Trump company set for criminal trial in off-books pay scheme

Oct 23, 2022, 6:12 AM | Updated: Oct 24, 2022, 10:01 am
Trump Tower is visible in New York City on Feb. 20, 2022. More than three years after Manhattan pro...

Trump Tower is visible in New York City on Feb. 20, 2022. More than three years after Manhattan prosecutors started investigating Donald Trump -- after going to the Supreme Court twice to gain access to his tax records -- the only criminal trial to arise from their efforts is about to begin. The Trump Organization, the holding company for Trump's buildings, golf courses and other assets, is accused of helping some top executives avoid income taxes on compensation they got in addition to their salaries, like rent-free apartments and luxury cars. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey, file)

(AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey, file)

NEW YORK (AP) — More than three years after Manhattan prosecutors started investigating Donald Trump — after going to the Supreme Court twice to gain access to his tax records — the only criminal trial to arise from their efforts is about to begin.

No, the former president isn’t going on trial. His company is.

The Trump Organization, the holding company for Trump’s buildings, golf courses and other assets, is accused of helping some top executives avoid income taxes on compensation they got in addition to their salaries, like rent-free apartments and luxury cars.

Trump signed some of the checks at the center of the case but he is not charged with anything and is not expected to testify or attend the trial, which starts Monday with jury selection.

If convicted, the Trump Organization could be fined more than $1 million — but that’s not the only potential fallout.

Trump’s ardent supporters aren’t likely to abandon him, no matter the outcome, but a guilty verdict could hamper his company’s ability to get loans and make deals. New York City, for one, could use the legal cloud as new justification for seeking to oust the company from running a city-owned golf course.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, has said that his office’s investigation of Trump is “active and ongoing,” and that no final decision has been made on whether he could face criminal charges in the future.

Trump, a Republican, has decried the probe as a “political witch hunt.”

The Trump Organization has said it did nothing wrong and that it looks forward “to having our day in court.”

Judge Juan Manuel Merchan expects the criminal tax fraud trial, heavy on financial records and expert testimony, to take at least four weeks once a jury is seated. Given Trump’s fame as a businessman and polarizing politician, it could take a while to find jurors who feel they can judge the case impartially.

The star witness for the prosecution is expected to be Allen Weisselberg, one of Trump’s most trusted senior executives.

Weisselberg pleaded guilty in August to taking in over $1.7 million worth of untaxed perks from the company, including school tuition for his grandchildren, a Manhattan apartment and Mercedes cars for him and his wife.

His testimony comes as part of a plea agreement that requires him to serve up to five months in New York City’s Rikers Island jail complex, though he could be released after a little more than three with good behavior. The former Trump Organization chief financial officer must also pay nearly $2 million in taxes, penalties and interest and complete five years of probation.

Weisselberg, 75, has intimate knowledge of the Trump Organization’s financial dealings from nearly five decades at the company, but he is not expected to implicate Trump or any members of the Trump family in his testimony.

In pleading guilty, Weisselberg pinned blame for the scheme on himself and other top Trump Organization executives, including senior vice president and controller, Jeffrey McConney.

McConney was granted limited immunity to testify last year before a grand jury and could also make an appearance on the witness stand at the trial. The company’s director of security, Matthew Calamari Jr., the son of chief operating officer Matthew Calamari Sr., also received immunity for grand jury testimony.

When the Trump Organization and Weisselberg were indicted in 2021, prosecutors called the tax scheme “sweeping and audacious” and said it was “orchestrated by the most senior executives.”

Besides Weisselberg, two other Trump Organization executives, who were not identified by name, also received substantial under-the-table compensation, including lodging and the payment of automobile leases, the indictment said.

“The purpose of the scheme was to compensate Weisselberg and other Trump Organization executives in a manner that was ‘off the books,'” the indictment said.

The Trump Organization is the entity through which the former president manages his many ventures, including his real estate investments, his many marketing deals and his TV pursuits.

Trump’s sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, have been in charge of day-to-day operations since he became president. Because the criminal trial involves charges against the corporate entity, not any individuals, the Trumps won’t be held personally liable if a jury returns a guilty verdict.

The criminal case is one of two legal cases working their way through the New York courts that threaten to chip away at the gold-plated façade of Trump’s empire.

Last month, New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a civil lawsuit accusing Trump and the Trump Organization of misleading banks and others for years about the value of his assets. The civil suit seeks $250 million and a permanent ban on Trump doing business in the state.

A court hearing is scheduled in that matter for Oct. 31 as James seeks an independent monitor to oversee the Trump Organization’s activities after she alleged the company was taking steps to dodge potential penalties, such as incorporating a new entity named Trump Organization II.

Those aren’t the only legal challenges Trump faces as he weighs a potential comeback campaign for president.

Last week, Trump gave sworn deposition testimony in a lawsuit brought by magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll, who says he raped her in the mid-1990s in a department store dressing room.

Meanwhile, the FBI is continuing to investigate Trump’s storage of sensitive government documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

A special grand jury in Georgia is investigating whether Trump and others attempted to influence state election officials.

On Friday, the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection issued a subpoena to Trump.

___

Follow Michael Sisak on Twitter at twitter.com/mikesisak and send confidential tips by visiting https://www.ap.org/tips/.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Today in History: December 4, the “Million Dollar Quartet”

Today in History Today is Sunday, Dec. 4, the 338th day of 2022. There are 27 days left in the year. Today’s Highlights in History: On Dec. 4, 1956, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins gathered for the first and only time for a jam session at Sun Records in Memphis. […]
23 hours ago
A Palestinian flag and a poster showing Ammar Adili, 22, who was shot and killed by an Israeli bord...
Associated Press

Palestinians say killing caught on video was unjustified

HAWARA, West Bank (AP) — A makeshift sidewalk memorial with a Palestinian flag and a mourning notice paid tribute Saturday to a 22-year-old Palestinian whose death at the hands of an Israeli border police officer — four pistol shots from close range — was captured on widely shared amateur video. A day after the shooting […]
23 hours ago
FILE - A flu vaccine is readied at the L.A. Care and Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plans...
Associated Press

Flu season worsens as 44 states report high activity

NEW YORK (AP) — The U.S. flu season keeps getting worse. Health officials said Friday that 7.5% of outpatient medical visits last week were due to flu-like illnesses. That’s as high as the peak of the 2017-18 flu season and higher than any season since. The annual winter flu season usually doesn’t get going until […]
23 hours ago
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin introduces the B-21 Raider stealth at Northrop Grumman Friday, De...
Associated Press

Keep COVID military vaccine mandate, defense chief says

ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT (AP) — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said he wants to keep the military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate in place to protect the health of the troops, as Republican governors and lawmakers press to rescind it. This past week more than 20 Republican governors sent a letter to President Joe Biden asking […]
23 hours ago
Associated Press

Family says coyote attacked toddler outside LA home

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A coyote ambushed and injured a 2-year old girl outside her Los Angeles home in a daytime attack before her father chased the animal off, her family said. Home security video obtained by KTLA-TV shows the animal grab and drag the toddler across her lawn and sidewalk, just seconds after her […]
23 hours ago
FILE -  Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz, speaks during a press conference at the American University of Beir...
Associated Press

Longtime Arizona GOP Rep. Jim Kolbe dies at 80

PHOENIX (AP) — Jim Kolbe, a Republican congressman who represented a heavily Democratic region of Arizona for more than two decades and was a proponent of gay rights, has died. He was 80. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said in a statement that Kolbe died Saturday. Ducey ordered flags lowered until sunset Sunday. Kolbe served in […]
23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
(Desert Institute for Spine Care photo)...
DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Why DISC is world renowned for back and neck pain treatments

Fifty percent of Americans and 90% of people at least 50 years old have some level of degenerative disc disease.
...
Quantum Fiber

Stream 4K and more with powerful, high-speed fiber internet

Picking which streaming services to subscribe to are difficult choices, and there is no room for internet that cannot handle increased demands.
Trump company set for criminal trial in off-books pay scheme