Former President Trump’s family business and its chief financial officer have been charged with tax crimes for a sprawling scheme in which they paid high-level executives a huge chunk of their real salaries “off the books,” according to an indictment unsealed Thursday afternoon.
The Manhattan district attorney’s office alleges the scheme went on for 15 years, and has charged the Trump Organization and CFO Allen Weisselberg with criminal tax fraud, falsifying business records, grand larceny, and scheming to defraud the government.
Weisselberg was arraigned in Manhattan criminal court hours after he surrendered to authorities. He was escorted into the courtroom Thursday afternoon in handcuffs, and pleaded not guilty to all charges.
The longtime Trump confidante—described in the indictment as “one of the largest individual beneficiaries”—is accused of hiding $1.76 million in “indirect employee compensation” he received from the Trump Organization over 12 years, from 2005 until 2017. Prosecutors suggest there were others involved, who remain unidentified and refer several times to an unnamed “unindicted co-conspirator #1.”
The indirect compensation was “intentionally” not included on Weisselberg’s W-2 forms or otherwise reported to authorities, “and no income taxes were withheld by the corporate defendants in connection with the indirect compensation,” prosecutors said.
The indictment, unsealed in court Thursday at 2:30 p.m., claims that the CFO also cheated New York City taxes by hiding the fact that he lived there—ultimately dodging $901,112 in federal, state, and city taxes.
Outside the courtroom, Trump Organization lawyer Alan Futerfas blasted the charges, seeming to suggest they were politically motivated.
“In 244 years we have not had a local prosector go after a former president of the United States or his employees or his company and that is a significant line to cross and, quite frankly, not just as lawyer but as a citizen we’re very concerned about that,” he said.
During a Fox News interview on Wednesday night, Trump insisted that the probe—and others lodged against him in the past—were nothing but political stunts. “All nonsense,” he said. “New York radical-left prosecutors come after me—you gotta fight.”
The charges are the first to be brought against Trump’s family business. While Trump himself has not been charged, prosecutors have for months sought Weisselberg’s cooperation, hoping to flip him as a witness who can offer testimony against any tax crimes Trump may have committed. Two sources who testified before the grand jury told The Daily Beast that investigators still have Trump in their sights.
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance and New York Attorney General Letitia James have conducted parallel investigations that have scrutinized whether Trump misled lenders or tax authorities, or evaded taxes on forgiven debts or benefits for employees. James in recent months notified the Trump Organization that information her office was collecting for a civil probe into the Trump Organization could be used as part of the criminal investigation underway at Vance’s office.
James issued a statement calling Thursday “an important marker in the ongoing criminal investigation” and promised that her prosecutors would “follow the facts and the law wherever they may lead.”
Both Vance and James appeared in the courtroom Thursday and the criminal charges emerged from their joint effort—three years after Vance opened the case in 2018. The sweeping investigation initially stemmed from former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s charges for hush-money payments to women who alleged affairs with Trump before he launched his 2016 presidential campaign.
After a more than 18-month battle, Vance’s office achieved a significant win in February when the Supreme Court paved the way for his office to obtain Trump’s tax returns and other financial records. Vance has also examined tax breaks and loans Trump has obtained on some of his properties.
In recent months, prosecutors have focused their investigation on Weisselberg’s personal ties and the “indirect compensation” he received while working for the Trump Organization, including pricy apartments and school tuition.
The indictment alleges that for five years, beginning in 2012, Weisselberg arranged for tuition expenses at a private school for his family members to be paid by personal checks signed by Trump. The company also paid annual lease expenses on two Mercedes-Benz cars for Weisselberg and his wife for at least a dozen years, beginning in 2005.
In addition to rent payments for his own apartment, utilities, and garage, Weisselberg also received unreported cash payments and submitted requests for “ad hoc personal expenses” that included items like flatscreen TVs and furniture for the Weisselbergs’ Florida home, prosecutors said.
During the investigation, Weisselberg’s former daughter-in-law, Jennifer Weisselberg, has said that she has spoken with prosecutors numerous times and handed over subpoenaed documents involving Weisselberg’s son Barry, who managed the Trump Organization-operated ice rink in Central Park. In interviews, she has also said that she and her ex-husband of 14 years once lived rent-free in a New York apartment provided to them through Barry’s work at the company.
The indictment refers to an apartment for one of Allen Weisselberg's family members, who was also employed by the company, that was allegedly occupied from 2005 through 2012. It alleges that approximately $1,000 was paid monthly in rent. According to the indictment, in 2018, Weisselberg’s family member was later allowed to occupy a different Trump Organization-owned apartment with no reported rent at all.
Two other unnamed employees also received substantial amounts of compensation in the form of lodging in New York City and car lease payments, the indictment said.