Letitia James, the New York state attorney general, was among those who publicly reacted to the jury verdict this week that found two business entities tied to Trump guilty of a slew of criminal charges stemming from a tax fraud scheme in which the company and top execs didn’t pay required taxes on high-dollar benefits.
“We can have no tolerance for individuals or organizations that violate our laws to line their pockets,” James said on Tuesday. “I commend Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and his team for their successful prosecution of the Trump Organization, and I was proud to assist in this important case. This verdict sends a clear message that no one, and no organization, is above our laws.” James’s team was also involved in the investigation that preceded the criminal case against the Trump company. She is separately pursuing a civil case against the company over years of allegedly improperly valued assets, deceptive valuations that were posed to provide the company with financial benefits. The underlying criminal investigation at the Manhattan district attorney’s office is also continuing, including with the recent hiring of an experienced investigator whose recent career includes a stint working on James’s civil investigation and will likely be assisting.
The standard to which prosecutors were reaching in trying to prove the companies’ guilt in the Manhattan criminal case was showing that either Allen Weisselberg or Jeffrey McConney, both of whom were individually involved in the tax evasion, were a “high managerial agent” who acted within the bounds of his employment and “in behalf of” Trump’s company, as explained by CNN. Weisselberg previously pleaded guilty to over a dozen felonies for his personal role in what happened, and he implicated McConney, who received immunity and like Weisselberg testified at the company trial. Weisselberg said in court that, although he acted with an eye towards decreasing his own tax responsibilities, he and McConney were also aware of the benefits to Trump’s company of these benefits going unreported. Stated incomes were apparently decreased in response to the amounts of some of these perks, lessening the payroll tax liabilities for the Trump business.
“Prosecutors alleged for years top executives reduced their reported salaries by the amount of company-issued fringe benefits to avoid paying the required taxes,” CNN explains. Trump was apparently personally involved in directing at least one instance of reported salary reduction to cover for the benefits. Trump was not personally charged in the case that’s now concluded for now with a guilty verdict, although his personal involvement in providing the challenged benefits, including apartment space for Weisselberg and tuition for his grandchildren, was repeatedly discussed. Contrary to the former president’s assertions, his company also did financially benefit from the disputed arrangements.
Now, the company is facing up to around $1.6 million in financial penalties, with sentencing set for next month — although the company’s team has predictably promised an appeal. An accountant who worked on tax filings for Weisselberg and the Trump company also indicated during the trial he was only previously made aware — in years when the scheme was underway — of parts of the benefits that prosecutors were challenging. Trump has also resorted to claiming the company relied on experts, including the accountants.