Donald Trump's real estate business hit with guilty fraud verdict
The jury started deliberating in Manhattan Supreme Court just before 1 PM on Monday. More than 24 hours later, it found the Trump Corp. guilty of all nine counts against it, including scheme to defraud, conspiracy to commit grand larceny, criminal tax fraud, falsifying business records and other related charges.
The panel found the Trump Payroll Corp. guilty of all eight counts it faced in the case, including falsifying business records, conspiracy to defraud, criminal tax fraud and related counts.
The consequence of the guilty verdict against both entities is a fine of $1.76 million.
Longtime Trump executives Allen Weisselberg and Jeff McConney spent days on the stand, with their testimony comprising most of the Manhattan district attorney’s case.
The jury was asked to decide whether the Trump Organization’s veteran chief financial officer Weisselberg, was acting as a "high managerial agent" when he cheated on his taxes over 15 years and that he did so partly on the company’s behalf. He has worked for Trump’s family since 1973 and as Trump’s chief moneyman since 1986.
Weiseselberg pleaded guilty in August to conspiring with McConney to hide $1.76 million in untaxed work benefits – like Mercedes-Benz car leases for him and his wife and private school tuition for his grandkids – from tax authorities.
The executives subtracted the costs from Weisselberg’s salary and bonus and drew up falsified employee tax forms.
Prosecution says Trump Organization "cultivated a culture of fraud and deception"
McConney, a loyal company man who was declared a hostile witness for the prosecution, admitted to breaking the law when he testified under immunity. Jurors also heard of how the Trump Organization’s chief operating officer, Matt Calamari Sr., benefited in the scheme much the same as Weisselberg – as well as his wife and namesake son. He has not faced criminal charges.
Per his plea deal’s terms, Weisselberg testified as the district attorney’s star witness, admitted the fraud and described how it benefited his employer.
The Trump entities stuck to the same defense: Weisselberg did it for Weisselberg.
But Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass, in his closing argument, described the compensation scam core to the case as beneficial for Trump’s senior executives and his company.
Steinglass said the entities "cultivated a culture of fraud and deception" by lavishing illicit perks to entice its senior executives to falsify tax documents to mask the actual compensation they earned and then deliberately conceal the wrongdoing from their accountants.
The ADA said they further scapegoated those accountants for not being vigilant enough to sniff out their wrongdoing. Trump publicly blamed his company’s longtime tax preparer, Donald Bender, from Mazars LLP USA, for not catching the fraud.
"It was a win-win, a way to get more money into executive pockets while keeping their own costs as low as possible," Steinglass said in his summation.
"It is not that the folks at the Trump Organization didn’t know what they were doing was illegal, it is just they didn’t care."
Assistant DA says the narrative that Donald Trump was unaware is "just not real"
Steinglass pushed back on assertions from Trump Organization lawyers that the company’s owner was in the dark about rampant fraud. The judge allowed him to point fingers at the former president in his summation after defense lawyers brought it up first.
"This whole narrative that Donald Trump was blissfully ignorant is just not real," said Steinglass in his summation, later adding, "He is not on trial, but that doesn’t mean you should believe the defense’s narrative that Allen Weisselberg and Matthew Calamari went rogue."
The case stems from a broader probe by Manhattan prosecutors into the former president, launched by DA Bragg’s predecessor Cyrus Vance Jr. in 2019.
Trump has not been criminally charged in the case, and while rumors abound, it’s unclear whether he ever will be.
Cover photo: MICHAEL M. SANTIAGO / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP