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Trump Organization ready to call ex-CFO a liar as tax fraud trial begins

Economy Oct 25, 2022 09:51AM ET
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© Reuters. Former U.S. president Donald Trump speaks during a rally in Robstown, Texas, U.S., October 22, 2022. REUTERS/Go Nakamura

By Karen Freifeld and Luc Cohen

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Jury selection began on Monday in the tax fraud trial of former U.S. President Donald Trump's company, with the Trump Organization ready to accuse its longtime chief financial officer of lying in a criminal case in which it is accused of awarding "off the books" benefits to some senior executives.

The trial in a New York state court is one of a mounting number of legal woes for Trump as he considers another run for the presidency in 2024. The Manhattan district attorney's office last year charged Trump's namesake real estate company and Allen Weisselberg, its then-chief financial officer.

Weisselberg pleaded guilty in August to helping the company defraud tax authorities for 15 years in an agreement with prosecutors requiring him to testify at this trial. The charges to which Weisselberg pleaded guilty included grand larceny and tax fraud, and he admitted concealing $1.76 million in income.

Weisselberg, considered the prosecution's star witness, is set to testify along with the company's controller, Jeffrey McConney.

Susan Necheles, a lawyer for the Trump Organization, said in a virtual hearing last week that challenging Weisselberg's admission that he hid information from the accountants would be part of the company's defense, according to a transcript of the proceeding held privately that was later unsealed.

"Weisselberg will testify he believed everything he was doing was wrong," Necheles said during the video conference. "We think he's lying and we want to show that."

Necheles said Weisselberg and McConney relied on outside accountants "who led them to believe that certain things were done correctly."

The process of choosing a 12-member jury began, with Justice Juan Merchan presiding over a trial he said could last six weeks. The judge told more than 100 prospective jurors about the charges and informed them that the company pleaded not guilty and that proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt would be required for conviction.

Merchan heard from 19 prospective jurors who read him answers to a written questionnaire seeking basic biographical details as well as whether they had strong opinions on Trump or his companies.

Several jurors who said they had strong opinions but that they could remain fair were allowed to stay. One who said her views would interfere with her ability to be impartial was dismissed. Lawyers from both sides on Tuesday will have the opportunity to question prospective jurors in more detail.

Michael Van der Veen, a lawyer for Trump, told jurors his team would focus on Tuesday on asking whether jurors could truly be fair and impartial. He said he was optimistic jury selection could be completed by Friday.

TRUMP NOT CHARGED

The Trump Organization, which operates hotels, golf courses and other real estate around the world, could face up to $1.6 million in fines for the three tax fraud counts and six other counts it faces. The company has pleaded not guilty.

Trump, a Republican businessman-turned-politician who rose to fame in New York, is not charged in the case.

Weisselberg has refused to cooperate with prosecutors in their investigation, agreeing only to testify as required by his plea agreement. Weisselberg is meeting with both sides to assure that his testimony goes smoothly, giving each the chance to learn what they may elicit "that is helpful to their respective positions," his lawyer Nicholas Gravante said.

In his guilty plea, Weisselberg admitted to scheming with the company so that "substantial portions" of his and other employees' income was unreported or misreported.

Weisselberg's plea agreement stated that he evaded paying taxes on unreported income from the Trump Organization in the form of benefits including rent payments for a Manhattan apartment, multiple Mercedes Benz automobiles, private school tuition for his grandchildren and cash and furnishings for his apartment and home in Florida.

   Weisselberg has worked for the company for nearly half a century. He went from being CFO to a senior advisor after he and the company were indicted. After his guilty plea, he was placed on a paid leave of absence, according to a person familiar with the matter. The Trump Organization after his guilty plea called Weisselberg a "fine and honorable man."

    Weisselberg was promised a sentence of five months in jail if he testifies truthfully in the trial. 

    The case is separate from a $250 million civil lawsuit filed by New York's attorney general against Trump, three of his adult children and his company in September, accusing them of overstating asset values and his net worth to get favorable bank loans and insurance coverage.

One potential juror, a 34-year-old woman who was excused from serving in the criminal trial for job-related reasons, told reporters outside the courtroom she could not have been impartial.

"He's guilty in my mind, whatever the case is," she said of Trump. "Anything he does, his corporation does."

Trump Organization ready to call ex-CFO a liar as tax fraud trial begins
 

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Comments (11)
Ken Roth
Ken Roth Oct 25, 2022 10:19AM ET
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Why is Trump not in jail.???...He has been swindling all his life, lying to all authorities about his income and wealth, *******women or sticking his finger where it does not belong, doing Putins work in washington, trying to overthrow the democracy in US, stealing national secrets to sell to foreign powers etc.
gab nea
gab nea Oct 24, 2022 7:51PM ET
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the criminal organization was headed by none other than the Don!
Izaak Salman
BondBonds Oct 24, 2022 5:45PM ET
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Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah One way ticket, one way ticket Let’s hides the truth and blame on Trump
Izaak Salman
BondBonds Oct 24, 2022 5:35PM ET
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No one talks about clans many years rubbing country. To hide their wrongs doing blaming everything on Trump. This man really delivered promises!
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Oct 24, 2022 5:35PM ET
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Not sure about the clan rubbing, but Trump sure drained the swamp, repealed Obama care and replaced it with something better, and delivered a great infrastructure package... right?
Maximus Maximus
Maximus Maximus Oct 24, 2022 5:20PM ET
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criminal traitor trump lying with his every breath, yet has the audacity to call others liars
Ac Tektrader
Ac Tektrader Oct 24, 2022 11:28AM ET
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yes vito, there are a lot of fascists, racists, añd true believers ,people looking for their "dear leader".
Vito Tagliano
Vito Tagliano Oct 24, 2022 10:38AM ET
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The more They mess with Trump, The more his Rocketing in poles 🚀🚀
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Oct 24, 2022 10:38AM ET
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Except, not in reality. Back to your fantasy.
Benjamin USA
Benjamin USA Oct 24, 2022 10:38AM ET
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Triggered MAGA snowflakes are everywhere lmfao. Vito is a cuck and simp for his Trump daddy hahahahahahah loser
Steven ML
Steven ML Oct 24, 2022 10:38AM ET
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Sorry, I read "the more my pole is rocketing"
Ac Tektrader
Ac Tektrader Oct 24, 2022 10:33AM ET
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as always there will be a fall guy usually a loyal employee will take the hit and the organization will throw him under the bus.
Ac Tektrader
Ac Tektrader Oct 24, 2022 10:28AM ET
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The Trump organization has already proven to be a criminal organization run by a con man with the organization's trump university. there now is enough evidence to charge them with tax fraud and banking fraud. this is about trump's criminality not politics.
Greg Dee
Greg Dee Oct 24, 2022 10:15AM ET
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How is it that the Republicans and Trump are the only white collar criminals? Doesn't anyone find that absolutely ridiculous? Frankly, voters only need to realize that focus will turn on them someday if they don't vote the present party members out of all offices in America.
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Oct 24, 2022 10:15AM ET
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Yeah, that would be ridiculous, if it were a fact beyond your partisan hallucinations.
Benjamin USA
Benjamin USA Oct 24, 2022 10:15AM ET
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Greg when democrats do the bad: see! I told you all democrats bad!!! Greg when republicans do the bad: Why so mean to this great man!! 😭😭😭😭 everyone so mean to nice republicans!! Cant we all just forget this crime and get long? 🥺🥺🥺
 
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