Lawyer for Trump Organization CFO says he suspects other pending indictments
NEW YORK (AP) – An attorney for the indicted corporate finance chief Donald Trump told a judge on Monday he had “good reason to believe” that more indictments would be forthcoming in connection with an investigation underway in New York into the former president’s real estate empire.
Attorney Bryan Scarlatos made the remark during the first court appearance of Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg since his indictment on July 1 for tax evasion. Scarlatos did not say what had led him to believe more people would be charged in the closely watched case.
In recent weeks, two leaders of the Trump Organization have testified before a grand jury, which continues to meet behind closed doors to hear testimony and review the evidence in the case.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office declined to comment.
“Mr. Weisselberg is estranged from the Trump Organization. He is the only individual here whose freedom is at stake,” Scarlatos said. “What worries me is that he will become collateral damage in a fight over wide between the Trump organization and the prosecutor’s office. “
Scarlatos raised the issue of more possible indictments while arguing for sufficient time to review up to 6 million pages of documents he said prosecutors were tendering into evidence, calling it of “Herculean task” and claiming that new indictments would create a “moving target”. “
Prosecutors said Weisselberg was “no stranger” to many of the documents because they include Trump Organization business records that the executive likely produced or reviewed in the course of his work.
Judge Juan Manuel Merchan has given both parties until next spring to file motions and responses. He said he would rule on the motions at a hearing on July 12, 2022, the next time Weisselberg is scheduled to appear in court.
Merchan said he expected to set a trial date then and would likely set it for late August or early September next year.
“The reason I’m mentioning it now is because it’s on everyone’s radar,” Merchan said. “I don’t have a specific date yet.
Weisselberg has pleaded not guilty to charges that he collected more than $ 1.7 million in unauthorized indemnities, including apartment rent, payment for a car and school fees.
Trump’s company is also indicted in the case, which prosecutors have described as a “sweeping and bold” tax evasion scheme.
Weisselberg sat quietly next to his lawyers during Monday’s brief hearing and did not speak to reporters on the way to court. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, everyone wore masks and the courtroom had clear plastic partitions between the different parts.
Trump himself has not been charged with any wrongdoing. He condemned the case, the first to result from New York authorities’ two-year investigation into the former president’s trade relations, as a “political witch hunt.”
Trump said his company’s actions were standard business practice and by no means a crime.
According to the indictment, from 2005 to this year, the Trump Organization and Weisselberg tricked tax authorities into conspiring to pay senior executives through lucrative benefits and other means.
Weisselberg alone has been accused of defrauding the federal government, state and city of more than $ 900,000 in unpaid taxes and unearned tax refunds.
The most serious charge against Weisselberg, robbery, carries five to 15 years in prison. Charges of tax evasion against the company are punishable by a fine of double the amount of unpaid taxes, or $ 250,000, whichever is greater.
Weisselberg’s attorneys Skarlatos and Mary Mulligan said in a statement after Monday’s hearing that the indictment is “full of unsubstantiated and erroneous factual and legal claims.”
“We look forward to challenging these claims in court,” the lawyers said.
Weisselberg, 74, has intimate knowledge of the Trump Organization’s financial transactions for nearly five decades in the business. The charges against him could allow prosecutors to pressure him to cooperate with the investigation and tell them what he knows, but so far there has been no sign of this.
The case is led by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. and New York Attorney General Letitia James, both Democrats.
The Trump Organization is the entity through which the former president manages his many businesses, including his investments in office towers, hotels and golf courses, his numerous marketing deals, and his television activities.
Trump handed over the day-to-day operations of the company to his sons Donald Jr. and Eric after he was elected president.
According to the indictment, Weisselberg paid the rent on his Manhattan apartment with company checks and ordered the company to pay its utility and parking bills as well.
The company also paid for tuition at private schools for Weisselberg’s grandchildren with checks signed by Trump, as well as for Mercedes cars driven by Weisselberg and his wife, and gave him money for tip around Christmas.
These benefits were listed in internal Trump company documents as part of Weisselberg’s compensation, but were not included in his W-2 forms or otherwise reported, and the company did not withhold taxes on them. value, prosecutors said.
Trump’s company also issued checks, at Weisselberg’s request, to pay for personal expenses and improvements to his homes and an apartment used by one of his sons, such as new beds, televisions to Flat screen TVs, carpeted floors, and furniture, prosecutors said.
Follow Michael Sisak on Twitter at twitter.com/mikesisak
Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.