Posts tagged with "CFO Allen Weisselberg"

Two Trump Organization employees are called to testify before Manhattan grand jury

September 3, 2021

Two Trump Organization employees—a senior finance official and a director of security—are expected to testify before a grand jury early this month, as Manhattan prosecutors seek to advance their criminal investigation into former President Donald Trump’s business affairs, according to people familiar with the matter, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Matthew Calamari Jr., the Trump Organization’s corporate director of security—and the son of the company’s COO—was served a subpoena for his testimony this week, the sources said. Prosecutors have examined an apartment Calamari received from the Trump Organization and how he reported that apartment on his taxes, according to those same sources.

Jeffrey McConney, a senior finance official at the Trump Organization, also is expected to go before the grand jury again very shortly.

Citing people with knowledge of the matter, The New York Times reported that the order for McConney—the long-standing Trump Organization controller and one of a small group of officials supervising the company’s fiscal matters—to testify before a state grand jury relating to the office’s ongoing probe into top Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg.

McConney, who previously testified before the grand jury prior to the indictments of the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer earlier this summer, prepared the personal tax returns of Matthew Calamari Sr. , people familiar with the matter said.

Calamari Jr.’s testimony before the grand jury would grant him immunity on the subjects about which he testified—signaling that prosecutors don’t plan to indict him. Prosecutors continue to investigate whether the elder Calamari received tax-free fringe benefits and to determine whether his cooperation would be helpful to them, according to people familiar with the matter.

Nicholas Gravante Jr., the Calamaris’ lawyer, denied wrongdoing by his clients and said: “If either of my clients [is] subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury, they have no choice but to do so, and will appear and testify truthfully.”

A lawyer for McConney didn’t respond to a request for comment.

In July, the Manhattan district attorney’s office announced indictments—charging the Trump Organization and Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg with tax fraud. Prosecutors accused Weisselberg and the company of a 15-year-long tax-fraud scheme involving off-the-books payments and perks like cars and apartments to employees at the company. Prosecutors from the New York attorney general’s office are working with the district attorney’s office on the case.

According to the Journal, Weisselberg and lawyers for the Trump Organization have pleaded not guilty. Alan Futerfas, a lawyer for the Trump Organization, said that the case was brought because of the Trump name and that compensation cases are resolved by civil tax authorities.

Since then, prosecutors have fought with the Trump Organization over documents the district attorney’s office subpoenaed.

A second sealed court appearance over that dispute took place last week, according to people familiar with the matter.

Research contact: @WSJ

Trump’s claims of ‘tax genius’ may undermine his legal defense of ‘ignorance’

July 8, 2021

Former President Donald Trump has claimed for years to be “a master of the tax code.” But now—faced with charges leveled against the Trump Organization and its CFO, Allen Weisselberg, by New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr.—Trump is going with a legal defense of ignorance.

Experts say his past comments may be his undoing, The Daily Beast reports.

Faced with an indictment of his family’s business empire for criminal tax fraud, former President Donald Trump previewed a defense strategy—of sorts—last weekend: ignorance of the law.

“I don’t even know. Does anybody know the answer to that stuff?” he shrugged on Saturday, July 3, in front of adoring fans at a political rally in Sarasota, Florida.

The twice-impeached former president’s remarks provoked a flurry of reactions from some legal commentators and pundits, who saw a besieged client running his mouth in public, and potentially undermining his legal team’s carefully manicured strategies.

But Trump wasn’t so much upturning his legal defense as much as he was delivering his sloppy rendition of it, The Daily Beast says.

According to two people familiar with the matter, lawyers representing him and the Trump Organization are preparing to include this very point in court arguments, given how much the specific intent of an individual matters in areas of New York tax law.

And yet, former prosecutors and defense lawyers who have tried criminal tax cases in New York City told The Daily Beast that Trump, his family, and company executives face a steep hill—and it’s mostly due to Trump himself.

“To a certain extent, not knowing the law is a defense… It’s one of the only defenses in a case like this,” said Tess Cohen, a former New York prosecutor. “But I have trouble believing that’ll get very far.”

That’s because, for years, Trump has called himself “king of the tax code.”

“Nobody knows the tax code better than I do… I’m like a student of the tax code,” he said during a 60 Minutes interview in 2015. He repeated that sentiment on MSNBC and later told supporters in Tampa: “I know more about taxes than any human being that God ever created.”

Trump’s attorney Ronald Fischetti did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

Should this investigation make its way to trial, prosecutors with the Manhattan district attorney and New York State attorney general would certainly want to question Trump under oath for hours, legal scholars said. The result would be “devastating” for his defense, said Carl Bornstein, a former New York prosecutor who now teaches at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

“Those prior inconsistent statements will undermine his claim of lack of knowledge on cross-examination,” he said.

Behind the scenes, the ex-president has insisted that New York prosecutors are out to hurt his business and to try to poison the Trump Organization’s dealings with other companies. In the past few weeks, Trump has encouraged people close to him to publicly claim that his family business is thriving, according to two people familiar with his request.

In recent private conversations, the former president has lamented that further investigation into him and others at the Trump Organization could potentially stretch on for years, adding to his hefty and growing pile of legal bills.

As Trump continues to weigh running for president again in 2024, any increased pressure or potential indictments from New York prosecutors could hobble another lengthy campaign. Still, several longtime advisers to Trump have reassured him that the vast core of Republican voters will not abandon him, should he choose to run again, and that the probes in his home state merely reinforce their devotion.

“The numbers don’t change. Rock solid,” John McLaughlin, who worked as one of Trump’s top pollsters during the 2016 and 2020 campaigns, said, citing his own recent polling data. “Attacks on President Trump galvanize his base.”

When the IRS hunts someone down for refusing to pay taxes, government lawyers don’t have to show intent. But this legal battle is taking place in New York, where state laws require prosecutors to prove that someone was “willfully engaging” in tax fraud.

It’s a higher bar, but not an insurmountable one—especially when it seems that investigators have specific documents that would indicate a concerted effort to conceal the truth.

The 25-page indictment says investigators have “internal spreadsheets” that show exactly how unreported perks replaced employee income, Cohen, the former New York prosecutor, noted.

“Simultaneously, the Trump Organization reduced the amount of direct compensation that Weisselberg received in the form of checks or direct deposits to account for the indirect compensation that he received in the form of payments of rent, utility bills, and garage expenses,” the indictment claims.

“You can’t get much better evidence than that,” Cohen said.

Research contact: @thedailybeast

Trump Organization attorneys have until end-of-day June 28 to persuade prosecutors not to file charges

June 29, 2021

Prosecutors in New York have given former President Donald Trump’s attorneys a deadline of Monday afternoon, June 28, to make their final arguments as to why the Trump Organization should not face criminal charges over its financial dealings, according to two people familiar with the matter, The Washington Post reports.

That deadline is a strong signal that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. (D) and New York Attorney General Letitia James (D)—now working together, after each has spent more than two years investigating Trump’s business—are considering criminal charges against the company as an entity.

Earlier this year, Vance convened a grand jury in Manhattan to consider indictments in the investigation. No entity or individual has been charged in the investigations thus far, and it remains possible that no charges will be filed, the Post says.

Prosecutors have shown interest in whether Trump’s company used misleading valuations of its properties to deceive lenders and taxing authorities, and in whether taxes were paid on fringe benefits for company executives, according to court documents and people familiar with the investigations.

The two people familiar with the deadline set for Trump’s attorneys spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose private conversations. Under New York law, prosecutors may file charges against corporations in addition to individuals.

Last Thursday, lawyers working for Trump personally and for the Trump Organization met virtually with prosecutors to make the case that charges were not warranted. Meetings like these are common in financial investigations. The Post notes—allowing defense attorneys a chance to present evidence before prosecutors make a decision on whether to seek charges.

Thursday’s meeting was first reported by The New York Times. Spokespeople for Vance and James declined to comment on Sunday, as did an attorney for Trump, Ronald Fischetti, and an attorney for the Trump Organization, Alan Futerfas.

People familiar with the probe confirmed to The Washington Post that prosecutors were looking at charging the Trump Organization as an entity, as well as Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, following Weisselberg’s refusal to assist in the investigation.

Trump—who on June 26 kicked off a planned series of rallies to boost his and favored Republicans’ future election prospects—still owns his businesses through a trust managed by his adult sons and Weisselberg. He gave up day-to-day management of the company while in the White House, but it is unclear what role he plays in the company’s operations now.

Last month, Trump called the investigations a “witch hunt” run by Democrats seeking to damage his future political prospects.

Research contact: @washingtonpost