New York – The criminal tax fraud trial of two companies in former President Donald Trump’s business empire drew to a close Thursday after defense attorneys attacked Alan Weiselberg, Trump’s former top finance lieutenant, after a lawyer told the jury he “knew exactly” what was going on with the Trump companies. .
In conflicting closing arguments, both sides focused on whether there was sufficient evidence that Weiselberg intended to provide certain benefits to the Trump Corporation and the Trump Payroll Corporation as part of a long-term scheme to evade taxes.
The question of that intent required for the companies’ punishments under New York law is expected to be at the center of jury deliberations scheduled to begin Monday.
Echoing initial defense statements from a month ago, Trump Corporation attorney Susan Nechels told jurors: “We’re here today for one reason and one reason only: Alan Weiselberg’s greed.”
Nessels said no one in the Trump family knew about Weiselberg’s “attempted tax evasion,” a scheme he allegedly engaged in “solely to benefit himself.”
He told them to pay attention to the legal instructions they receive about part of the eight-man, four-woman jury New York State Penal Code It outlines the circumstances necessary to find an entity guilty of committing an offence.
In this case, the law requires prosecutors to prove through investigative evidence that Trump’s former chief financial officer — and/or Trump Organization controller — Jeffrey McEnany committed tax fraud crimes while acting within the scope of their jobs and “on behalf of the organization.” ”
What does that mean?
“The people have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the high-ranking officer acted with intent to benefit the corporation,” Necheles said. “There was no such motive as you are about to see. The purpose of Mr. Weiselberg’s crimes was to benefit himself.”
Necheles was followed by Michael Van der Veen, an attorney for the Trump Payroll Corporation, the other company under investigation. He, too, attacked the prosecution’s star witness, declaring loudly: “Weiselberg did it for Weiselberg.”
It’s not enough for prosecutors to show that the disgraced executive cheated on his taxes. ter Veen told the judges.
The government also has to show an intent to provide some benefit to Trump companies “and the evidence is that there was no intent to benefit the Trump payroll,” Van der Veen said.
Joshua Steinglass, a Manhattan assistant district attorney, offered a counterargument as the prosecution opened its closing arguments. He told jurors that the “overwhelming amount of evidence” introduced during the trial showed that Weiselberg “intended to benefit the companies, and that alone is sufficient.”
The company’s culture enabled Weiselberg to evade taxes with virtual impunity, Steinglass said. The disgraced executive had a willing co-conspirator in McCany, who reluctantly testified for the government under immunity from prosecution, Steinglass said.
The two cooperated in a scheme that allowed Weiselberg and another top executive to cut their salaries and then use the savings to cover benefits the company paid with pre-tax dollars, trial evidence showed.
“It’s a win-win. It gets money in the pockets of executives and (payroll) costs are lower,” Steinglass argued.
The only losers are federal, state and city tax agencies, he added.
A guilty verdict could hit the companies with criminal penalties of up to $1.6 million and damage the reputation of Trump-named companies with a penalty.
The case stems from a July 2021 indictment that accused Weiselberg of participating in a tax fraud scheme spanning more than a decade that benefited top executives while providing financial benefits to companies. Despite working in the Trump business empire, Weiselberg is no longer the CFO of the Trump Organization.
The alleged offenses include untaxed benefits Manhattan apartments and luxury cars, they don’t report income. They also received Thousands of dollars in tax-free money.
Trump was not charged in the case and did not appear in court during the trial. However, he criticized the prosecution in a Thanksgiving week post on Truth Social. The closing phase of the trial comes weeks after Trump announced he would run for president again in 2024, amid other developments in civil and criminal cases involving Trump.
Defense attorneys’ closing arguments included statements that Trump knew nothing about the alleged plan, an apparent attempt to remove him from the case. Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchon ruled that the statements opened the door for Steinglass to address the issue when the trial resumes on Friday.
Despite the former president’s denials, Trump knew what was going on among his top executives, Steinglass argued, suggesting he would elaborate later.
Weiselberg pleaded guilty to all 15 charges against him in August as part of a deal with prosecutors. He admitted concealing $1.76 million in proceeds from the alleged scheme. The deal is expected to save Weiselberg about 100 days in jail.
That made Weiselberg the focal point of the investigation. He was the star witness for the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. He was a major target of attacks by the Trump Organization’s legal teams.
The 75-year-old Weiselberg helped both teams earn points.
Drawing his six-figure salary on paid leave from the Trump Organization, he testified under cross-examination by defense attorneys that he sought pre-tax dollars out of his own greed. The defense characterized his behavior as a Weiselberg conspiracy hidden from the companies.
In one of the more dramatic moments of the trial, defense attorney Alan Futterfass noted that Weiselberg had worked for the Trump family for nearly 50 years and had become the most trusted person in the company without the Trump surname.
“Mr. Weiselberg, have you honored the trust placed in you?” asked Fuderfass.
Weiselberg admitted he wasn’t.
“And you did it for your own profit?” asked the defense attorney.
“I did,” said Weiselberg, who fought back tears.
But during direct questioning from prosecutor Susan Haffinger, Weiselberg admitted that the companies received some benefits from the alleged tax plan.
Lowering his salary to cover some of the tax-free benefits the company paid him paid off — but also created lower payroll costs, as well as savings on the Medicare portion of payroll taxes paid by employers, Weiselberg testified.
Steinglass highlighted that evidence in his closing argument.
“Trump Corporation gave less to their people. How is that for a benefit?” asked the lawyer. “If you allow your people to evade taxes, you pay them less.”
The jury will have to decide other issues, including McCany’s role. During his testimony, he described himself as a non-manager who followed the instructions of Weiselberg, who was his boss.
“Who am I going to tell?’ McKenney testified that he feared he would lose his job if he spoke out.
Steinglass mocked the self-portrait while addressing jurors. He highlighted a secret financial record used by McKenney to track pay cuts and related company payouts requested by Weiselberg and others.
A second set of registration books, one for the IRS and one for corporations, he said. McConee was not a low-level corporate soldier, Steinglass argued, “he was a co-conspirator.”
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