The Trump Organization is ready to call the former chief a liar as the tax fraud investigation begins

NEW YORK, Oct 24 (Reuters) – Jury selection in the tax fraud trial of former U.S. President Donald Trump’s company began on Monday, with the Trump Organization poised to accuse its longtime chief financial officer of lying in a case that accused the business. Providing “off the books” benefits to certain senior executives.

The criminal case in New York state court is one of Trump’s mounting legal troubles as he considers another run for president in 2024. The Manhattan district attorney’s office last year indicted Trump’s namesake real estate firm and Alan Weiselberg. -Chief Financial Officer.

Weiselberg pleaded guilty in August to helping the company defraud tax authorities over 15 years. Agreement With the lawyers that he should testify in this trial. The charges to which Weiselberg pleaded guilty included grand larceny and tax fraud, and he admitted concealing $1.76 million in income.

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Weiselberg, considered the prosecution’s star witness, is set to testify along with company controller Jeffrey McKenney.

Susan Nechels, a lawyer for the Trump Organization, said in a virtual hearing last week that challenging Weiselberg’s admission that he withheld information from accountants would be part of the company’s defense, according to a transcript of the privately held proceeding that has since been unsealed.

“Weiselberg will testify that he believes everything he’s doing is wrong,” Nessels said during the video conference. “We think he’s lying and we want to show that.”

Nessels said Weiselberg and McConey relied on outside accountants “who led them to believe they did some things right.”

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Judge Juan Mercant presided over the trial in Manhattan, which he said would last six weeks. The judge told more than 100 prospective jurors that the accused pleaded not guilty and that conviction would require proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

The judge asked any potential jurors to say if they didn’t think they could serve in the trial.

Attorneys for both sides will have the chance to question prospective jurors about their personal opinions of Trump, the Republican businessman-turned-politician who first rose to fame decades ago in the most populous American city, and whether they can decide. Impartial litigation. The city is very democratic.

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

“He’s a criminal in my mind,” she said of Trump. “Whatever he does, his company does.”

Trump has not been charged

The Trump Organization, which runs hotels, golf courses and other real estate around the world, could face fines of up to $1.6 million on three counts of tax fraud and six counts it faces. The company is innocent. Trump has not been charged in the case.

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Weiselberg refused to cooperate with prosecutors, agreeing only to testify as part of his plea deal. Weiselberg meets with both sides to make sure his testimony goes smoothly, giving each a chance to see if they can “help their respective positions.”

In his guilty plea, Weiselberg admitted to conspiring with the company so that “substantial portions” of his and other employees’ income were not reported or misreported.

Weiselberg’s plea agreement alleges he evaded taxes on undeclared income from the Trump Organization in the form of benefits including rent for a Manhattan apartment, several Mercedes-Benz automobiles, private school tuition for his grandchildren, and cash and furnishings for his apartment and home. Weiselberg said the plan also includes improper payments to certain employees as Florida non-employee compensation.

Weiselberg has worked at the Trump Organization for nearly half a century. He moved from CEO to senior adviser when he and the company were indicted last year. After his guilty plea, he was placed on paid leave, a person familiar with the matter said. The Trump Organization accused Weiselberg of being a “good and honorable man.”

Weiselberg was promised a five-month prison sentence if he testified truthfully at trial, and he could be released after 100 days. He agreed to pay nearly $2 million in back taxes, penalties and interest to city and state tax officials.

The criminal case is separate from a $250 million civil suit filed by the New York attorney general in September against Trump, his three adult children and his company. .

Trump’s other legal troubles include a federal criminal investigation into the removal of government documents from the White House when he left office last year.

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Reporting by Karen Freifeld in New York; Additional reporting by Luke Cohen. Editing by Will Dunham and Nolene Walter

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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