Because the Trump Organization is a corporation, not an individual, a fine is the only way a judge can punish the company after it was convicted last month.
NEW YORK. The heaviest penalty the Donald Trump company could face when it is sentenced in a New York court on Friday for helping its executives evade taxes is a $1.6 million fine — not even enough to buy apartments in Trump Tower.
Neither the former president nor his children, who helped run and promote the Trump organization, are expected to be present in the courtroom for sentencing. The company will be represented by its lawyers.
Because the Trump Organization is a corporation, not an individual, a fine is the only way a judge can punish the company after it was convicted of 17 tax crimes last month, including allegations of conspiracy and falsifying business records.
By law, the maximum fine that can be imposed by Judge Juan Manuel Mercan is about $1.6 million, equivalent to double the amount of taxes that a small group of executives evaded for benefits including free apartments in Trump buildings, luxury cars and private school tuition. . .
Trump himself did not appear in court and denied any knowledge that his leaders were illegally evading taxes.
While a fine of that amount is unlikely to impact the company’s operations or future, the conviction is a black mark on the Republican’s reputation as a savvy businessman who has campaigned to reclaim the White House.
Aside from the company, only one executive has been charged in the case: former Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, who pleaded guilty last summer to tax evasion on a $1.7 million settlement.
On Tuesday, he was sentenced to five months in prison.
Trump said the case against his company was part of a politically motivated “witch hunt” unleashed against him by vengeful Democrats. Lawyers of the company promised to appeal the verdict.
The criminal case involved financial practices and pay arrangements that the company ended when Trump was elected president in 2016.
During his years as the company’s chief financial officer, Weisselberg received a free apartment in a Trump-branded building in Manhattan overlooking the Hudson River. He and his wife drove Mercedes-Benz cars leased by the company. When his grandchildren went to an exclusive private school, Trump paid for their education.
Several other executives received similar benefits.
When called to testify against the Trump Organization in court, Weisselberg testified that he did not pay taxes on the compensation and that he and the company’s vice president conspired to hide benefits by forcing the company to issue falsified W-2 forms.
Weisselberg also tried to claim responsibility as a witness, saying no one in the Trump family knew what he was doing. He gasped as he told the jury, “It was my personal greed that led to this.”
Lawyers for the Trump Organization repeated the mantra, “Weisselberg did it for Weisselberg,” claiming that he had gone rogue and betrayed the company’s trust.
Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass attempted to refute the claim in his closing argument by showing jurors the lease that Trump himself had signed for Weisselberg’s apartment.
“Mr. Trump is clearly authorizing tax fraud,” Steinglass said.
On December 6, the jury found the company guilty of tax fraud.
The company’s fine is unlikely to impact profits for a venture with a global portfolio of golf courses, hotels and development projects. He can get into big trouble out of court due to reputational damage, such as difficulty finding new deals and business partners.
The Trump organization’s conviction and sentencing did not end Trump’s battle with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat who took office in January. Bragg said the related investigation into Trump, which began under his predecessor Cyrus Vance Jr., is “active and ongoing” with the prosecution being led by a newly hired prosecutor.
At the same time, New York Attorney General Letitia James is suing Trump and the Trump organization, alleging they misled banks and others about the value of her many assets, a practice she called “the art of stealing.”
James, a Democrat, is asking the court to stop Trump and his three older children from running any New York company and wants to fine them at least $250 million. The judge set a trial date for October. As a preliminary measure, he appointed an observer for the company while the case was being considered.
Trump faces a number of other legal challenges as he hopes to reclaim the White House in 2024.
A special grand jury in Atlanta was investigating whether Trump and his allies committed any crimes in an attempt to undo his loss in the 2020 election in Georgia.
Last month, a House committee on January 6 voted to refer a criminal case to the Justice Department over Trump’s role in fomenting a violent uprising at the US Capitol. The FBI is also investigating Trump’s possession of classified documents.