On Friday, the family real estate firm of former president Donald J. Trump was sentenced to pay a $1.6 million criminal penalty for its conviction on felony tax fraud and other crimes. The sentence of Mr. Trump’s corporation in December for providing off-the-books bonuses to some of its senior executives culminated in this punishment handed out by a judge in the State Supreme Court in Manhattan.
Allen H. Weisselberg, one of the executives involved in the fraud, pled guilty and testified at the company’s trial. On Tuesday, he was given a five-month prison term at New York City’s infamous Rikers Island. The corporation and the ex-president made millions of dollars in annual sales while he was in office, so the financial penalty is little compared to that.
However, the decision branded the corporation as a lawbreaker, exposing a culture that promoted criminality for years and provided political ammunition to Mr. Trump’s opponents. District attorneys in Manhattan have not given up on their criminal probe of the man. On Friday, attorneys for the Trump Organization asked for a reduced punishment by arguing that an independent accounting company, Mazars USA, was negligent and should have prevented the illegal activity.
They also hold Mr. Weisselberg accountable, saying he plotted against the Trump Organization without any malice. However, Joshua Steinglass, one of the prosecutors, claimed the corporation engaged in “a multidimensional scheme to defraud the tax authorities.” Rather than risk being caught, “they just fabricated the paperwork,” he said. We have no other word for this behavior save “egregious.” Even though the highest penalty may have little effect on the company, he said that “this court should nonetheless impose such fines.”
Juan Merchan, the presiding judge, concurred and issued the maximum possible fine of $1.61 million. The defense’s claims that Mazars and Mr. Weisselberg were to blame “are points that have been advanced throughout the trial,” Justice Merchan remarked. This is contrary to the evidence presented and the verdict reached by the jury. District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg issued a statement asking the state to amend the statute “so that we can inflict more serious fines and punishments on businesses that commit crimes in New York.”
In an interview published on Friday morning, he extended on that remark, adding that the lack of a severe penalty “allows a firm, if it wanted to be bold, to price this sort of behavior in.” He advocated for a more severe “immediate consequence.” While careful consideration must precede any expansion of our criminal code, I believe this is one case in which it would be beneficial to do so.
On Friday, one of the firm’s attorneys, Susan Necheles, said in court that they will be appealing the conviction, arguing, “The D.A., as usual, or again, does not comprehend the tax law.” Despite the case being resolved on Friday, Mr. Trump and his family business are still being investigated in Manhattan, where the trial shone a harsh light on the inner workings of the Trump Organization.
Friday saw the former president’s family real estate business receive a $1.6 million criminal penalty for its conviction on felony tax fraud and other charges.
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