Prosecution wraps case in Trump Organization tax fraud trial
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Prosecutors in the New York tax fraud trial against the Trump Organization wrapped up their case on Monday, earlier than expected, after eight days that included testimony from two top executives.
The prosecution rested its case early without calling one of their witnesses, allowing attorneys for former President Donald Trump's family business to begin their case. The trial, which started in October following a three-year investigation into whether top executives at the Trump Organization engaged in tax fraud, could end as early as next week.
One of the prosecution's lead witnesses, former chief financial officer for the Trump Organization Allen Weisselberg who pleaded guilty to 15 charges in August, testified that neither Trump nor his family were involved in the tax scheme.
Weisselberg, 75, said Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump found out in 2017 that he had been getting off-the-book perks and bonuses paid as an "independent contractor." He also testified that he received a raise to make up for the apartment rentals, leased luxury cars and private school tuition that he was no longer receiving.
The discovery came at a time when the company was cleaning up its business practices following increased scrutiny after Donald Trump's election as president.
"Mr. Trump became president, and everybody was looking at our company from every different angle you could think of," Weisselberg testified, adding that the company wanted to "make sure that we correct everything that we have to correct."
"Following that cleanup, were you demoted or disciplined?" prosecutor Susan Hoffinger asked. Weisselberg replied, "No."
Instead Weisselberg said he received a $200,000 raise in 2019.
"I told them since the practice was no longer going on I would need some additional income to pay for those expenses," Weisselberg said.
Weisselberg also testified that Trump knew the company was paying his rent, but that Trump and other family members did not know about other benefits -- or that he was failing to properly report those benefits to tax authorities.
During their case, prosecutors also questioned Jeffrey McConney, a senior vice president and controller at Trump Organization, who said he helped hide the perks by reducing salaries and issuing falsified tax documents.
Prosecutors ultimately decided against calling Donald Bender, an outside accountant for the Trump Organization. Bender, who works for accounting firm Mazars USA and had been cooperating with prosecutors since last year, could be called as a witness for the defense.