NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump’s company was found guilty of tax evasion on Tuesday in a lawsuit filed by the Manhattan District Attorney.
The conviction comes on the second day of trial following a trial in which the Trump Organization was accused of being complicit in a scheme by executives to avoid paying personal income taxes on employment perks such as rent-free apartments and luxury cars. was taken down.
The conviction is valid for New York prosecutors who have been investigating the former president and his business for three years, but the penalties are not expected to be severe enough to jeopardize the future of Trump’s company.
As punishment, the Trump Organization could be fined up to $1.6 million. That’s a relatively small amount for a company of this size, but the conviction could make future deals more complicated.
Trump, who recently announced he would run for president again, said the lawsuit against his company was part of a politically-motivated “witch hunt” carried out against him by a persuasive Democrat. Stated.
Trump himself wasn’t on trial, but prosecutors claimed he “knew exactly what was going on” with the plan, though he and company lawyers denied it. .
The lawsuit against the company was largely built on the testimony of Allen Weisselberg, the former chief financial officer of the Trump Organization.
Weisselberg testified in exchange for the promised five-month prison sentence.
In order to convict the Trump Organization, prosecutors told the jury that Weisselberg or his subordinate, Senior Vice President and Controller Jeffrey McConney, would be acting on behalf of the company. agent and had to convince the company that the company was also profiting from his scheme.
Lawyers for the Trump Organization repeated the mantra “Weisselberg did it for Weisselberg” during the month-long trial. They claimed that the executives had been dishonest and had betrayed the company’s trust. They claimed that no one in the Trump family or company was to blame.
He testified as a witness for the prosecution, but tried to take the blame on the witness stand, saying no one in the Trump family knew what he was doing.
“It was my own personal greed that led to this,” testified an emotional Weisselberg.
Weisselberg, who pleaded guilty to evading taxes on $1.7 million in fringe benefits, conspired with him and McConney to deduct costs from his pre-tax salary and issue falsified W-2 forms. He testified that he hid the extra compensation from his income.
In closing arguments, prosecutor Joshua Steingras tried to refute Trump’s allegations that he knew nothing about the plan. He showed the jury a lease signed by Mr. Weisselberg for Mr. Weisselberg’s company-funded apartment, as well as a memo Mr. Trump signed authorizing a pay cut for another privileged executive.
“Mr. Trump clearly sanctions tax evasion,” Steingras argued.
The ruling does not end Trump’s battle with Democratic Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg, who took office in January.
Bragg said the investigation into Trump, which began under his predecessor, District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., was “active and ongoing.”
In its extensive investigation, investigators investigated whether Trump deceived banks and others about the value of real estate, golf courses and other assets owned by Trump. his company.
The district attorney’s office also investigated whether state law was broken when Trump’s allies paid two women who claimed to have had sexual relations with Republicans years earlier.
Near the end of his term last year, Vance directed delegates to present evidence to a grand jury on possible indictment of Trump. But after his inauguration, Bragg was able to dissolve that grand jury and give the case a fresh look.
On Monday, he confirmed that a new chief prosecutor had been brought in to handle the investigation, again indicating it was still active.
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