New York (CNN)New York prosecutors on Thursday charged the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, with a 15-year alleged tax scheme that marked the first criminal case against the former President’s namesake company.
An indictment unsealed Thursday by the Manhattan district attorney’s office charged the company and an entity called Trump Payroll Corporation with 10 counts and Weisselberg with 15 felony counts in connection with an alleged scheme stretching back to 2005 “to compensate Weisselberg and other Trump Organization executives in a manner that was ‘off the books.'”
They were charged with a scheme to defraud, conspiracy, criminal tax fraud, and falsifying business records. Weisselberg was also charged with grand larceny and offering a false instrument for filing.
Prosecutors said Thursday their investigation is ongoing. The probe has delved into whether the Trump Organization misled lenders, insurers and tax authorities about the value of certain properties, the treatment of tax deductions as well as hush money payments to silence an alleged affair with Trump.
Thursday’s indictment, which focused largely on Weisselberg, described an array of luxury perks he received from the company allegedly in lieu of compensation, including a Upper West Side apartment, a pair of Mercedes-Benz cars for him and his wife, and private school tuition for two family members whom CNN has reported are his grandchildren.
All told, the indictment alleged, Weisselberg evaded taxes on $1.76 million in income over a period beginning in 2005 and concealed for years that he was a resident of New York City, thereby avoiding paying city income taxes. Prosecutors alleged he evaded a total of more than $900,000 in federal, state and city taxes during this period, and received a total of $133,124 in state tax refunds “to which he was not entitled.”
“The scheme was intended to allow certain employees to substantially understate their compensation from the Trump Organization, so that they could and did pay federal, state and local taxes in amounts that were significantly less than the amounts that should have been paid,” the indictment said.
After entering a courtroom in New York Supreme Court Thursday afternoon in handcuffs, Weisselberg pleaded not guilty, and Justice Juan Merchan released him on his own recognizance, ordering him to turn in his passport.
Former President Donald Trump himself was not charged. Following the unsealing of the indictment, he blasted the charges in a statement, criticizing the investigation as led by two Democrats: Cyrus Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, and Letitia James, the New York state attorney general.
“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!” Trump said.
In statements, the Trump Organization also characterized the prosecution as a political act and said Weisselberg was being used as a “pawn in a scorched-earth attempt to harm the former president.”
The indictment of the Trump Organization is the product of more than two years of investigation by Vance, a probe that began with questions about accounting practices tied to hush-money payments made by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and eventually led to a Supreme Court fight over a subpoena for Trump’s tax documents.
It is rare, according to lawyers who specialize in tax evasion cases, for prosecutors to bring charges solely related to fringe benefits provided by a company, and in recent weeks, lawyers for the Trump Organization met with prosecutors in Vance’s office, hoping to persuade them n
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