Thursday, July 1, 2021 11:36 pm
Donald Trump’s namesake company and longtime financial chief, according to Reuters report, pleaded not guilty on Thursday to what a New York prosecutor called a “sweeping and audacious” tax fraud, arising from a probe into the former U.S. president’s company and its business practices.
The indictment against the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, as the report indicated, is the first in a nearly three-year investigation by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance.
“It could undermine the Trump Organization’s relationships with banks and business partners, and complicate Trump’s political future as the Republican resumes holding rallies and mulls a 2024 White House run.” Trump himself, however, has not been charged. Vance was recently joined in conducting the probe by New York Attorney General Letitia James, a fellow Democrat.
Prosecutors accused the defendants of having since 2005 defrauded tax authorities by awarding “off the books” benefits to Trump Organization executives.
The report has it further: “Weisselberg, 73, was charged with concealing $1.76 million of income, including rent for a Manhattan apartment, lease payments for two Mercedes Benz vehicles and tuition for family members, with Trump signing checks for the tuition himself.
Prosecutors said this enabled Weisselberg, who has worked for Trump for about 48 years, to evade roughly $900,000 in taxes and collect $133,000 in refunds he did not deserve.”
“To put it bluntly, this was a sweeping and audacious illegal payments scheme,” Assistant District Attorney Carey Dunne said at the arraignment in Manhattan Criminal Court. “This is not a standard practice in the business community, nor was it the act of a rogue or isolated employee.”
The indictment could increase pressure on Weisselberg to cooperate with prosecutors, which he has resisted.
Such cooperation could become crucial to any future case against the former president.
“If the allegations in the indictment are true, this was pants-on-fire tax evasion,” said Daniel Hemel, a tax law professor at the University of Chicago. “It is very hard to believe that this could have happened without the man on top knowing.”
The 15-count indictment charged the defendants with tax fraud and falsifying business records.
Weisselberg, according to the report, was also charged with grand larceny, “which alone carries a maximum 15-year prison term. The Trump Organization could face fines and other penalties if convicted.”
Trump released a statement in which he renewed his allegation that Vance was playing politics by targeting him.
“The political Witch Hunt by the Radical Left Democrats, with New York now taking over the assignment, continues,” Trump said. “It is dividing our Country like never before!”