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Trump Organization to Be Indicted as Manhattan DA Delivers on Long-Running Probe

Still under seal from a New York grand jury, the first criminal case to arise from a two-year probe led by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. is not said to name the Trump Organization's namesake.

MANHATTAN (CN) — Former President Donald Trump’s company and its longtime finance chief are set to be charged with tax-related crimes Thursday as part of an ongoing investigation. 

The charges from a Manhattan grand jury will remain sealed until Thursday but are said to name only the Trump Organization and Allen Weisselberg, its 73-year-old​ chief financial officer. The organization's namesake himself is not charged in this first indictment, which is the first criminal case to arise from the two-year probe led by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., a Democrat who leaves office at the end of the year. 

"Mr. Weisselberg intends to plead not guilty and he will fight these charges in court," his attorneys, Mary Mulligan and Bryan Skarlatos, wrote in a statement Thursday morning.

A Trump Organization representative meanwhile asserted that the indictment makes Weisselberg "a pawn in a scorched-earth attempt to harm the former president."

"The district attorney is bringing a criminal prosecution involving employee benefits that neither the IRS nor any other District Attorney would ever think of bringing," the Trump Organization said in a statement Thursday morning. "This is not justice; this is politics."

Reports from people familiar with the case say it accuses the Trump Organization of flouting tax obligations by allowing top executives to collect nonmonetary “fringe" benefits, including free or basically free use of apartments in the Trump real estate empire.

Weisselberg began working for the Trump family in Brooklyn in 1973 under Fred Trump, Donald’s father, and later oversaw the books when Donald built the Trump Tower skyscraper on Fifth Avenue, acquired several casinos in Atlantic City and then drove them into bankruptcy.  

In 2018, federal prosecutors reportedly granted immunity to Weisselberg for his cooperation in a separate investigation of former Trump fixer Michael Cohen. 

Vance’s investigation grew out of that probe, focused initially on hush-money payments that Cohen made before the 2016 election to prevent the public from hearing about Trump's alleged sexual affairs with two women ― adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal.  

Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison for his part in facilitating those payments, which prosecutors in the Southern District of New York noted were made in coordination with Trump and at his direction. Trump was referred to as "Individual-1” in those charging papers.

A year later, while testifying before the House Oversight Committee, Cohen would clear up any confusion about the reference in his 22-page criminal information to “Executive 1."

Linking Weisselberg to the crimes beyond the hush-money payments, including campaign-finance violations and to misleading the banks that lent Trump money, Cohen maintained that Weisselberg knew about falsified financial statements that Trump used to dupe insurers and investors. Cohen also said that it was Weisselberg who decided that Cohen should pay Stormy Daniels hush money out of pocket and then be reimbursed in installments spread out over 12 months to “hide what the payment was.” 

Cohen was reportedly interviewed by investigators with the Manhattan District Attorney's Office at least eight times during the course of their ongoing probe. 

Weisselberg has also been tied to several Trump enterprises sullied by scandal. He reviewed the finances at the now-defunct Trump University, the real estate school hit by a fraud lawsuit that Trump settled for $25 million the same month he was elected president in 2016.   

Likewise, Weisselberg was a director of the now-dissolved Trump Foundation, which shuttered in late 2018 after being sued by New York’s then-Attorney General Barbara Underwood for allegedly tapping charitable donations for political and business purposes.   

Underwood’s successor, Attorney General Letitia James issued subpoenas in March 2019 to Deutsche Bank and Investors Bank, reportedly seeking loan records related to Trump’s unsuccessful attempt to buy the Buffalo Bills football team in 2014, as well as mortgages, credit lines and other documents related to the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., buildings in Chicago and New York, and a golf course in the Miami area. 

Weisselberg was subpoenaed in James’ civil investigation and testified twice in 2020.  

Last month, James’ office announced that it and the Manhattan DA were actively investigating the Trump Organization in a criminal capacity, expanding what had previously been a civil probe. 

In direct response to the insurrectionist attack on the Capitol building by far-right Trump supporters in January, New York City announced that it would be terminating the Trump Organization’s contract with the city to run Central Park’s Wollman skating rink, which is managed by Allen Weisselberg’s son, Barry Weisselberg. 

In late September 2020, The New York Times published the results of its own investigation into Trump’s tax returns, exposing that Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes in 2016, the year he won the presidency, and in 2017, his first year in office.   

The New York Times’ investigation, which Trump hastily dismissed as “totally fake news,” also found that he paid no federal income taxes in prior years going back a decade.  

Trump is also under audit over a $72.9 million tax refund that could cost him more than $100 million if the IRS rules against him, the Times revealed. 

Categories:Business, Criminal, Financial

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