The Trump Organization, former President Donald Trump’s company, was found guilty Tuesday of committing tax fraud.
A jury ruled that two entities underneath the Trump Organization umbrella schemed to evade taxes by paying a number of its top executives through gifts and perks that were deducted from their paychecks, according to The New York Times. The gifts, which included items like luxury cars and apartment leases, were used to evade a stiffer tax penalty on income.
Prosecutors faced off against the Trump Organization in court proceedings that began in late October. Prosecutors argued that the company, as well as former President Trump, was complicit in a years-long tax evasion scheme involving multiple top executives, according to the Associated Press. The former president was not charged in the case.
Trump weighed in after the verdict was announced, blaming his company’s former finance chief and calling the prosecution a “continuation of the Greatest Political Witch Hunt in the History of our Country.” He said his company would appeal the decision in the “unprecedented” case.
“This case is about Allen Weisselberg committing tax fraud on his personal tax returns, etc., with he and every witness repeatedly testifying that President Trump and the Trump Family knew nothing about his actions, which he admits were done solely for his own benefit, and with no benefit to the two companies,” Trump said.
The trial was against two Trump Organization entities: the Trump Corporation and the Trump Payroll Corporation. The former was charged with nine counts, the latter with eight. The entities were represented by separate legal teams, and both were convicted on all counts.
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The defense teams pinned the blame for a string of tax-free gifts awarded to some executives on Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s former chief financial officer. Weisselberg pleaded guilty to charges of tax fraud, grand larceny, and others in August, forcing the company to overhaul its defense after Weisselberg agreed to testify for the prosecution.
“We are here today because of one reason, and one reason only: The greed of Allen Weisselberg,” Trump Organization attorney Susan Necheles told the jury last week during closing arguments, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass argued for the prosecution that the Trump Organization “cultivated a culture of fraud and deception.” He showed jurors a lease, signed by former President Trump, for Weisselberg’s apartment that was covered by the company. Steinglass also presented a company memo initialed by Trump that authorized pay cuts for executives that received non-monetary gifts.
“It’s not that the folks at the Trump Organization didn’t know what they were doing was illegal,” Steinglass said. “It was that they didn’t care.”
This is a developing story; refresh the page for updates.