In a reputation-altering case, a jury convicted former US President Donald Trump’s family real estate business, the Trump Organization, of tax fraud. On Dec. 6, a New York jury found the two entities in the case, the Trump Corporation and the Trump Payroll Corporation, guilty on all counts, including the charges of scheme to defraud, criminal tax fraud, conspiracy, and falsifying business records.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s office that led the investigation concluded that the Trump Organization gave tax-free perks — including high-scale apartments, private school tuition, and luxury cars — to executives. Following the reading of the verdict, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg told reporters, “In Manhattan, we have one stand of justice for all. This was a case about lying and cheating and false documents to the end of evading taxes for the individuals and the corporations. They’ve now been held accountable in a court of law.”
The verdict will not have a significant financial impact on Trump himself with penalty charges totaling to only 1.62 million dollars. The greater concern for Trump is the impact of the case on his reputation. The conviction of tax fraud paints the Trump Organization as felonious. In addition, it damages the perception of Trump, who built his brand on being a successful businessman. The trial revealed that Trump reported operating losses for the entire decade of 2009 to 2018, with a staggering one billion dollar loss between 2009 to 2010.
The prosecutors argued Trump was aware of the fraud by citing his checks and memos, which showed Trump signing a check for the private school tuition of Weisselberg’s grandchild and the rental agreement for Weisselberg’s apartment.
Despite the outcome, the Trump Organization continues to deny any wrongdoing and seeks to appeal the verdict. The Trump Organization attorney Susan Necheles claimed their business was unaware of the tax fraud committed by their Chief Financial Officer Allen H. Weisselberg. In August, Weisselberg pleaded guilty to tax fraud on two million dollars worth of company benefits, including rent for his apartment and the tuition of his grandchildren. Necheles stated to the jury during the trial, “The prosecution’s case rests on one thing: trying to convince you, the jurors, that Mr. Weisselberg’s actions were done in behalf of the company. They were not. They were done solely to benefit himself. And that is the critical issue in this case.”
Assistant district attorney Josh Steinglass concluded in his closing statement, “This whole narrative that Donald Trump is blissfully ignorant is just not true.”
(Sources: ABC News, NPR, NY Times, Washington Post)