A Manhattan grand jury hit the Trump Organization and its Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg with 15 counts stemming from what the indictment describes as a fifteen-year long fraud scheme.
Weisselberg has been charged with grand larceny in the second degree, and the Trump Org has been charged with scheme to defraud in the first degree. Prosecutors also obtained charges of tax fraud, conspiracy, and falsifying business records.
Prosecutors with Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance have been investigating the case for three years. Both parties have said that they will plead not guilty.
The indictment also charges the Trump Payroll Corp., responsible for processing payroll to Trump Org staff.
The indictment alleges that the Trump Org “disguised” income for Weisselberg and unnamed other executives, allowing them to avoid “federal, state, and local taxes.”
Prosecutors say that Weisselberg owes more than $550,000 in unpaid federal taxes, $106,000 in unpaid state taxes, and $238,000 in New York City taxes, in addition to falsely received federal and state refunds.
The charges are historic in the sense that they bring prosecution to the doorstep of a former president, and mark the first indictments in the Manhattan DA’s long-running investigation of the former president’s business practices. Prosecutors note early on that Trump is the beneficiary of the Trump Org.
But after years of investigating the organization in a probe that drew on allegations by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen that the company would inflate the book value of its assets for banks and deflate them for tax authorities, even the detailed and comprehensive charges on tax evasion may leave some underwhelmed.
Prosecutors cite multiple instances in which Weisselberg allegedly received large, untaxed perks from the Trump Org, including rent at a luxury Manhattan building, leases on two Mercedes Benz cars, and tuition at a fancy private school for the CFO’s family members.
The Trump Org, prosecutors say, maintained “internal spreadsheets that tracked the amounts it paid for Weisselberg’s rent, utility, and garage expenses.”
In the case of the tuition payments, the indictment says, Trump himself signed the checks.
Weisselberg also allegedly enjoyed nearly $30,000 in cash withdrawals from the Trump Org, booked as “Holiday Entertainment.” The so-called cash-based “Holiday Entertainment” went unreported to the tax authorities, prosecutors say.
Other allegedly untaxed perks that went to Weisselberg included flat-screen TVs, new carpeting, furniture for a Florida vacation home, and new beds.
Prosecutors made clear in statements to the press that the investigation would continue, and suggested that more charges could come at a later date.
“This investigation will continue, and we will follow the facts and the law wherever they may lead,” said Attorney General Letitia James in a statement, whose office joined the investigation in May.
According to remarks released by Vance’s office, Assistant District Attorney Carey Dunne told a judge that the scheme was “orchestraetd by the most senior executives, who were financially benefitting themselves and the company.” Dunne described the probe as “ongoing.”
The indictment alludes to illegal compensation that went to other, unnamed Trump Org executives. That included “rent-free lodging and other benefits,” as well as car leases.
“The scheme to defraud federal, state, and local tax authorities in relation to
compensation paid to certain Trump Organization executives and employees extended to persons other than Weisselberg, who received rent-free lodging and other benefits,” the indictment reads.
In charging Weisselberg with conspiracy, prosecutors allude to an “unindicted co-conspirator #1.” The identity of that co-conspirator is unknown; prosecutors describe the person as helping Weisselberg evade taxation.
Weisselberg and the Trump Org altered records in Trump’s “Detail General Ledger” as recently as September 2016, prosecutors allege.
Read the indictment here: