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Trump Org gets expected sentence, $1.6 million, for payroll and tax fraud

The sum that the former president's namesake company must pay is the maximum total allowed for a corporation under New York law.

MANHATTAN (CN) — Found criminally liable for a tax evasion scheme at trial, former President Donald Trump’s real estate companies were ordered Friday to split a $1.6 million fine, the maximum possible penalty for a corporate entity.

A jury in Manhattan deliberated for just 10 hours last month before reaching guilty verdicts on all counts against two of the Trump Organization’s entities: The Trump Corporation and the Trump Payroll Corporation. 

Prosecutors asked Judge Juan Merchan to impose the maximum sentence allowed for a corporate defendant totaling $1.6 million. Trump Corporation is responsible for $810,000 of the penalty, leaving $800,000 for Trump Payroll. 

The companies have two weeks to make payment.

Lawyers for the Trump Corporation had asked for a maximum sentence of $750,000, arguing at Friday’s sentencing that the state's calculation for maximum penalty double-dipped on tax-related charges. 

The company’s sentencing on Friday concludes what has been the only proceeding to arise from the Manhattan district attorney’s three-year probe of the former president and his business practices.  

“Today, former President Trump’s companies were sentenced to the maximum fines allowed by law following historic convictions for a total of 17 felony crimes,” District Attorney Alvin Bragg said Friday morning. “Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg, The Trump Corporation, and The Trump Payroll Corp. conducted and benefitted from sweeping fraud for well over a decade. While corporations can’t serve jail time, this consequential conviction and sentencing serves as a reminder to corporations and executives that you cannot defraud tax authorities and get away with it."

Bragg did not respond on Friday to reporters' queries on whether his investigations into Trump remain ongoing.

Earlier in the week, Judge Merchan sentenced 75-year-old former Trump Org CFO Allen Weisselberg to five months of incarceration pursuant to an August 2022 plea deal. 

The longstanding, Long Island-based accountant for the Trump family negotiated the deal carrying a five-month sentence in exchange for his agreement to testify against his former employer. 

Prosecutors said the Trump Organization paid Weisselberg alone $1.76 million in unreported compensation, in addition to similar off-the-books perks paid to other top executives. 

Trump Organization lawyer Susan Necheles vowed to appeal the company's verdict, reprising at Friday's sentencing hearing the defense's argument that the accounting firm Mazars USA did not alert the Trump Org to any misconduct.

A spokesperson for the company referred to the case as a politically motivated, "never-ending witch hunt, which began the day he announced his presidency."

"Allen Weisselberg is a victim," the Trump representative said Friday. "He was threatened, intimidated and terrorized. He was given a choice of pleading guilty and serving 90 days in prison or serving the rest of his life in jail — all of this over a corporate car and standard employee benefits."

On Tuesday, Weisselberg’s lawyers asked the judge to reduce the sentence already agreed upon in his plea agreement. Declining to do so, Judge Merchan replied that he found the scheme to be “driven purely by greed” and said any deviation from the deal with prosecutors would be a lengthier term of imprisonment. 

Nicholas Gravante, an attorney for Weisselberg with the firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, has said he anticipates Weisselberg will serve just 100 days of his sentence after a reduction for good behavior. 

Weisselberg testified at trial that he remained employed by the Trump Organization through his trial, to the tune $640,000 in salary and $500,000 in holiday bonuses. A source close to the parties said as of Tuesday Weisselberg is no longer an employee of the Trump Org. 

Last year, the resignations of top prosecutors in the district attorney's office had brought the strength of their criminal probe under D.A. Bragg into doubt. 

Donald Trump and the Trump Organization separately face a looming $250 million civil suit brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James, stemming from allegations the company routinely manipulated asset valuations and inflated Trump’s net worth by billions of dollars to induce banks to lend money to the Trump Organization on more favorable terms than would otherwise have been available to the company and to gain tax benefits. 

Trump’s three eldest children, Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric Trump, were also named as defendants, along with Weisselberg and another longtime company executive, Jeffrey McConney. 

Attorney General James already secured the appointment of a financial watchdog to ensure no funny business with the Trump Organization’s assets ahead of trial. 

In the motion for preliminary injunction last October,  James’ office noted that the Trump Organization had suspiciously filed paperwork on Sept. 21 — the same day that James filed the civil suit — to register a new company in New York named Trump Organization II but incorporated in Delaware. James called it an attempt to evade accountability. 

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