NEW YORK, Jan 13 (Reuters) – Donald Trump will learn on Friday how the company bearing the former U.S. president’s name will be punished after being accused of defrauding tax authorities for 15 years.
A New York state judge will impose the sentence after a jury in Manhattan found two Trump Organization affiliates guilty of 17 criminal charges last month.
The ruling comes three days after Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Juan Merchan ordered the company’s former chief financial officer, Alan Weiselberg, who worked for the Trump family for half a century, to serve five months in prison after he testified as the prosecution’s star witness. .
Trump’s company only faces a maximum fine of $1.6 million, but has said it plans to appeal. No one else has been charged or jailed in the case.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office, which brought the case, is still conducting a criminal investigation into Trump’s business practices.
Bill Black, a professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law who specializes in white-collar crime, called the expected sentence a “rounding error” that provides “zero deterrent” to others, including Trump.
“It’s a travesty,” he said. “This sentence will not stop anyone from committing such crimes.”
The case has long been a thorn in the side of the former Republican president, who he says is part of a witch hunt by Democrats who dislike him and his politics.
Trump and his adult children, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump, are facing a $250 million civil lawsuit alleging they inflated his net worth and the value of his company’s assets to save money on loans and insurance.
Bragg and James were Democrats, Bragg’s predecessor, Cyrus Vance, brought the criminal case. Trump, who lost re-election in 2020, is running for president in 2024.
During the four-week trial, prosecutors presented evidence that Trump’s company included personal expenses such as rent and car leases for executives without reporting them as income, and pretended that Christmas bonuses were non-employee compensation.
Trump himself signed the bonus checks, prosecutors said, as well as the lease on Weiselberg’s luxury Manhattan apartment and private school tuition for the CFO’s grandchildren.
“The whole narrative that Donald Trump is blissfully ignorant is not true,” Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass told jurors in his closing argument.
Weiselberg’s testimony helped convict the company, even though he said Trump was not part of the fraud scheme. He also refused to help Bragg in the broader investigation into Trump.
The Trump Organization placed Weiselberg on paid leave until he severed ties this week. His attorney said the split, announced Tuesday, was amicable.
Weiselberg, 75, is serving time at New York City’s notorious Rikers Island prison.
State law limits the fines Judge Merson can impose on Trump’s company. A company can be fined up to $250,000 for each tax-related count and $10,000 for each non-tax count.
Trump faces a number of legal issues, including investigations into the January 6, 2021 attack on the US capital, his retention of classified documents after leaving the White House and attempts to overturn his 2020 election loss in Georgia.
Reporting by Karen Freefield and Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Jonathan Otis
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