A New York jury has convicted former President Donald Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, of tax fraud.
The 12-person jury deliberated on Monday morning after a six-week trial in New York’s state court.
The jury found that two entities of the Trump Organization — the Trump Corporation and the Trump Payroll Corporation — were guilty as charged on all counts of conspiracy, criminal tax fraud, scheming to defraud, and falsifying business records.
The conviction means the Trump Organization could be fined up to $1.7 million.
The two entities were accused of paying the personal expenses of some executives without reporting them as income and compensating them as independent contractors instead of full-time employees, reducing the company’s tax liabilities.
Although Trump was not a defendant, prosecutors alleged he was fully aware of the 15-year scheme where off-the-books perks enriched executives to make up for lower salaries.
The former president’s name came up repeatedly during the trial, with defense attorneys asking witnesses roughly 60 times about Trump’s knowledge of the tax scheme as they sought to prove that he was unaware it was going on.
The former president has publicly denied any wrongdoing.
Defense attorney Michael van der Veen said in his closing statement Friday that jurors “heard no evidence in this case that Mr. Trump or any of his children were aware of anything improper.”
Trump Organization lawyers pinned the blame for the fraud solely on the greed of longtime chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg.
The former ally of Trump was handed a five-month prison sentence as part of a plea deal he accepted earlier this year.
Weisselberg admitted that he skirted taxes on nearly $2 million in company-provided perks, including the rent on his Manhattan apartment, the leases on cars for himself and his wife, and tuition for his grandchildren.
Weisselberg testified at trial that he reduced his reported salary by the total amount of the personal expenses that the company covered and that the company benefitted by paying less in payroll taxes. He stated that his primary motive was greed.
The prosecution’s case was heavily reliant on Weisselberg’s testimony.
Prosecutors argued the Trump Organization was guilty because the conduct of Weisselberg as CFO benefitted the company and because his title meant he was entrusted to act on the company’s behalf.
Following the verdict, a spokesperson for the Trump Organization released a statement.
“Mr. Weisselberg testified under oath that he ‘betrayed’ the trust the company had placed in him and that he, at all times, acted ‘solely’ for his ‘own personal gain’ and out of his ‘own personal greed'” the statement reads. “The notion that a company could be held responsible for an employee’s actions, to benefit themselves, on their own personal tax returns is simply preposterous.”
The statement reiterates what Trump Organization lawyers argued at trial.
“The prosecution’s case rests on one thing: trying to convince you, the jurors, that Mr. Weisselberg’s actions were done in (sic) behalf of the company,” defense attorney Susan Necheles told the jury. “They were not. They were done solely to benefit himself. And that is the critical issue in this case.”
Prosecutors, however, insisted that the entire Trump Organization benefitted from Weisselberg’s tax fraud.
“By far the most significant benefit … is that it allowed these companies to pay their top executives less than they otherwise would have,” Steinglass told jurors.