The Trump Organization’s chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg has been indicted and charged with tax-related crimes.
His charges are related to the failure to pay taxes on benefits obtained as part of his work for Trump.
It’s not clear exactly what charges Weisselberg is facing, though experts suggest it could be grand larceny, scheme to defraud, or tax fraud.
If Weisselberg is charged with tax fraud and failing to pay more than $10,000 in taxes for a single year, he could face up to seven years in prison.
The issue took on a renewed sense of urgency when Cyrus Vance, the Manhattan district attorney, said in April that he will retire at the end of 2021.
It marks the first criminal charges brought against the former president’s company since the Manhattan district attorney’s office began its investigation three years ago, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The development will come as a deep blow to Trump, whose lawyers met with prosecutors on Monday in a last effort to deflect charges.
However, the Manhattan district attorney’s office has apparently failed to ‘flip’ Weisselberg, who was spotted driving from his home to Trump Tower on Tuesday, just as he has done for decades, indicating he remains employed by the Trump Organization and loyal to his boss.
In a statement on Monday, Trump said his company’s actions were ‘in no way a crime’ and insisted he was the victim of a witch hunt.
The fast-paced developments came as it emerged prosecutors are examining cash bonuses paid out by the Trump Organization as they probe whether employee benefits were properly declared for tax purposes.
Lawyers for Trump and Weisselberg did not respond to requests for comment.
The case involves unpaid taxes on benefits given to Weisselberg, including a company car and corporate apartment, according to a source quoted by Bloomberg News.
Longtime Trump Organization exec Allen Weisselberg drove to Trump Tower on Tuesday morning. He was charged with tax-related crimes on Wednesday
Former President Donald Trump leaves his New York Trump Tower building Tuesday afternoon – the day before his chief financial officer was charged
Allen Weisselberg’s wife Hillary leaves their New York home and walks to a nearby market. She made no comment when asked about how she feels that her husband is likely to be indicted.
Cars, apartments at school tuition: The perks at the center of New York prosecutors’ investigation of the Trump Organization
Charges against the Trump Organization and one of its most senior executives are expected on Thursday.
The Manhattan district attorney has spent months investigating whether chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg avoided paying taxes on company perks.
Some of the details are believed to have emerged from documents saved by his daughter-in-law Jennifer Weisselberg after an acrimonious divorce from his son Barry.
The perks reportedly include:
- Some $500,000 paid to Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School for two of Weisselberg’s grandchildren
- An apartment in an Upper East Side townhouse, used by Weisselberg’s son and daughter-in-law during their divorce
- A rent-free apartment in the Trump property at 100 Central Park South, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, where they lived before that
- Prosecutors are also scrutinizing whether taxes were properly paid on cars leased through the Trump Organization
- Other members have staff have said they were given tickets to the U.S. Open at Flushing Meadow each year
It earlier emerged that perks included up to $500,000 in school fees paid for Weisselberg’s two grandchildren to attend Columbia Grammar and Prep School in Manhattan.
There were no indications Trump himself was going to be charged, and Trump’s lawyer has said no charges will be brought against the former president, who oversees the real estate and branding empire that he took over from his father.
At the same time, CNN reported that investigators had begun looking at cash bonuses paid to staff as part of their probe into benefits, believed to include rent-free apartments and school tuition.
Just how essential Weisselberg would be to prosecutors is a matter of debate – with high-stakes relevancy Trump.
On Tuesday, top House Democratic impeachment lawyer Daniel Goldman tweeted that Weisselberg’s cooperation is vital to whether prosecutors are able to go after Trump himself.
‘As I’ve been saying for a while, if Allen Weisselberg does not cooperate with the Manhattan DA’s office — and all indications are that he has not and will not — that office will not be able to criminally charge Donald Trump for any of the conduct under investigation,’ Goldman wrote.
That drew a retort from longtime Trump lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, who has met numerous times with prosecutors in New York amid the probe.
‘Wrong! They have documents to prove more than you know or should be commenting on. Weisselberg is not the key to a Trump indictment,’ Cohen responded.
Another former federal prosecutor in New York, Daniel Alonson, later tweeted his own view that that potential charges being publicly discussed might not be enough to ensure Weisselberg’s cooperation.
Cohen also reacted Wednesday to the news of a looming potential indictment, calling it a ‘Bad day for Trump Organization’ but a ‘good day for The United States of America!’
‘Evading taxes on fringe benefits is important to prosecute – but by itself isn’t the type of earth-shaking charge that typically leads defendants to cooperate,’ he wrote.’
Trump’s former spokesman Jason Miller took to Twitter to ridicule the way the investigation had fallen far short of its intended target.
‘This is politically terrible for the Democrats,’ he wrote.
‘They told their crazies and their supplicants in the mainstream media this was about President Trump. Instead, their Witch Hunt is persecuting an innocent 80 year-old man for maybe taking free parking!’
Trump’s former spokesman Jason Miller ridiculed the case, saying Democrats had fallen far short of their intended target
Trump’s lawyers have shrugged off the threat, saying it would be highly unusual for the district attorney to target a company over employee compensation or fringe benefits.
They met with prosecutors on Monday in a final push to persuade prosecutors not to bring charges.
But reports suggest prosecutors have spent months building a case against Weisselberg, a senior executive, in the hope that he might flip, and offer evidence against his boss.
Photographs on Tuesday captured a man in a suit carrying a cardboard banker’s box with ’45 Office’ written on the outside. That is the same phrase the former president attaches to his post-presidential statements from his taxpayer-funded post-presidential office. Perched atop the case was a tan briefcase with a combo lock.
Longtime aide Dan Scavino was also pictured leaving Trump Tower
Trump’s lawyer Ronald Fischetti said he thinks after speaking to prosecutors that no charges will be brought against the former president
Weisselberg (c) helped run the Trump Organization along with Donald Trump Jr. (r) and Eric Trump when Donald Trump took the White House
Trump himself was spotted exiting his Fifth Avenue building in the afternoon, departing after longtime aide Dan Scavino, who helps organize Trump’s social media strategy and served as his golf caddie decades ago.
Trump’s attorney Ronald Fischetti says he doesn’t expect charges to be brought against the former president after meeting New York prosecutors on Monday.
Weisselberg helped run the company when Donald Trump took the White House.
He has been identified as one of the principal figures with legal exposure after prosecutors combed through company finances and picked through unusual pay and benefit packages including up to $500,000 in prep school tuition for his grandchildren.
His former daughter-in-law, Jennifer Weisselberg, told CNN Monday night she is willing to testify to a federal grand jury meeting in Manhattan.
‘We’re prepared, and we are getting prepared,’ she said.
She was previously married to Weisselberg’s son, Barry. She did not say whether prosecutors had requested her to testify, although she has handed over voluminous documents.
DRIVER’S SEAT: His lawyers reportedly told prosecutors he would not cooperate in the investigation
After picking someone up, Weisselberg drove into a garage at Trump Tower
During the meeting, senior officials with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the New York State Attorney General’s Office met with Trump defense lawyers who highlighted the damage the company could face, should an indictment occur.
The two prosecutors’ offices – now working together in their probe against Trump – did not indicate whether they’d decided to press charges.
But the collateral damage from any indictments could spread far and wide, affecting relationships with banks and other business partners, Trump Organization lawyers are purported to have said.
Meetings to discuss ‘collateral consequences’ are routine in white-collar investigations when charges are near, according to the New York Times.
The meeting, conducted through video conferencing, lasted for less than an hour.
In a lengthy and rambling statement issued on Monday, Trump called the DA’s investigation ‘a continuation of the greatest witch hunt of all time’ and claimed prosecutors ‘failed’ to find a crime despite ‘millions of dollars of taxpayer funds wasted.’
Trump railed against the prosecution in his response.
‘They will do anything to stop the MAGA movement (and me),’ the former president said.
‘They also know that no matter how strong our case, they will work hard to embarrass us and the Republican Party.’
He claimed the prosecution of his business organization meant other companies would see it as a reason not to station their businesses in New York.
‘Having politically motivated prosecutors, people who actually got elected because they will “get Donald Trump,” is a very dangerous thing for our Country. In the end, people will not stand for it. Remember, if they can do this to me, they can do it to anyone! Why would anyone bring their company to New York, or even stay in New York, knowing these Radical Left Democrats would willingly target their company if viewed as a political opponent? It is devastating for New York!,’ Trump said.
He also claimed to be the victim after he saved the country from COVID.
‘These witch hunters are relentlessly seeking to destroy a reputation of a president who has done a great job for this country, including tax and regulation cuts, border control, rebuilding the military, and developing the vaccine in record time – thereby saving our country, and far beyond.
Meanwhile, Fischetti said he was told the charges against the Trump Organization and its individual employees related to alleged failures to pay taxes on corporate benefits and perks.
‘They just said, ‘When this indictment comes down, he won’t be charged,’ Ronald Fischetti, a New York attorney who represents Trump, told Politico
That cash is said to have been paid by both Weisselberg and Trump, as a gift to Weisselberg’s son Barry, whose kids were attending the facility.
Prosecutors are believed to be probing whether those gifts should have been declared as such, which would have made them eligible for tax payments.
Charges will likely not be related to so-called ‘hush money’ payments that former Trump attorney Michael Cohen said were made to porn star Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential campaign.
‘Nothing. Not a word on that,’ he said.
Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 in October 2016, a month before the election, to stop her discussing the alleged affair with Trump, which Trump denied having. The New York Times reported that, in court documents, Cohen said Trump Organization officials were involved in the payoff. Cohen pleaded guilty to eight federal charges on August 21, 2018, including a campaign finance violation, for his role in the payment.
Nor would the charges be related to concerns The Trump Organization used misleading valuations of its properties to deceive lenders, it is claimed.
‘We asked, ‘Is there anything else?’ Fischetti told Politico. ‘They said, ‘No.’
‘It’s crazy that that’s all they had,’ he added.
He noted he expects charges to be filed against the company this week or next.
The charges would be the first criminal allegations to emerge from Vance’s long-running investigation into Trump’s business work in New York.
Over the past few weeks, a grand jury has been hearing evidence about Weisselberg, with prosecutors obtaining the executive’s personal tax returns. Companies can be tried for crimes, and if they are convicted or plead guilty, they would face fines and other penalties.
Letitia James, the New York State Attorney General running a civil probe, has also reportedly acquired those tax returns. James’ office had been investigating whether Trump’s company falsely reported property values to secure loans and obtain economic and tax benefits.
Earlier, prosecutors were also able to obtain the personal bank records of Weisselberg.
Investigators are looking at whether or not Weisselberg failed to pay taxes on benefits over the years, including apartments, leased cars and private school tuition for two of Weisselberg’s grandchildren.
To that end, prosecutors have subpoenaed records from an Upper West Side private school, the Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School.
Vance is reported to be seeking records into Mercedes-Benz vehicles leased for Weisselberg and other Trump Organization employees.
They are also looking at an apartment Trump may have gifted Weisselberg in Manhattan.
Meanwhile, Weisselberg’s former daughter-in-law, Jennifer, has been interviewed in the probe six times and is cooperating with prosecutors.
She has been asked about the tuition payments, as well gifts her ex-husband, Barry, received from Trump, such as leased cars and an apartment on Central Park South.
Who’s who in New York criminal probes into Trump: His longtime CFO, the ‘quiet money man’ and two Democrat AGs
New York state has opened a criminal investigation into former US president Donald Trump (pictured November 2020)
A Democratic prosecutor nearing the end of his term, a loyal lieutenant of the Trump family and a lawyer determined to sink his former boss: AFP details some of the players in New York’s criminal probe into Donald Trump.
The 66-year-old Democrat has been Manhattan District Attorney since 2010. He was the first to launch a criminal investigation into the Republican ex-president.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance (pictured May 2020) has doggedly pursued Donald Trump, winning a years-long battle to obtain his tax records and deploying significant human and financial resources to the politically sensitive investigation
Vance, whose father was US Secretary of State under President Jimmy Carter, has sometimes been accused of a reluctance to prosecute the rich and powerful.
He delayed filing charges against disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein before securing a landmark conviction last year.
Vance has doggedly pursued Trump, though, first by winning a years-long battle to obtain his tax records and secondly by deploying significant human and financial resources to the politically sensitive investigation.
He has announced that he will not run for a fourth term when his current one expires in December, and many observers expect him to go out with a bang by filing what would be the first indictment against a former US president.
The Democrat became the first Black woman to become New York state attorney general in 2018.
Since then, the 62-year-old has forged a reputation as a combative and independent prosecutor, filing countless civil actions against large companies, particularly tech giants, and the National Rifle Association (NRA).
In addition to Donald Trump, Letitia James (pictured August 2020) is also investigating New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, over sexual harassment allegations and his response to the coronavirus pandemic
When Trump was in the White House, James launched dozens of civil actions against his government.
She is also investigating New York’s powerful Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, over sexual harassment allegations and his response to the coronavirus pandemic.
James has been cited as a possible successor to Cuomo, particularly if her investigation forces him to resign.
Allen Weisselberg: Trump Organization CFO
The 73-year-old is the Trump Organization’s long-serving chief financial officer and one of the family’s most loyal servants.
He began as an accountant for Trump’s father’s company before joining the Trump Organization as financial controller in the 1980s when Donald established himself as a Manhattan real estate mogul.
Allen Weisselberg, pictured standing behind former president Donald Trump and his son Donald Jr. in January 2017, has served as the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization since the 1980s
Weisselberg has been around for all of Trump’s entrepreneurial adventures, including when his Atlantic City casinos went bust.
According to Barbara Res, a former executive vice president at the Trump Organization, Weisselberg ‘thought Trump was a god,’ she told the Daily News.
Investigators believe Weisselberg knows all of the Trump family secrets and have been putting pressure on him for months to cooperate with their investigation.
Observers are closely watching whether Weisselberg will turn against his former boss.
Jennifer Weisselberg: Ex-daughter in law of Allen Weisselberg
Earlier this year, investigators from the Manhattan District Attorney’s office were seen carrying boxes of documents and laptops from Weisselberg’s Manhattan apartment.
She was married ton Allen Weisselberg’s son Barry from 2004 to 2018.
In an interview with DailyMail.com in June, she said the former president is a ‘sweet’ and ‘generous’ man who helped pay for her children’s private schooling out of kindness and good-will, rather than to dodge taxes.
If there was any unlawful activity within the Trump Organization it would be thanks to her former in-laws who still work for the company, she told DailyMail.com in an exclusive interview.
Up until 2018, the mother-of-two was married to Barry Weisselberg, who manages Trump’s Central Park ice rinks, and her father-in-law was Allen Weisselberg, who became the chief financial officer when Trump became president.
‘Allen orchestrated the finances, and Donald is just sort of naïve,’ Jennifer said.
‘It’s provable that his trusted CFO is putting [Trump] and his children in a bad legal position.’
She is also set to testify to the grand jury.
Earlier this year, investigators from the Manhattan District Attorney’s office were seen carrying boxes of documents and laptops from Weisselberg’s Manhattan apartment. She was married ton Allen Weisselberg’s son Barry (right) from 2004 to 2018
Jeff McConney: Trump Organization Senior Vice President
McConney was known as the man in the Trump Organization who would hand over key documents to Trump and CFO Allen Weisselberg before meetings and would be responsible for cutting checks for big payments.
He was the first high-profile member of Trump’s business empire known to have testified in front of the New York Grand Jury deciding whether to indict Trump.
Trump’s fixer Michael Cohen told The Daily Beast: ‘Think of The Trump Organization as a small, one-teller bank.
‘Donald [Trump] would be the president. Allen [Weisselberg] would be the branch manager. Jeff [McConney] would be the teller. Every single transaction was booked through McConney.
Concerns for prosecutors is that McConney is seen as a Trump loyalist and, as The Daily Beast reported, someone who hates left-wing politics.
Trump’s ex-personal lawyer was sentenced to three years in prison in 2018 for tax evasion and violating campaign finance laws relating to Trump’s 2016 vote win.
Cohen was one of Trump’s closest henchmen for a decade, once proudly boasting that he was prepared to ‘take a bullet’ for the real estate mogul-turned-president.
Michael Cohen, pictured March 2021, openly rejoices in former boss Donald Trump’s legal troubles on Twitter and through his podcast
He turned against his former boss, though, deciding to collaborate with federal investigators in Manhattan.
During a Congressional hearing in February 2019, Cohen alleged — among other things — that Trump regularly undervalued or overvalued his assets, both with banks and insurance companies.
Cohen openly rejoices in Trump’s legal troubles on Twitter and through his podcast ‘Mea Culpa.’