Allen Weisselberg: Lawyer for Trump Organization CFO says he expects more indictments

© AP

The Trump Organization’s Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg, center, leaves after a courtroom appearance in New York, Monday, Sept. 20, 2021

– AP

A lawyer for the Trump Organization’s Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg has said that he thinks more indictments are on the way.

Lawyer Bryan Scarlatos, who represents former President Donald Trump’s corporate finance boss, told a judge on Monday that he has “strong reason to believe” that more indictments are coming in the ongoing investigation into Mr Trump’s business.

Mr Scarlatos made the admission during Mr Weisselberg’s first appearance in court since he was arraigned on 1 July on charges of tax fraud, but the attorney didn’t reveal what had caused him to expect further indictments.

Two Trump Organization executives have testified in front of a grand jury in recent weeks. The jury is meeting behind closed doors to hear testimony and consider evidence.

“Mr Weisselberg is separate from the Trump Organization. He is the only individual here whose liberty is at stake,” Mr Scarlatos said. “What I am concerned about is that he will become collateral damage in a larger fight between the Trump Organization and the [District Attorney’s] office.”

Mr Scarlatos mentioned the possibility of further legal action when he was arguing that the defence team should be given more time to review up to six million pages of documents that he said prosecutors are handing over as evidence. He said the review process was “a herculean task” and that new indictments would produce a “moving target”.

Prosecutors said Mr Weisselberg was “no stranger” to many of the documents as they include business records that he is likely to have either produced or reviewed in his job as the Trump Organization’s CFO.

Judge Juan Manuel Merchan gave both the prosecution and the defence until next spring to file motions in the case and said that he would decide on the motions on 12 July 2022, which is the date that Mr Weisselberg is next due to appear in court.

Judge Merchan said that he would also announce a trial date at that time and that it would likely be set for late August or early September 2022.

“The reason I mention it now is that it’s on everybody’s radar,” he said. “I don’t have an exact date yet.”

Mr Weisselberg has pleaded not guilty to the charges that he was provided with $1.7m in untaxed benefits, such as apartment rent, school tuition, and car payments.

Mr Trump’s company is also charged alongside Mr Weisselberg. Prosecutors allege that they executed a “sweeping and audacious” tax fraud scheme over the course of 15 years.

Mr Weisselberg chose to not speak to reporters as he entered and exited the court on Monday and spent the hearing sitting silently next to his attorney.

As per pandemic restrictions, everyone in the courtroom was wearing masks and plastic barriers separated the different legal teams.

Mr Trump has not been charged with a crime but has argued that the first case to stem from the two-year investigation by New York state authorities into his business is a “political Witch Hunt”. The former president has instead claimed that the way the Trump Organization conducted itself was common practice in the business world.

The indictment states that from 2005 through this year, the Trump Organization and Mr Weisselberg evaded tax liabilities by providing senior executives at the company with luxury benefits off the books as well as through other measures.

Mr Weisselberg was accused of avoiding $900,000 in taxes and tax refunds he was ineligible for. Grand larceny is the strongest charge against Mr Weisselberg and could lead to five to 15 years in prison.

The company could face fines that are twice the amount of the unpaid taxes or $250,000, whichever ends up being the larger sum.

Mr Weisselberg, 74, has worked for the Trump family since 1973, and started out working for Donald Trump’s father, Fred Trump. After almost 50 years with the Trumps, Mr Weisselberg is highly likely to know where any financial bodies would be buried and the case against him could help prosecutors to get him to talk and reveal what he knows. So far, there’s no indication that the 74-year-old has been forthcoming with prosecutors.

From the government’s side, the case is headed by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr and New York Attorney General Letitia James. They are both Democrats.

The former president has used the Trump Organization to handle real estate investments, such as office towers, hotels, and golf courses, as well as his marketing and TV deals.

When he was elected president in 2016, Mr Trump put his sons Eric and Donald Trump Jr in charge of the organisation.

The indictment states that Mr Weisselberg used company funds to pay for his apartment, as well as parking and utility payments. Private school tuition for Mr Weisselberg’s grandchildren was also paid by the company, using checks that included Mr Trump’s signature, prosecutors say. The Mercedes cars that the CFO and his wife drove was also paid for by the Trump Organization.

Prosecutors have said that perks like these can be seen on internal documents as being part of Mr Weisselberg’s compensation, but weren’t included on his W-2 forms and weren’t reported elsewhere. The company didn’t pay taxes on the value of these benefits, prosecutors have alleged.

The prosecution has also said that the company issued checks, at the request of Mr Weisselberg, to pay for home upgrades for both the CFO and one of his sons.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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