Trump Company Set for Criminal Trial in Off-Books Pay Scheme

More than three years after Manhattan prosecutors began investigating Donald Trump — after going to the Supreme Court twice to gain access to his tax records — the only criminal case to stem from their efforts is about to begin.

No, the former president is not going to trial. His company is

The Trump Organization, the holding company for Trump buildings, golf courses and other assets, is accused of helping some top executives avoid income taxes on compensation they received in addition to their salaries, such as rent-free apartments and luxury cars.

Trump signed some of the checks at the center of the case, but he has not been charged and is not expected to testify or participate in 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 outcome.

Trump’s fervent supporters are unlikely to abandon him regardless of the outcome, but a guilty verdict could hamper his company’s ability to get loans and close deals. New York City, for one, could use the legal cloud as new justification to try to remove the company from operating a city-owned golf course.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, has 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, has dismissed the investigation as a “political witch hunt.”

The Trump Organization has said it did nothing wrong and that it looks forward to “having our day in court.”

Judge Juan Manuel Merchan expects the criminal tax fraud trial, heavy on financial records and expert testimony, to take at least four weeks once a jury is empaneled. Given Trump’s fame as a businessman and polarizing politician, it may take a while to find jurors who feel they can judge the case impartially.

The star witness for the prosecution is expected to be Allen Weisselberg, one of Trump’s most trusted top executives.

Weisselberg pleaded guilty in August to receiving more than $1.7 million in untaxed perks from the company, including college tuition for his grandchildren, a Manhattan apartment and Mercedes cars for him and his wife.

His testimony comes as part of a plea deal that calls for him to serve up to five months in New York City’s Rikers Island jail complex, although he could be released after a little more than three with good behavior. The former chief financial officer of the Trump Organization must also pay nearly $2 million in taxes, penalties and interest and complete five years of probation.

Weisselberg, 75, has intimate knowledge of the Trump Organization’s financial dealings from nearly five decades at the company, but he is not expected to implicate Trump or any members of the Trump family in his testimony.

In pleading guilty, Weisselberg blamed the scheme on himself and other top Trump Organization executives, including senior vice president and controller Jeffrey McConney.

McConney was granted limited immunity to testify last year before a grand jury and could also take the stand during the trial. The company’s chief security officer, Matthew Calamari Jr., son of CEO Matthew Calamari Sr., also received immunity from grand jury testimony.

When the Trump Organization and Weisselberg were indicted in 2021, prosecutors called the tax scheme “sweeping and audacious” and said it was “orchestrated by the most senior executives.”

In addition to Weisselberg, two other Trump Organization executives, who were not identified by name, also received significant under-the-table compensation, including lodging and car rental payments, the indictment said.

“The purpose of the scheme was to compensate Weisselberg and other executives of the Trump Organization in a manner that was ‘off the books,'” the indictment said.

The Trump Organization is the entity through which the former president manages his many ventures, including his real estate investments, his many marketing deals and his television activities.

Trump’s sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, has been in charge of day-to-day operations since becoming president. Because the criminal trial involves charges against the company, not any individuals, the Trumps will not be held personally liable if a jury returns a guilty verdict.

The criminal case is one of two lawsuits working their way through New York courts that threaten to shred 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 for years about the value of his assets. The civil suit seeks $250 million and a permanent ban on Trump doing business in the state.

A hearing in that case is scheduled for Oct. 31, as James seeks an independent monitor to oversee the Trump Organization’s activities after she alleged the company took steps to evade potential sanctions, such as incorporating a new entity named Trump Organization II.

Those aren’t the only legal challenges Trump faces as he weighs a potential comeback campaign for the president.

Last week, Trump testified under oath in a lawsuit filed by magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll, who says he raped her in the mid-1990s in a department store dressing room.

Meanwhile, the FBI continues to investigate Trump’s storage of sensitive 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 committee investigating the January 6 riot issued a subpoena to Trump.

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Follow Michael Sisak on Twitter at twitter.com/mikesisak and send confidential tips by visiting https://www.ap.org/tips/.

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