Attorneys for former President Donald Trump’s organization and the company’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Allen Weisselberg pleaded not guilty to fraud and tax crimes charges Thursday.
New York prosecutors charged the Trump Organization, Trump Payroll Corporation, and Weisselberg with 15 felony counts involving violation of tax laws. The charges include: scheme to defraud, conspiracy, criminal tax fraud, offering a false instrument for filing, and falsifying business records.
The indictment claims the accused parties orchestrated a plot to defraud New York state and city tax authorities to compensate key Trump executives with the proceeds in a manner that was “off the books.”
The indictment names Weisselberg as the one of the largest beneficiaries of the scheme, stating that he “received indirect employee compensation from the Trump organization” totaling $1.76 million dollars. This sum was reached by adding all of Weisselberg’s alleged tax evasions at the federal, state, and city levels, plus his receipt of federal and state tax refunds, which the indictment says were falsely claimed.
Weisselberg presented himself at the office of Manhattan district attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr before he was arraigned. The court read Weisselberg’s charges to him Thursday after a grand jury released the indictment against him and the Trump company.
As a long-time veteran of the Trump organization, Weisselberg has intimate knowledge of its business activities. Before being appointed CFO, Weisselberg served as an accountant and comptroller for the company and at times presided over its accounting and payroll processes.
Trump himself was not charged with a crime in the case.
Weisselberg’s attorney, Mary Mulligan, noted that the executive has said he intends to “fight these charges in court.”
Speaking to reporters on the courthouse steps after the arraignment, Mulligan alleged that the prosecution is politically motivated, noting that similar cases to Weisselberg’s are typically settled civilly rather than criminally.
Mulligan and Weisselberg have suggested that the state is pursuing their case in act of selective prosecution, discriminating against him and the Trump organization in criminal justice procedure.
The lawyer also questioned why the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) decided to target Trump’s enterprise specifically, adding that it didn’t target the financial firms considered complicit in and partially responsible for the 2008 housing crisis.