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A grand jury in Manhattan has found former President Donald Trump’s company guilty of criminal tax fraud that lasted throughout his presidency.
Although Trump and his company have repeatedly faced criminal investigations, this case marks the first time his company has been charged, tried, and convicted of a criminal offence.
Trump has built his political brand, in large part, on claims that he is an active and successful businessman.
In total, the jury found the two Trump-controlled entities guilty of 17 counts of criminal tax fraud and falsifying business records. The maximum penalty is 1.6 million USD.
“This is a case of lying and fraud, falsifying documents to evade taxes for the benefit of individuals and corporations,” Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg told reporters after the ruling was delivered.
In a statement, the Trump Organization criticized the ruling and promised to appeal, arguing that responsibility should lie with the company’s executives, not the company itself.
“The notion that a company can be held accountable for the actions of its employees, for their own benefit, on their personal tax returns is simply preposterous,” the statement read.
A lawyer for the Trump corporation also sought to block the former president from the outcome.
“Every witness repeatedly testifies that President Trump and the Trump family were unaware of Allen Weisselberg’s actions,” Susan Necheles said in a statement.
Prosecutors had previously secured a guilty plea last summer from a longtime former Trump staffer CFO Allen Weisselbergwho became the star witness for the plaintiff in the case.
But the co-conspirators of Weisselberg, two of Trump’s business entities, remain indicted.
On Halloween, prosecutors made opening arguments in the trial of Trump Corporation (which includes most of his business empire) and Trump Payroll Corporation (which handles employee payments), argued that the case was about “greed and fraud”.
Assistant District Attorney Briefly Says Trump Punished Tax Fraud
Trump Corporation attorney Susan Necheles told jurors in her opening statement that the trial was not a referendum on Trump and asked them to keep an open mind.
Both sides insist that Trump is not the defendant, but the former president’s name still appears frequently.
Some of the most compelling evidence presented to the jury were documents signed by Trump: the lease on a luxury apartment used by Weisselberg, a check for private school fees written to his grandchildren. Weisselberg. Weisselberg admitted he did not declare these benefits as income as required by law.
In his summary, assistant district attorney Joshua Steinglass pointed the finger directly at Trump, saying that Trump punished tax fraud. The defense objected strongly, and the objection was upheld by the judge.
During the trial, outside the four walls of the courtroom, Trump announced he was running for president and frequently criticized Bragg, the Manhattan District Attorney, on social media.
Weisselberg previously pleaded guilty to 15 tax felony counts. He admitted to hiding part of his salary through non-taxable benefits such as a luxury apartment, a Mercedes-Benz lease for him and his wife and private school tuition for his grandchildren.
The compensation was never reported to the State of New York or the IRS.
As part of his plea agreement, Weisselberg agreed to testify truthfully and serve a five-month prison sentence.
In his testimony, detailing his criminal tax fraud, Weisselberg admitted that he still received a salary of $640,000 from the Trump Organization – even though he was laid off – and hope to get a bonus at the end of the year.
At issue in this trial is whether Weisselberg and another top executive, Trump Organization composer Jeffrey McConney, acted “on behalf of” corporate entities when they compensated Weisselberg and other top executives by paying for luxury apartments and benefits that are not reported to the Court. tax authorities.
The trial comes at a time of complicated legal danger for Trump and his business
In his instructions to the jurors, before they delivered their verdict, Judge Juan Mercan said that doesn’t mean Trump’s company benefits from the plan, despite evidence that that.
Weisselberg admitted to knowing tax owed on that claim, but it was never reported.
Prosecutors argued that by compensating top executives in this way, the Trump Organization was able to save a substantial amount of money.
The trial comes at a time of complicated legal risk for Trump and his business, with his attorneys acting as defense in recent weeks in three different courtrooms. of New York City.
Last month, a judge ordered Trump’s company to submit to an outside supervisor as part of an ongoing investigation. $250 million civil lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James.
James’ lawsuit claims Trump and his children fraudulently manipulated the value of real estate holdings for more than a decade, deceiving lenders and deceiving tax authorities.
James responded to Tuesday’s ruling with a statement. “We cannot tolerate individuals or organizations that break our laws to pickpocket them,” she said.
“I’m proud to support this important case. This ruling sends a clear message that no one, and no organization, is above our laws.”
Trump and his lawyers have denied, arguing that New York prosecutors have exceeded their authority and engaged in a political witch hunt against the former President.
Trump also faces federal investigations related to his role in efforts to thwart a peaceful transition of power after he lost the 2020 presidential election and decided to keep his powers. classified documents after leaving the White House.
Last month, the US Department of Justice appointed a special counsel to oversee those investigations. Trump has also described that process as politically motivated.