Trump's Company Fined $1.6m For Tax Fraud
Donald Trump's real estate company has been fined $1.6m (£1.31m) by a New York judge for tax crimes. Jurors had found the Trump Organization guilty of fraud and falsifying business records in December. The company is synonymous with the former president, but neither he nor his family were part of the trial.
The only person charged in the scheme was the company's former chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg. Mr Trump still faces legal trouble, including a separate New York lawsuit against him and his children over allegations of fraud.
Two subsidiaries of the Trump Organization - Trump Corp and Trump Payroll Corp - were found guilty by a New York jury of enriching its top executives with untaxed benefits, like luxury cars and private school fees, for 15 years.
These benefits made up for lower salaries, prosecutors argued, and therefore reduced the amount of tax the business was required to pay. It is the first-ever criminal conviction of one of Mr Trump's companies. The fine, ordered by Justice Juan Merchan of the Manhattan criminal court on Friday, is the maximum the judge could have imposed for this case.
The penalty is nominal compared to the company's earnings - the Trump Organization reportedly made $446m in 2019 - but the conviction may cause difficulties for the entity to secure loans and financing in the future. In a statement, Manhattan's District Attorney Alvin Bragg Jr said the sentencing represents "a significant chapter" in the ongoing investigations into Mr Trump and his businesses.
He added that Weisselberg and the Trump Organization "benefitted from sweeping fraud for well over a decade", and the conviction and sentencing is a reminder to corporations that they "cannot defraud tax authorities and get away with it." Weisselberg, the long-time chief financial officer of Mr Trump's company, was sentenced to five months in prison for his role in the tax fraud scheme.
He had pleaded guilty to concealing more than $1.7m in off-the-books income.Mr Trump had previously vowed to appeal the guilty verdict. He also criticised the trial as being politically motivated, and called the case a "witch hunt". In a separate but related matter, New York state's attorney general Letitia James has sued Mr Trump and his children over allegations of fraud.
Mr Trump is also being investigated by the US Department of Justice over his handling of classified documents after his presidency. In both cases, Mr Trump has denied any wrongdoing. He has also countersued Ms James for "intimidation".