Trump Organization hit with $1.6 million in fines for tax fraud conviction
Two Trump Organization entities were slapped with $1.6 million in fines Friday — the price of committing years of tax fraud.
The Trump Corporation and Trump Payroll Corporation were ordered to pay the hefty sum in Manhattan Supreme Court. The companies were found guilty of 17 felonies, including tax fraud, scheming to defraud, and other related charges on Dec. 6.
“It is worth remembering this scheme was far-reaching and brazen. It was deep, wide, and long. Deep in terms of the robust array of fraudulent practices. Wide in terms of the number of beneficiaries. And long in terms of the duration. Many of these corrupt practices stretched on for decades,” Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass said at the sentencing.
The penalties amount to the maximum fines Judge Juan Merchan could impose under New York law. He shot down a request from Trump lawyers to bring it down, chastising them for beating a dead horse when they sought to rehash old legal arguments that were unsuccessful at trial, trying to lay blame on Donald Bender, the company’s accountant from Mazars USA.
“I do think it is interesting that the Trump Corporation once again distances the Corporation from the acts of the other individuals,” Merchan said. “And once again, tries to point a finger at Mr. Bender ... It is not what the evidence showed, and it is certainly not what the jury found.”
The Trump Corporation faced fines totaling $810,000 and Trump Payroll Corp., was ordered to pay $800,000.
The years-long fraud saw the company shower senior executives with lavish work benefits disguised from the tax man.
Rent-free luxury apartments with Hudson River views, Mercedes Benz car leases, private school tuition and holiday home furniture were among the perks of being a Trump Organization executive, jurors heard during the six-week trial.
“All of these corrupt practices were part of the Trump Organization executive compensation package, and it was a lot cheaper than simply paying higher salaries to those executives,” Steinglass said in court Friday. He added that the company casually falsified records to avoid criminality being detected.
Trump wasn’t charged in connection with the case, but Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg hasn’t officially said he won’t be. After the sentencing, Bragg said it was time to move on to the “next chapter” of his office’s expansive criminal Trump probe, which is now running on three years.
Bragg said the conviction was significant, but the fine didn’t represent justice.
“I want to be very clear, we don’t think that is enough. Our laws in this state need to change in order to capture this type of decade-plus systemic and egregious fraud,” Bragg said.
“Nonetheless, this historic sentencing serves, or should serve, as a reminder to all in New York — both companies in their corporate form and their executives — that this type of conduct will not be tolerated and will be held accountable.”
The fines come days after the company’s long-serving chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg was sent behind bars for five months. His sentencing also marked his last day as an employee of the Trump family after almost half a century.
Citing Weisselberg’s “offensive” crimes “driven entirely by greed,” Merchan said he would have imposed a much steeper sentence had he not been bound by his promise last August when the CFO took a plea deal in exchange for testifying against the company.
Prosecutors pointed the finger at Trump toward the trial’s end and again on Friday. In closing arguments, Steinglass told jurors the defense theory that Trump “was blissfully ignorant” was “just not real.”
A Trump Organization spokeswoman said the former president was a victim of a “never ending witch hunt,” and Weisselberg was collateral.
“He was threatened, intimidated and terrorized. He was given a choice of pleading guilty and serving 90 days in prison or serving the rest of his life in jail — all of this over a corporate car and standard employee benefits. President Trump and The Trump Organization are also both victims,” the spokeswoman said.
“We did nothing wrong and we will appeal this verdict.”
The outcome does not spell the end of the Trump Organization’s legal troubles in New York.
The company is separately charged in a major civil action lawsuit brought in September by the state attorney general.
In that case, Attorney General Letitia James demands $250 million. She accuses the company of misrepresenting the value of Trump Organization assets like skyscrapers and golf courses to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars to score better loan deals and tax breaks.
James says Trump exaggerated his own net worth by “billions.”