Trump Organization sentenced to maximum fine following tax fraud conviction
The former president did not go on trial himself.
Former President Donald Trump's namesake family real estate firm was sentenced to the maximum allowable fine Friday in New York following its conviction on 17 counts, including a 13-year scheme to defraud.
The company will pay a fine of just over $1.6 million.
While a prosecutor, Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass, conceded the amount is a fraction of the company's earnings, he called the scheme it was convicted of "far-reaching and brazen."
"The sheer magnitude of this fraud merits the largest financial sanction authorized by law," Steinglass said. "The defendants cultivated a pervasive culture of fraud."
Judge Juan Merchan imposed the maximum sentence and scolded the defense for continuing to blame the company's accountant for the fraud.
"It's not what the evidence has showed and it's not what the jury found," Merchan said.
He gave the company 14 days to pay.
The verdict, delivered Dec. 6, held the Trump Organization liable for the criminal conduct of some of its top executives, mainly Allen Weisselberg, the former chief financial officer who was sent to jail on Rikers Island earlier this week for arranging nearly $2 million of his compensation off the books.
Trump himself was not charged and the company's defense attorneys said he did not know about the scheme. However, his name came up dozens of times, mainly on defense examination of witnesses.
Defense attorney Michael van der Veen said in his closing statement that jurors "heard no evidence in this case that Mr. Trump or any of his children were aware of anything improper."
Prosecutors said the former president sanctioned fraud. They showed the jury checks Trump signed and a memo he initialed
"This whole narrative that Donald Trump is blissfully ignorant is just not true," Steinglass said during his closing statement.
"I want to be very clear, we don't think that is enough" Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg told reporters of the fine after the sentencing. "Our laws in this state need to change in order to capture this type of decade-plus systemic and egregious fraud that was captured so well today by the ADA and laid bare for you and most importantly for the jury throughout this trial."
Prosecutors said the Trump Organization arranged for Weisselberg and other company executives to receive part of their compensation in perks, like private school tuition and car payments, to evade taxes. In doing so, prosecutors said the executives had some intent to help the company pay less in salaries, bonuses and payroll taxes.
The defense argued the executives never intended to benefit the company and said the scheme the executives hatched was motivated solely by personal greed.
The Trump Organization called Weisselberg a "victim" who was "threatened, intimidated and terrorized" in a statement released after the sentencing.
"New York has become the crime and murder capital of the world, yet these politically motivated prosecutors will stop at nothing to get President Trump and continue the never ending witch-hunt which began the day he announced his presidency," the statement read. "We did nothing wrong and we will appeal this verdict."
The trial revealed potentially embarrassing details about Trump, including nearly $1 billion in operating losses Trump reported over a two-year period in 2009 and 2010.
Trump's outside accountant also testified that Trump reported losses each year for eight years from 2009 to 2018, some of the same years Trump was touting his business acumen on reality television and on the campaign trail.
"This was a case about greed and cheating. In Manhattan, no corporation is above the law," Bragg said at the time the verdict was announced last month. "For 13 years the Trump Corporation and the Trump Payroll Corporation got away with a scheme that awarded high-level executives with lavish perks and compensation while intentionally concealing the benefits from the taxing authorities to avoid paying taxes."
In addition to the fine, the Trump Organization faces potential collateral consequences that could be more severe if banks call in loans or business partners cancel contracts due to internal clauses that prohibit doing business with felons.