The Trump Organization and its chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg have been hit with charges related to a years-long tax investigation by the Manhattan district attorney’s office.
The exact charges have not been released yet, but Manhattan DA Cy Vance had been looking into whether Weisselberg “failed to pay taxes on valuable benefits he and his family received from Mr. Trump, including private school tuition for at least one of his grandchildren, free apartments and leased cars,” according to the Times.
In May, it was revealed that NY Attorney General Letitia James’s office was working in conjunction with that investigation.
In a separate investigation, her office has been looking into whether the former president’s company had inflated the value of their various properties in order to obtain loans and other tax benefits. That could lead to separate criminal or civil charges.
Weisselberg, who has been the company’s CFO for over 40 years, surrendered at the DA’s office early Thursday morning, but his attorneys said he plans to plead not guilty, and added that he “will fight these charges in court.”
The Trump Organization said in a statement that Weisselberg was being used 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 I.R.S. or any other district attorney would ever think of bringing,” the statement read. “This is not justice; this is politics.”
Vance’s investigation began in 2018 when it examined “hush-money payments” made during the 2016 presidential campaign to multiple women who claimed they had affairs with Trump. Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney and longtime fixer who is now cooperating with prosecutors, testified that he had indeed paid off one woman, Stormy Daniels, and then been reimbursed by the company.
In his 2004 book, Think Like a Billionaire, Trump “wrote” that Weisselberg “did whatever was necessary to protect the bottom line and refused to succumb to the pressures of risk.” Weisselberg started working for Trump’s father, Fred Trump, in 1973, and Trump reportedly considers him to be one of his most loyal longtime employees.
Prosecutors have reportedly tried to get Weisselberg to cooperate in a case against Trump to no avail thus far.
During an appearance on Fox News on Wednesday, Trump mentioned the investigations in passing, saying, “New York radical left prosecutors come after me.”[Update 5 p.m.] This afternoon, Weisselberg was charged with grand larceny, tax fraud and more for allegedly dodging taxes on $1.7 million in benefits—including a Mercedes-Benz, bonuses and a rent-free apartment—that should have been reported as income.
As the Times summarizes, “The 15-count indictment, which charged the Trump Organization with committing a scheme to defraud, criminal tax fraud and falsifying business records, accused the company of a long-running conspiracy to help executives, including Mr. Weisselberg, evade taxes on perks and bonuses while at the same time decreasing the company’s own tax obligations.”
“To put it bluntly, this was a sweeping and audacious illegal payments scheme,” Carey Dunne, general counsel for the Manhattan district attorney, said. You can read the full indictment here.
As one example, prosecutors say that even though Weisselberg had been living in an apartment on Riverside Boulevard that company had rented for him since 2005, he didn’t identify himself as living in NYC on his taxes until 2013, thereby avoiding paying city income taxes.
Between 2005 and 2021, prosecutors say that Weisselberg “thereby evaded approximately $556,385 in federal taxes, approximately $106,568 in state taxes, and approximately $238,159 in New York City taxes, and he falsely claimed and received approximately $94,902 in federal tax refunds and approximately $38,222 in state tax refunds, to which he was not entitled.”
In a statement about today’s indictment, Trump said, “The political Witch Hunt by the Radical Left Democrats, with New York now taking over the assignment, continues. It is dividing our Country like never before!”