The jury is set to begin deliberations Monday in the tax fraud trial of the Trump Organization, which is accused of a sweeping, 15-year scheme to compensate top executives of former President Donald Trump’s company off the books.
Deliberations come after the prosecution and defense delivered closing arguments last week. The 15-count indictment charges the company and longtime CFO Allen Weisselberg with scheming to defraud, tax fraud and falsifying records. Weisselberg was also hit with a grand larceny charge. Prosecutors say he used his position to get out of paying taxes on more than $1.7 million in income.
The case is being heard in state Supreme Court, New York’s highest trial court.
Trump Organization lawyers outlined their case that the prosecution’s star witness in the criminal trial, Weisselberg, committed his crimes to benefit himself. The defense argued that prosecutors in the Manhattan district attorney’s office failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he did so on behalf of the company.
“We are here today because of one reason and one reason only, because of the greed of Allen Weisselberg,” defense lawyer Susan Necheles said Thursday. She added that Weisselberg “wanted a deal with the government because he knew he did something wrong and was afraid of a long prison sentence.”
Weisselberg, who pleaded guilty to tax evasion, agreed to testify in exchange for a five-month jail sentence. The ex-CFO received $1.76 million in “indirect employee compensation” through the scheme, including a rent-free apartment, expensive cars, private school tuition for his grandchildren and new furniture, prosecutors said. Other executives were compensated with similar perks, they said, and were paid bonuses as independent contractors, saving the company payroll taxes.
Prosecutors turned their focus to the former president himself during closing arguments, marking a notable shift in the weeks-long trial that largely focused on Weisselberg and other senior non-Trump family members. Trump, who announced his 2024 presidential bid last month, has not been charged with any wrongdoing.
“Donald Trump is explicitly sanctioning tax fraud. That’s what this document shows,” Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass told jurors in Manhattan Criminal Court on Friday. “This whole narrative that Donald Trump is blissfully ignorant is just not real.”
Lawyers for the defense sharply objected to the prosecution’s attention on Trump, which came after attorneys for the Trump Corp. and Trump Payroll Corp. also invoked the former president’s name repeatedly while arguing that he was unaware of any tax schemes or the crimes Weisselberg admitted to.
Michael van der Veen, who represents the Trump Payroll Corp. in the case, asked the judge for a mistrial, but acting New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan denied the request. “I don’t believe it is necessary to declare a mistrial, nor do I think that’s even a thought,” he said.
Trump has publicly blasted the investigation into his company as a politically motivated “witch hunt.” The former president’s company could incur fines up to $1.6 million if it is convicted on all counts. A conviction could also impede the company’s ability to obtain future financing, experts have said.
Tom Winter and am Reiss contributed.