Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass blasted claims by lawyers for the Trump Organization companies that former chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg acted alone and was the sole beneficiary of the fraud.
While Trump and his family aren’t charged in the case, Steinglass said in his closing argument Thursday that the former president was aware of what Weisselberg and other executives were doing.
“The Trump Organization cultivated a culture of fraud and deception, of lavishing perks to senior executives, of deliberately concealing their income from their accountants and then scapegoating those accountants,” he said.
Trump Corp and Trump Payroll Corp are accused of engaging in a scam over more than a decade to help Weisselberg, other executives and the companies themselves evade taxes by hiding perks such as luxury cars and apartments.
Weisselberg, who pleaded guilty to tax fraud charges, served as the prosecution’s star witness, while Jeffrey McConney, the Trump Organization’s controller, testified for the government under a grant of immunity. Weisselberg admitted evading taxes on about $1.7 million in fringe benefits.
Lawyers for Trump didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
One of the trial’s most dramatic moments came after jurors left court Thursday, when Steinglass complained to the judge that defense lawyers repeatedly claimed in closing arguments that Trump and his family had no knowledge of the fraud.
The prosecutor promised when court resumed Friday, he would delve further into Trump’s alleged knowledge of the scheme.
“It’s only fair,” New York State Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan said.
Earlier Thursday, lawyers defending the two businesses argued that prosecutors failed to prove Weisselberg intended to benefit the companies with his fraud.
“We are here today because of one reason and one reason only: the greed of Allen Weisselberg,” said Susan Necheles, a lawyer for Trump Corp. She argued there was no evidence Weisselberg committed the fraud to help the companies, but only sought to enrich himself.
Michael van der Veen, a lawyer for Trump Payroll Corp., said there was no evidence any other high-ranking executive besides Weisselberg engaged in the scheme.
“Weisselberg did it for Weisselberg,” van der Veen repeatedly told jurors.
Both defense lawyers argued that prosecutors forced Weisselberg to testify against the company he helped build.
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