Jurors in New York were on Monday set to deliberate their verdict in the trial of the Trump Organization, accused of running a criminal tax fraud scheme enriching executives with off-the-books benefits including property and luxury vehicles.
While Donald Trump himself is not on trial, prosecutors have said the former president knew of – and sanctioned almost every aspect of – the fraud, as head of the eponymous company handling his real estate and other dealings.
“This whole narrative that Donald Trump was blissfully ignorant is just not real,” Manhattan assistant district attorney Joshua Steinglass told the jury during Friday’s closing arguments. But he added it did not really matter if they believed he was aware or not, because it was the company that was on trial in New York state court.
Prosecutors described a 15-year scheme in which the Trump Organization reduced its tax liability in various ways, including by reducing payroll and giving executives other perks to make up the difference in their salaries.
The jury in New York’s state court heard that Trump signed a document in which one executive, Matthew Calamari, asked for a salary reduction equivalent to his untaxed compensations.
Defense lawyers have attempted to paint the company’s longtime chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, who was a key prosecution witness, as a “greedy” and rogue employee determined to blame his own fraud on others.
Weisselberg, 75, pleaded guilty to tax fraud and other charges under a plea agreement earlier this year, and he is expected to be sentenced to five months in jail. He was emotional on the witness stand as he admitted greed had motivated him to falsify records, cheat on taxes and betray the Trump family’s trust.
The company was charged in July last year after investigators looked into why some salaried Trump Organization executives were also receiving benefits as if they were independent contractors. The trial began in October.
The company has pleaded not guilty to nine counts of criminal fraud and faces up to $1.6m in fines if convicted.