The Trump Organization’s off-the-books pay scheme trial is set to begin Monday
NEW YORK — More than three years after Manhattan prosecutors began investigating Donald Trump — after twice going to the Supreme Court to gain access to his tax records — the only criminal trial to stem from their efforts is about to begin.
No, the former president is not on trial. His company.
The Trump Organization, the holding company for Trump construction, golf courses and other assets, is accused of helping some top executives avoid paying income taxes on compensation they received in addition to their salaries, such as free apartments and luxury cars.
Trump signed some of the checks at the center of the case, but he is not accused of anything and is not expected to testify or attend the trial, which begins Monday with jury selection.
If convicted, the Trump Organization could be fined more than $1 million — but that’s not the only potential consequence.
Trump’s fervent supporters are unlikely to abandon him regardless of the outcome, but a conviction could prevent his company from getting loans and deals. New York, for example, could use the legal cloud as a new excuse to oust a company from running the city’s golf course.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, said his office’s investigation into Trump is “active and ongoing” and that no final decision has been made on whether he could face criminal charges in the future.
Trump, a Republican, denounced the investigation as a “political witch hunt.”
The Trump Organization has said it has done nothing wrong and that it looks forward to “our day in court.”
Judge Juan Manuel Mercan expects the felony tax fraud trial, heavy on financial documents and expert testimony, to take at least four weeks after the jury is seated. Given Trump’s reputation as a businessman and polarizing politician, it may take some time to find a jury that feels they can judge the case impartially.
Allen Weiselberg, one of Trump’s most trusted executives, is expected to be a key witness for the prosecution.
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Weiselberg pleaded guilty in August to receiving more than $1.7 million in tax-free benefits from the company, including college tuition for his grandchildren, a Manhattan apartment and Mercedes cars for himself and his wife.
His testimony comes as part of a plea deal that calls for him to serve up to five months at the Rikers Island prison complex in New York, though he could be released in just over three months if he shows good behavior. The former Trump Organization CFO must also pay nearly $2 million in back taxes, penalties and interest and serve five years of probation.
Weiselberg, 75, is intimately familiar with the Trump Organization’s financial operations during his nearly five decades with the campaign, but is not expected to implicate Trump or any members of the Trump family in his testimony.
In pleading guilty, Weiselberg blamed the scheme on himself and other top Trump Organization executives, including senior vice president and controller Jeffrey McConey.
Last year, McConey was granted limited immunity to testify before a grand jury and could also testify at trial. The company’s chief security officer, Matthew Calamari Jr., son of chief operating officer Matthew Calamari Sr., was also granted immunity from testifying at the grand jury.
When the Trump Organization and Weisselberg were indicted in 2021, prosecutors called the tax scheme “large and brazen” and said it was “orchestrated by the highest-ranking executives.”
In addition to Weiselberg, two other unnamed Trump Organization executives also received significant under-the-table compensation, including lodging and car lease payments, the indictment said.
“The purpose of the scheme was to compensate Weiselberg and other executives of the Trump Organization in a manner that was ‘unfinished,'” the indictment said.
The Trump Organization is the entity through which the former president manages his many businesses, including real estate investments, numerous marketing deals, and television appearances.
Trump’s sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, have been in charge of day-to-day operations since he became president. Because a criminal trial involves an indictment against a legal entity, not an individual, the Trumps will not be personally liable if a jury returns a guilty verdict.
The criminal case is one of two legal cases winding their way through New York courts that threaten to shatter the gilded facade of Trump’s empire.
Last month, New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a civil lawsuit accusing Trump and the Trump Organization of misleading banks and others over the years about the value of his assets. The civil lawsuit seeks $250 million and a permanent ban on Trump doing business in the state.
A court hearing in the case is set for Oct. 31 as James seeks an independent monitor to oversee the Trump Organization after she alleged the company took steps to avoid potential fines, such as creating a new entity called Trump Organization II.
Those aren’t the only legal challenges Trump faces as he weighs a potential comeback campaign.
Last week, Trump testified under oath in a lawsuit brought by magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll, who claims he raped her in the mid-1990s in a department store dressing room.
Meanwhile, the FBI continues to investigate Trump’s storage of classified government documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.
A special grand jury in Georgia is investigating whether Trump and others tried to influence state election officials.
On Friday, the House of Representatives Committee to Investigate the January 6 Rebellion issued a subpoena to Trump.
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