The CFO of the Trump Organization pleaded not guilty after he was charged with 15 felony counts and accused of engaging in a 15-year tax scheme and hiding around $1.7 million in income from tax authorities.
The charges include grand larceny, and stem from what an official with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office described as a “15-year long tax fraud scheme” involving the “most senior executives” at the Trump Organization.
"Today is an important marker in the ongoing criminal investigation of the Trump Organization and its CFO, Allen Weisselberg. In the indictment, we allege, among other things, financial wrongdoing whereby the Trump Organization engaged in a scheme with Mr. Weisselberg to avoid paying taxes on certain compensation. This investigation will continue, and we will follow the facts and the law wherever they may lead,” said New York state Attorney General Letitia James in a statement on Thursday after the indictment was unsealed.
Former President Donald Trump’s namesake company itself was also hit with a number of the charges including tax fraud, and pleaded not guilty.
Attorneys for Mr Weisselberg and the Trump Organization spoke at a press conference after a court hearing on Thursday, where they claimed that their clients were the victims of an overt political attack.
“The IRS has never made a case like this,” argued Alan Futerfas, an attorney for Mr Weisselberg, adding that the matter should have been handled in civil court. “I think it is an improper precedent. I think the office knows this.”
Adding that he did not believe a criminal case would have been brought against Mr Weisselberg if the name of the company did not bear the former president’s last name, Mr Futerfas added that today’s tense political atmosphere was “driving today’s events.”
“Given the unprecedented nature of these charges...that’s the reason that these charges were brought,” he said.
Susan Necklace, an attorney for the Trump Organization, added that New York state Attorney General Letitia James had campaigned on using the legal system to target Mr Trump, and that today’s charges were the result of those efforts.
Carey Dunne, a prosecutor for Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, refuted those allegations, stating that “[p]olitics has no role in the jury chamber and I can assure you it had no role here”.
Mr Weisselberg is just the latest in a long line of associates of Mr Trump who have been targeted for criminal prosecution in recent years. He pardoned his longtime advisers Steve Bannon, Roger Stone, and Paul Manafort in the waning days of his presidency for a host of criminal convictions racked up by the three men.
In a statement addressing the charges on Thursday, Mr Trump said that the “political witch hunt” against him and his supporters continues.