Prosecutors charge Trump Organization with a 15-year tax scheme

Prosecutors charge Trump Organization with a 15-year tax scheme

New York prosecutors on Thursday charged the Trump Organization, Trump Payroll Corporation and Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg with 15 felony counts in connection with an alleged tax scheme stretching back to 2005, in an extraordinary legal development against the former President’s namesake company.

Prosecutors in court said the counts include a scheme to defraud, conspiracy, criminal tax fraud, offering a false instrument for filing and falsifying business records.

The indictment also alleges Weisselberg evaded $1.76 million in taxes over the period beginning in 2005 and that he concealed for years that he was a resident of New York City, thereby avoiding paying city income taxes. Weisselberg pleaded not guilty Thursday afternoon.

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Prosecutors say they have digital drives with grand jury testimony, bookkeeping records, tax records, statements of potential witnesses.

Weisselberg attempted to conceal his participation in the scheme with the knowledge of the company, prosecutors said.

“Even now there’s been no attempt to impose discipline on members of the company,” Manhattan prosecutor Carey Dunne said. “There is no clearer example of a company that should be held (responsible).”

Trump himself was not charged.

The indictment of the Trump Organization is the product of more than two years of investigation by the district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., a probe that began with questions about accounting practices tied to hush-money payments made by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and eventually led to a Supreme Court fight over a subpoena for Trump’s tax documents.

It is rare, according to lawyers who specialize in tax evasion cases, for prosecutors to bring charges solely related to fringe benefits provided by a company, and in recent weeks, lawyers for the Trump Organization met with prosecutors in Vance’s office, hoping to persuade them not to bring the case.

The Trump Organization released a statement Thursday saying that Weisselberg is being used by Manhattan prosecutors “as a pawn in a scorched earth attempt to harm the former President.”

“The District Attorney is bringing a criminal prosecution involving employee benefits that neither the IRS nor any other District Attorney would ever think of bringing. This is not justice; this is politics,” said the statement, attributed to a spokesperson from the Trump Organization.

Over the course of the probe, prosecutors have examined a wide array of possible violations, including whether the real-estate company misled lenders and insurers or committed tax fraud, even adding a special prosecutor, Mark Pomerantz, to aid in the expansive inquiry. But in recent months, the focus has narrowed to taxes on benefits.

In particular, it came to center on Trump’s longtime lieutenant Weisselberg, a top company executive who has worked for him since 1973.

Beginning late last year, prosecutors gathered evidence on Weisselberg with the cooperation of his former daughter-in-law, Jennifer Weisselberg. In the months since she began speaking to authorities, she has turned over boxes of financial records and has met with investigators multiple times, her lawyer told CNN.

Documents from Jennifer Weisselberg’s divorce from Allen Weisselberg’s son Barry show thousands of dollars in payments for cars, rent, tuition, medical bills and more going from Allen Weisselberg to his son’s family.

An indictment of Weisselberg would intensify the pressure for him to cooperate with prosecutors in their wide-ranging investigation of Trump, the company and its executives, an outcome prosecutors have been seeking for months but which his lawyers have told authorities he has rejected.

This story is breaking and will be updated.