The case against Trump’s company: “gun burger” or “no burger”?

Hiding executive income was such an established practice in Donald Trump’s family business, according to New York prosecutors, that he held two groups of books for the purpose: one with the salary declared by an executive to refer to the tax authority; another that counted all the extra benefits paid surreptitiously by the company.

In order Allen Weisselberg, the longtime Trump administration chief financial officer, those “off-the-shelf” profits went to more than $ 1.7 million over a 15-year period, according to a criminal charge unsealed in a New York court on Thursday. They included things like their grandchildren’s schools, rent for a luxury apartment, two Mercedes car rentals and a flat-screen TV.

For the Trump Organization, there was the benefit of reducing its own payroll taxes, which are tied to employee compensation, prosecutors said.

“This is not a standard practice,” Carey Dunne, a first assistant to Cyrus Vance, the Manhattan district attorney, told reporters. “This was a secret and bold illegal payment scheme.”

Through a blitz of statements, Trump’s lawyers derided the case as another burger nothing, to borrow a term from Don, Jr.

“Is that all they have?” asked Ronald Fischetti, Trump’s lawyer. “In my 50 years of practice, I’ve never seen this office carry such a case and, frankly, I’m amazed.”

While New York City was torn from “subway slashings, armed violence and hate crimes,” the Trump Organization said, Vance spent years and millions of dollars to bring a case on marginal benefits. “Make no mistake – it’s not about the law; it’s all about politics.”

Meanwhile, on Fox News, presenters and guests turned to take the umbrella. “Democrats have good reason to ignore street violence,” said incumbent Jesse Watters as he introduced a primetime segment on the case. “They’ve been busy perverting the criminal justice system to get the Trump Organization going.”

The question is what will a jury do about the case – and what will Weisselberg do? The loyal lieutenant who described Trump’s “eyes and ears” pleaded not guilty after entering the courthouse for a backstage Thursday morning.

With the threat of jail time, Vance and Letitia James, the New York attorney general, hope the double books and other evidence they’ve discovered persuade the 48-year-old Trump Organization veteran – a man who is was hired by Trump’s father Fred – to break up with the former president and help his investigation.

“I don’t see how you can take this seriously,” said Daniel Horwitz, a former prosecutor in Vance’s office who now runs the white-collar legal practice at McLaughlin & Stern. “It wasn’t a case of a year or two of unpaid taxes on a car. This was a scheme, according to the indictment, perpetuated for more than a decade. “

In light of the allegations, Horwitz predicted that reputable companies would be reluctant to deal with the Trump Organization.

Daniel Hemel, a law professor at the University of Chicago who specializes in tax issues, also spoke in the Vance case. “The fact that the Trump Organization kept two groups of books separate – it’s pretty close to a smoking gun,” she said, comparing the case to that of the late Leona Helmsley, the infamous.Queen of Mean».

Helmsley spent 19 months in prison after U.S. lawyer Rudolph Giuliani accused her in 1989 of fraudulently billing millions of dollars of home renovations to her husband’s property company to avoid taxes.

“It’s almost like a playbook on different ways to commit tax fraud,” said Adam Kaufmann, another veteran of Vance’s office now in private practice, of the actions described in the indictment.

Like others, he noted Weisselberg’s alleged position as orchestrator and beneficiary of the scheme, and believed that his title of chief financial officer also made it difficult to invoke ignorance in tax and accounting matters.

Another lawyer agreed, saying incredulously, “One thing is to get a company car, but a private school?”

However, some experienced defense attorneys, who refused to speak publicly, were subjected to the much-anticipated charges. “I realize that fringe benefits add up to more than 15 years, but that’s only part of the American fabric,” one said, concluding, “If this is an attempt to turn Weisselberg – and I can’t make a case for it. secondary without launching it – it’s deeply problematic. ”

Another lawyer believed that such a case would typically be resolved without criminal charges. They are worried that a zoo-like atmosphere will develop if and when Weisselberg finally goes to trial, with Trump taking the opportunity to frustrate his supporters. “You’re going to give him a bully pulpit – why?”

One of the most contentious elements of the accusation is a charge of theft. Prosecutors argued that Weisselberg’s alleged fraud allowed him not only to avoid paying taxes, but to claim more than $ 94,000 in federal tax refunds in the year, which was not due. In essence, they called it a form of property theft, reinforcing the potential sentence he could face. But some lawyers have dismissed this as a strip, and have predicted that the accusation would eventually be dismissed by the judge.

However, that will also leave other living elements of the accusation that could resonate with jurors, according to Mark Zauderer, a defense attorney. In addition to the double records, for example, prosecutors also stated that Weisselberg and his wife stated that they were not residents of New York to avoid local taxes. All the while they were the only occupants of a Trump apartment on Riverside Boulevard.

“It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that these are serious charges with significant penalties, and the supporting facts alleged in the indictment are easy for jurors to understand,” Zauderer said. “And they are likely to generate resentment in the hearts of jurors who do not benefit from the kind of tax schemes alleged by the district attorney and the grand jury.”

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