Nearly a week after the Manhattan District Attorney’s office announced charges were coming for the Trump Organization, an indictment unsealed Thursday accused the organization and Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg of participating in a 15-year tax fraud scheme.
A prosecutor for the attorney’s office described the scheme as “sweeping and audacious”. Weisselberg is accused of receiving more than $1.7 million in off-the-books compensation. This includes apartment rent, car payments and school tuition.
Thursday’s charges are the first result of a two-year investigation into former President Donald Trump’s business dealings.
The indictment accuses Weisselberg and the organization of cheating the state and city out of taxes by conspiring to pay senior executives off the books.
Both Weisselberg and lawyers for the Trump Organization pleaded not guilty.
Weisselberg was released without bail, however he did have his passport taken away. Prosecutors called him a flight risk with access to private jets for foreign travel.
The CFO has intimate knowledge of former President Trump’s business dealings. The case against him could allow prosecutors to pressure him into cooperating and telling them what he knows about those dealings.
Trump was not personally charged. Despite this, the former president railed on the prosecutors in this case earlier this week.
Trump called Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. and New York Attorney General Letitia James “rude, nasty, and totally biased”. Former President Trump went on to say the organization’s actions were “standard practice throughout the U.S. business community, and in no way a crime.”
President Trump did not respond to reporters’ shouted questions about the indictment when he visited the border on Wednesday.
The Trump Organization issued a statement defending Weisselberg before the indictment was unveiled. The organization said Weisselberg is being used by the Manhattan district attorney’s office as “a pawn in a scorched-earth attempt to harm the former president.” The organization said neither the IRS nor any other district attorney would ever think of bringing such charges over employee benefits.