Trump Organization CFO expected in court after indictment
NEW YORK - New York prosecutors are expected to announce the first criminal indictment in a two-year investigation into Donald Trump’s business practices, accusing his namesake company and its longtime finance chief of tax crimes related to fringe benefits for employees.
The charges against the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, remained sealed early Thursday morning but were to be unveiled ahead of an afternoon arraignment at a state court in Manhattan, according to two people familiar with the matter.
The people were not authorized to speak about an ongoing investigation and did so on condition of anonymity.
Weisselberg reportedly refused to cooperate in the investigation.
The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, says the crime are related to unpaid taxes on fringe benefits.
The company and Weisselberg were expected to make their first court appearance Thursday.
The charges against Weisselberg and the Trump Organization would be the first criminal cases to arise from the two-year probe led by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., a Democrat who leaves office at the end of the year.
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Trump himself isn’t expected to be charged, according to the company's lawyer.
The Manhattan district attorney’s office and New York state attorney general’s office have been investigating whether employees illegally avoided paying taxes on cars, apartments, and tuitions that were paid for by the company.
It isn't illegal for a company to offer employees tuition help, lease them cars or let them use company-owned apartments, but such arrangements can be subject to income tax.
Any charges filed on Thursday could just be the beginning as the investigations continue.
Messages seeking comment were left with a spokesperson and lawyers for the Trump Organization. Weisselberg's lawyer, Mary Mulligan, declined to comment. The Manhattan district attorney's office declined to comment.
Trump’s spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but Jason Miller, a longtime former senior adviser to the Republican, spun the looming charges as "politically terrible for the Democrats."
"They told their crazies and their supplicants in the mainstream media this was about President Trump. Instead, their Witch Hunt is persecuting an innocent 80 year-old man for maybe taking free parking!" Miller tweeted, apparently referring to Weisselberg, who is 73.
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Lawyers for the Trump Organization met Monday with prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney's Office in a last bid to forestall any indictment stemming.
Ron Fischetti, a lawyer for the Trump Organization, told the AP this week that there was no indication Trump himself was included in the first batch of charges.
"There is no indictment coming down this week against the former president," Fischetti said. "I can’t say he’s out of the woods yet completely."
Weisselberg, a loyal lieutenant to Trump and his real estate-developer father, Fred, came under scrutiny, in part, because of questions about his son’s use of a Trump apartment at little or no cost.
Barry Weisselberg managed a Trump-operated ice rink in Central Park.
Barry’s ex-wife, Jen Weisselberg, has been cooperating with the investigation and turned over reams of tax records and other documents to investigators.
"We have been working with prosecutors for many months now as part of this tax and financial investigation and have provided a large volume of evidence that allowed them to bring these charges," Jen Weisselberg's lawyer, Duncan Levin, said Wednesday. "We are gratified to hear that the DA’s office is moving forward with a criminal case."
Allen Weisselberg has worked for the Trump Organization since 1973. The case against him could give prosecutors the means to pressure the executive into cooperating and telling them what he knows about Trump’s business dealings.
Prosecutors subpoenaed another long-time Trump finance executive, senior vice president and controller Jeffrey McConney, to testify in front of the grand jury in the spring. Under New York law, grand jury witnesses are granted immunity and can not be charged for conduct they testify about.
Prosecutors probing untaxed benefits to Trump executives have also been looking at Matthew Calamari, a former Trump bodyguard turned chief operating officer, and his son, the company’s corporate director of security. However, a lawyer for the Calamaris said Wednesday that he didn’t expect them to be charged.
"Although the DA’s investigation obviously is ongoing, I do not expect charges to be filed against either of my clients at this time," said the lawyer, Nicholas Gravante.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.