The Trump Organization and its chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg pleaded not guilty Thursday of crimes related to what prosecutors since 2005 called a “comprehensive and audacious” scheme to tax the compensation owned by the CFO and other company executives to avoid former President Donald Trump.
The 15-point indictment, which was broader than many lawyers anticipated, is the first set of criminal claims in the ongoing investigations into Trump and his company by the Manhattan Attorney General and the New York Attorney General.
The indictment states that the Trump Organization and Weisselberg devised a plan to compensate Weisselberg and other company executives “out of the books” so that they receive “significant portions of their income in an indirect and disguised manner.”
The 73-year-old Weisselberg himself had the Trump Organization pay the rent, utilities and garage costs for his apartment on Riverside Drive in Manhattan’s Upper West Side without this compensation being reported to the tax authorities and without paying the associated taxes, it is said in the indictment.
And the indictment filed with the Manhattan Supreme Court states that Weisselberg and the company also planned to “hide his New York City resident status and enable Weisselberg to avoid paying New York income taxes.”
Weisselberg, who worked for the Trump family for 48 years, has another residence on Long Island, New York, but prosecution say he has “spent most of his time in New York City since 2005,” making it a city would make a tax resident.
The indictment states that the Trump Organization created spreadsheets to track the value of compensation paid to Weisselberg and others that were not disclosed to the IRS or the New York state and city tax authorities.
Allen Weisselberg, Chief Financial Officer of Trump Organization Inc., Center, walks toward a criminal court in New York, United States, on Thursday, July 1, 2021.
Stephanie Keith | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Weisselberg personally “avoided taxes” on compensation worth up to 1.76 million US dollars under the program, which was staged “by the top executives” of the Trump organization, said a prosecutor from the Manhattan office, DA Cyrus Vance Jr.
Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Carey Dunne said in court during the indictment against the defendants that the crimes were part of a “sweeping and audacious illegal payment scheme”.
The indictment against the Trump Organization and Weißelberg states that the program lasted from March 2005 to the end of June.
“This case is not about politics, this investigation, which is still ongoing, is appropriate,” said Dunne.
New York County District Attorney Cyrus Roberts Vance Jr. and New York Attorney General Letitia James attend the court hearing of Allen Weisselberg, former US President Donald Trump’s chief financial officer, at the Criminal Court in Lower Manhattan in New York on July 1, 2021.
Timothy A. Clary | AFP | Getty Images
Dunne also said that “there is no clearer example of a company that should be criminally held accountable”.
The Trump Organization and affiliates have been charged with first degree fraud plot, fourth degree conspiracy, third and fourth degree criminal tax fraud, and forgery of business records.
Weißelberg is also charged with second degree theft. He was released without bail after he was ordered to hand over his passport and instructed to clarify all overseas travel plans with a judge.
New York Attorney General Letitia James said, “Today marks a major milestone in the ongoing criminal investigation against the Trump Organization and its CFO Allen Weisselberg.”
“In the indictment, we accuse, among other things, of financial misconduct, in which the Trump Organization concluded a plan with Mr. Weisselberg to avoid paying taxes on certain compensations. This investigation will continue and we will obey the facts and the law wherever they are. “May lead to it.”
Ex-President Trump said in a statement: “The political witch hunt of the radical Left Democrats, with New York taking over the mandate, continues. It is dividing our country like never before!”
Read more about CNBC’s political coverage:
Outside the trial after the indictment, Trump Organization attorney Alan Futerfas, pleading not guilty on behalf of the company, told reporters, “The charges in the indictment are just that, they are allegations.”
“These charges are being vigorously challenged,” said Futerfas.
Futerfas also said the charges are “unprecedented” and normally would not have been brought by the IRS or any other agency. He said he believed the charges were brought on political grounds.
“If the company’s name were different, I don’t think these charges would have been brought. In fact, I’m pretty sure,” he said.
Weißelberg, who surrendered to the public prosecutor’s office early Thursday morning, was led into the courtroom by the authorities in handcuffs with a white mask.
Weißelberg’s attorney told a judge that the defense had objected to the prosecutor’s allegations.
Vance and James were both on trial during the indictment.
Last year, Vance won a lawsuit that allowed him to obtain years of former President Trump’s tax records and other financial documents from his longtime accounting firm.
The Trump organization issued a statement criticizing Vance for bringing the case forward.
“Allen Weisselberg is a loving and devoted husband, father and grandfather who worked for the Trump organization for 48 years,” a company spokesman said in a statement.
“He is now being used by the Manhattan District Attorney as a pawn in a scorched earth attempt to harm the former president,” the spokesman said.
“The district attorney is bringing a criminal prosecution with employee benefits that neither the IRS nor any other district attorney would ever think of. This is not justice, this is politics.”
Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen has met with Vance’s investigators repeatedly to assist them in their investigation.
Weisselberg’s former daughter-in-law Jennifer Weisselberg also gave the prosecutor information. Her ex-ex-husband Barry Weisselberg also works for the Trump organization.
This is the latest news. Check back for updates.