actions of his guards in advance, but said he believed they acted appropriately, according to excerpts from his testimony which were included in a court filing in April.

The company, Trump and his eldest children were also sued last month by the New York Attorney General’s Office alleging they overstated the company’s financial assets by billions of dollars.

The lawsuit, which Trump also dismissed as a politically motivated “witch hunt,” seeks to impose approximately $250 million in sanctions and permanently bar Trump and his three oldest children from serving as leaders of any business based in New York.

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