Trump Group faces felony tax fraud trial


For years, as Donald Trump was hovering from actuality TV star to the White Home, his actual property empire was bankrolling large perks for a few of his most trusted senior executives, together with residences and luxurious vehicles.

Now Trump’s firm, the Trump Group, is on trial this week for felony tax fraud — on the hook for what prosecutors say was a 15-year scheme by high officers to cover the plums and keep away from paying taxes.

Legal professionals arrived at court docket Monday for opening statements. Final week, 12 jurors and 6 alternates have been picked for the case, however one alternate was dismissed Monday. The tax fraud case is the one felony trial to come up from the Manhattan district legal professional’s three-year investigation of the previous president.

It is considered one of three lively circumstances involving Trump or the Trump Group in New York courts.

Among the many key prosecution witnesses: Trump’s longtime finance chief Allen Weisselberg, who pleaded responsible and has agreed to testify in opposition to the corporate in trade for a five-month jail sentence.

If convicted, the Trump Group may very well be fined greater than $1 million and will face problem in securing new loans and offers. Some companions and authorities entities may search to chop ties with the corporate. It may additionally hamper its means to do enterprise with the U.S. Secret Service, which generally pays the corporate for lodging and companies whereas defending Trump as a former president.

Neither Trump nor any of his kids who’ve labored as Trump Group executives are charged or accused of wrongdoing. Trump isn’t anticipated to testify and even attend the trial.

Prosecutors have stated they don’t have to show Trump knew in regards to the scheme to get a conviction and that the case is “not about Donald Trump.” However a protection lawyer, William J. Brennan, stated even when he isn’t bodily there, Trump is “ever current, just like the mist within the room.”

That is as a result of Trump is synonymous with the Trump Group, the entity by way of which he manages his many ventures, together with his investments in golf programs, luxurious towers and different actual property, his many advertising offers and his TV pursuits.

Trump signed among the checks on the heart of the case. His title is on memos and different firm paperwork. Witnesses may testify about conversations they’d with Trump. They’re even anticipated to enter Trump’s private basic ledgers as proof.

Prosecutors say The Trump Group — by way of its subsidiaries Trump Corp. and Trump Payroll Corp. — is liable partially as a result of former Weisselberg was a “excessive managerial agent” entrusted to behave on behalf of the corporate and its varied entities.

The Trump Group has stated it did nothing mistaken. The corporate’s legal professionals argue that Weisselberg and different executives acted on their very own and that, if something, their actions harmed the corporate financially.

Weisselberg, who has pleaded responsible to taking $1.7 million in off-the-books compensation, pinned blame on himself and different high Trump Group executives, together with senior vp and controller Jeffrey McConney.

However he disagreed with the notion that the corporate was harmed, saying the perks really saved the corporate cash as a result of it avoiding having to offer raises.

Prosecutors have stated they count on to name 15 witnesses, together with Weisselberg and McConney, who was granted restricted immunity to testify final yr earlier than a grand jury.

Choose Juan Manuel Merchan expects the trial to take at the very least 4 weeks, although a protection lawyer estimated final week that the prosecution case alone may go on for 2 months. Court docket will meet for a full day on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursday and for a half-day on Friday.

The trial is off on Wednesday so the choose can attend to different, unrelated issues.

Past the felony case, Trump and the Trump Group are defendants in a lawsuit introduced by New York Legal professional Basic Letitia James, who alleges that Trump and the corporate inflated his web price by billions of {dollars} and misled banks and others for years in regards to the worth of varied property.

A listening to in that case is scheduled for Thursday.

In the meantime, within the Bronx, jury choice was scheduled to start Monday in a lawsuit introduced by protesters who say they have been roughed up by safety guards outdoors Trump Tower. The previous president gave a deposition in that case final yr.

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