December 7, 2022

Filipino Guardian

Sentinels of Filipino Free Press

Trump’s company “cheated” tax authorities, prosecutor says in court

3 min read

NEW YORK – Former US President Donald Trump’s real estate firm has defrauded tax authorities for a period of 15 years, a New York prosecutor said Monday in her opening statement in the Trump Organization’s criminal tax lawsuit before a jury.

The case is among mounting legal troubles facing 76-year-old Trump as he considers another run for the presidency after losing in 2020.

The Trump Organization paid executives — including its chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg — with perks like rent and car leases between at least 2005 and 2021 without reporting those benefits to tax authorities, said Susan Hoffinger, a prosecutor with the Manhattan Attorney’s Office.

“In this case it’s about greed and fraud, tax evasion,” said Hoffinger. “The program was implemented, directed and approved at the highest levels of the company’s accounting department.”

Hoffinger said the company benefited from the program by “keeping their trusted CFO happy” and avoiding some taxes.

“Everyone wins here,” said Hoffinger. “Of course everyone except the tax authorities. The problem with that is that it’s not legal.”

The Trump Organization has pleaded not guilty. Trump was not charged in the case.

Weisselberg agreed to testify as a prosecution witness at the trial under a plea agreement in exchange for a five-month prison sentence.

Susan Necheles — an attorney for Trump Corporation, one of the two Trump Organization entities accused in the case — said the case involved Weisselberg’s personal tax returns. She asked the jury to consider Weisselberg’s “necessity to satisfy the prosecution.”

“Think of the extreme pressure Mr. Weisselberg is under,” Necheles said. “It starts with Allen Weisselberg and ends with Allen Weisselberg.”

A lawyer for the other accused entity – the Trump Payroll Corporation – is expected to make an opening statement later Monday.

If convicted, the Trump Organization, which operates hotels, golf courses and other properties worldwide, faces fines of up to $1.6 million. It could also further complicate the real estate company’s ability to do business.

The process is expected to take over a month. A unanimous verdict is required for conviction in every case of tax fraud, fraud schemes and falsification of business records.

Weisselberg, was charged with the company last year and admitted in August to schemed with the Trump Organization and others to underreport or misreport significant amounts of his income and the income of other employees.

Weisselberg himself avoided taxes on $1.76 million in personal income through luxury perks like renting an apartment in Manhattan.

Weisselberg resigned as CFO when indicted but remained on the payroll as a senior advisor. After his guilty plea, he went on paid leave, a source told Reuters.

On the day he pleaded guilty, the Trump Organization called Weisselberg a “fine and honorable man” who had been harassed by law enforcement in a “politically motivated quest” to get Trump.

But in a pretrial hearing this month, a lawyer for the Trump Organization accused Weisselberg of lying, a reference to the dilemma the company finds itself in.

Judge Juan Merchan, the judge overseeing the case, has dismissed the argument that the Trump Organization was specifically prosecuted.

Two senior prosecutors in the case resigned in February, one of whom said felony charges against Trump, a Republican, were warranted, but Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg expressed doubts. Bragg, a Democrat, said the investigation is ongoing.

The case is separate from a $250 million civil lawsuit filed by the New York Attorney General in September against Trump, three of his adult children and his company, accusing them of lying to banks and insurers by they overstated his real estate fortune and Trump’s wealth.

Trump also faces a federal criminal investigation into removing government documents from the White House when he left office last year. – Reuters

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