The Trump organization is on trial this week over what prosecutors allege was a 15-year scheme to compensate top executives of former President Donald Trump’s company “off the books” to help them evade taxes — with the former chief financial officer of the company acted as the accuser. star witness.
Jury selection begins Monday, with potential panelists likely to be questioned intensively about whether they can be impartial in a case involving the former president and his eponymous company.
The Trump Organization and Weisselberg, its longtime chief financial officer, were indicted last year after a year-long investigation into the company’s financial practices by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. Weisselberg, 75, pleaded guilty to 15 charges in August.
As part of his plea deal, Trump’s loyal confidant agreed to pay nearly $2 million in taxes, interest and fines and serve five months in prison, followed by five years of probation. He also agreed to “testify truthfully in the upcoming Trump Organization trial” or face a prison term of up to 5 to 15 years, prosecutors said.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has said that Weisselberg had used his position at the company “to fool the taxpayer and enrich himself,” and that his “plea deal directly involves the Trump organization in a wide range of range of criminal activities and that Weisselberg must give invaluable testimony. ”
Trump is not being personally charged in the case, and has blown the investigation into his company and the charges against his longtime employee as part of a politically motivated “witch hunt.”
The company said in a statement at the time of Weisselberg’s plea that he was an “honorable man who for the past four years has been harassed, persecuted and threatened by law enforcement, most notably the Manhattan District Attorney, in their never-ending, politically motivated quest for President Trump.”
Judge Juan Merchan, who will preside over the New York State Supreme Court trial in lower Manhattan, shot down nearly all arguments from attorneys from the Trump Organization and Weisselberg in August, ruling that the evidence presented to the grand jury is “legal sufficient to support the allegations in the indictment, and that those proceedings were properly conducted and that their integrity was unaffected.
The crimes that the charge alleges that the company has engaged in conspiracy, fraud, criminal tax fraud and falsifying company records.
Under New York law, the Trump organization risks up to about $1.6 million in penalties if convicted on all counts. Legal experts have told NBC News that a conviction could also hamper the company’s ability to obtain financing.
The indictment says the “scheme was designed to allow certain employees to significantly understate their compensation from the Trump Organization so that they could and have paid federal, state and local taxes in amounts significantly lower than the amounts paid.” should have been paid.
“The arrangement also allowed the Trump organization to evade the payment of payroll taxes that the Trump organization had to pay in connection with workers’ compensation,” the indictment said.
One of the largest beneficiaries of the scheme was Weisselberg, who received $1.76 million in “indirect workers’ compensation” from the company, according to the tax document. That included a rent-free apartment, expensive cars, private lessons for his grandchildren, and new furniture.
The indictment did not name any of the other alleged beneficiaries, and only Weisselberg was charged.
The trial comes at an already dangerous time for Trump and his company.
The former president is under investigation by the Justice Department for removing classified documents from the White House and hoarding them at his Florida resort, and by the Fulton County District Attorney’s office for possible interference in the 2020 election in Georgia.
New York Attorney General Letitia James, who has assisted the Manhattan District Attorney’s office in the investigation of the Trump Organization, has filed a separate lawsuit against Trump and the company for stealing the financial assets of had overestimated the company by billions of dollars.
The lawsuit aims to impose approximately $250 million in fines and to permanently ban Trump and his three oldest children from serving as officers of New York-based companies.
Trump, the company and his campaign are also being indicted by a group of protesters who say they were defrauded in 2015 by then-candidate Trump’s guards outside Trump Tower. That case is scheduled to go to trial in the Bronx County Supreme Court in New York next week. .