Opening statements set to begin in Trump Organization criminal trial

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NEW YORK — The criminal tax evasion trial against the Trump Organization is set for opening statements on Monday, with prosecutors seeking to prove allegations that the company for years provided untaxed compensation to executives.

The lawsuit is the result of a three-year investigation into the Trump Organization’s business practices by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and former District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. Bragg said that it was still assessing whether former President Donald Trump had committed crimes by allegedly manipulating the value of his assets to obtain favorable loans and interest rates, or by devaluing his assets to reduce his tax liability.

Trump and three of his adult children who have held senior positions at the company have not been personally charged.

The procedures of Trump Organization and Trump Payroll Corp. before the New York Supreme Court could last up to six weeks and is expected to involve witnesses who still work at the company, including longtime chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, who is on paid leave, and comptroller Jeffrey McConney. The two are said to have orchestrated a scheme to supplement corporate executive pay with benefits that went untaxed for 15 years from 2005 to 2021.

The Trump Organization’s criminal trial for fraud will begin on Monday

Weisselberg was the only individual charged with the companies. He pleaded guilty in August and agreed to testify at the organization’s trial. In exchange for his testimony, he will receive a five-month prison sentence. He faced up to 15 years in prison.

McConney was a grand jury witness and was granted immunity from prosecution under New York State law.

In recent days, prosecutors have warned prospective jurors that some witnesses may be reluctant to testify. Assistant District Attorney Susan Hoffinger told jurors on a voir dire Thursday that some witnesses in the case are still employed by the Trump Organization and its affiliate, and that they “may at times be reluctant to answer. to certain questions”.

“It’s understandable… They’re testifying against their employers,” Hoffinger said.

The selected panel of 18 jurors includes six alternates.

The tax evasion and conspiracy case was filed in July 2021 and alleges that Weisselberg and McConney, who ran the company’s finances, kept two sets of books to reflect actual compensation, with undeclared executive benefits such as expensive cars and apartments, and compensation figures that were reported to state and federal tax authorities. The company is based in Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue.

Weisselberg personally saved more than $900,000 in taxes from the misrepresentations, prosecutors say. He is expected to testify about his own conduct and his plea agreement limits the scope of what he is required to discuss.

The Trump Organization and the Trump Payroll Corp. could face a combined maximum fine of $1.6 million if convicted.

The company’s attorneys should argue that criminal liability does not automatically shift from Weisselberg and McConney to corporations.

New York Attorney General Letitia James sued Trump, his children, Weisselberg, McConney and the company last month over the alleged practice of altering asset values ​​to obtain better loan and insurance rates.

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