Top Trump leader under criminal tax investigation
The New York attorney general’s office has been investigating the chief financial officer of former President Donald J. Trump’s company for months on tax matters, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
Attorney General Letitia James’s office informed the Trump Organization in a January letter that it had opened a criminal investigation into CFO Allen Weisselberg, the people said. Investigators looked at whether taxes were paid on the benefits Mr. Trump gave him, including cars and tens of thousands of dollars in private school tuition for at least one of Mr. Weisselberg.
Previously, Ms James’ office had only conducted a civilian investigation into the Trump organization, meaning it could sue the company and seek fines, but not criminal charges.
The focus on benefits and Mr. Weisselberg overlaps the Manhattan District Attorney’s long-standing criminal fraud investigation of Mr. Trump and his family business. The district attorney’s office has investigated the extent to which Mr. Trump has granted employee benefits to some of his executives, including Mr. Weisselberg, and whether taxes have been paid on those benefits, the New York previously reported. Times.
In recent weeks, Ms James’ office has suggested to the company in a new letter that it has expanded the criminal investigation beyond focusing on Mr Weisselberg, one of the people said. It was not clear how the investigation had widened.
In general, fringe benefits – which can include cars, flights, and club memberships – are taxable, though there are some exceptions. Businesses are generally responsible for withholding these taxes from an employee’s paycheck.
Rather than risk crossing paths, the two investigative bureaus have recently started to collaborate, another person familiar with the matter said. Two assistant attorneys general from Ms James’ office have joined the district attorney’s team, which seeks to make Mr Weisselberg a cooperative witness against Mr Trump and the Trump Organization, people familiar with the effort said.
Mr. Weisselberg has not been charged with wrongdoing. His lawyer, Mary E. Mulligan, declined to comment.
The attorney general’s office revealed the collaboration on Tuesday, announcing, “We are now actively investigating the Trump organization criminally, along with the Manhattan DA.” The office did not comment further, and the district attorney’s office declined to comment.
In addition to employee benefits, Ms James and District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. examined whether Mr Trump’s company inflated the value of its properties to obtain favorable loans and lowered values to reduce taxes. .
In a lengthy statement released Wednesday, Mr. Trump called the efforts a “desperate crime investigation.” As he has done in the past, Mr. Trump, a Republican, called the two investigations politically motivated fishing expeditions. Both Mr. Vance and Ms. James are Democrats.
Mr Trump has been described by advisers as agitated by both inquiries. After moving last week from his private Florida club, Mar-a-Lago, to another of his clubs in New Jersey, he then decamped to Trump Tower for his first extended stay in years, spending time in the office. where assistants grapple with investigations for many months.
CNN reported earlier that Ms James’ office had opened a criminal tax investigation against Mr Weisselberg.
For months, Mr. Vance’s office pursued Mr. Weisselberg as a potential cooperating witness, people familiar with the effort said. Prosecutors for Mr. Vance, who paid particular attention to Mr. Weisselberg’s benefits, subpoenaed the records of Mr. Weisselberg’s bank and the Manhattan private school his grandchildren attended, reported the Times.
Mr Weisselberg’s former daughter-in-law Jennifer Weisselberg said prosecutors asked her about the tuition fees as well as the gifts her ex-husband Barry Weisselberg had received from Mr Trump, including an apartment on Central Park South and several rented cars.
Maggie Haberman and Jonah E. Bromwich contributed reporting.