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Tag: allen weisselberg

New Manhattan Grand Jury Convened To Expand Trump Probe

By Karen Freifeld

NEW YORK (Reuters) -The Manhattan district attorney has convened another grand jury to weigh possible new charges in a case involving the Trump Organization, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters on Thursday.

The second grand jury was expected to examine how former President Donald Trump's company valued its assets, the Washington Post reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.

The legal woes could complicate the company's relationships with banks, and could pose a challenge to Trump's political future as he considers running for another term in 2024. Trump has called the charges politically motivated.

The criminal case stems from a probe by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance in collaboration with New York State Attorney General Letitia James.

An indictment unsealed in July charged the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, with tax fraud arising from a probe into Trump's business and its practices.

That indictment said the company provided perks and benefits such as rent-free apartments and leased cars to Weisselberg and other officials without proper reporting on tax returns.

Both Weisselberg and the company pleaded not guilty. A Republican, Trump himself has not been charged.

The new grand jury was seated after the first grand jury's term expired, said the person familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

A spokesman for the Manhattan District Attorney's office declined to comment.

A lawyer for the Trump Organization did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Mary Mulligan, a lawyer for Weisselberg, declined to comment.

Trump's company operates hotels, golf courses, and resorts around the world. Before entering the White House in January 2017, Trump put it into a trust overseen by his adult sons Donald Jr. and Eric, as well as Weisselberg. The current status of the trust was not immediately clear.

Besides Weisselberg, another Trump Organization executive who has come under a glare is chief operating officer Matthew Calamari.

Calamari's lawyer Nicholas Gravante has not yet been informed whether his client will be charged or subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury, another person familiar with the probe told Reuters on Thursday.

Calamari's son, Matthew Calamari Jr., testified before a grand jury in September in connection with the case and has immunity from possible prosecution, said the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Seven Springs Estate

James' probe was initially civil in nature, but in May her office said it was also investigating the Trump Organization in a criminal capacity and had joined forces with Vance.

While it was not immediately clear what the second grand jury was focusing on, James' civil probe has been examining how the Trump organization assessed the value of Seven Springs, a 212-acre estate in New York City's northern suburbs, and in particular a 2015 agreement not to develop a portion of the property.

The attorney general's office said in a court filing for the probe that an appraiser hired by Trump before the agreement set the property's value at $56.6 million and the easement's value at $21.1 million - the amount Trump claimed as an income tax deduction.

James has said she is also investigating a Los Angeles golf club owned by the Trump Organization, which gave the company a tax deduction for a conservation easement in 2014, as well as buildings the company owns on Wall Street and in Chicago.

She said she opened that investigation after Trump's former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, said that Trump's financial statements were manipulated to obtain better loans or reduce real estate taxes.

Vance, a Democrat, will step down at the end of the year. James, also a Democrat, has said she will run for governor of New York in 2022.

(Reporting by Karen Freifeld; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Noeleen Walder, Alistair Bell and Aurora Ellis)

New Probe Is Focused On Financing Of Trump’s Scottish Golf Resorts

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Lawyers affiliated with a global activism organization are intensifying their push for a "McMafia" legal order against former President Donald Trump.

Under that order, Trump would be required to disclose financial origin of his "all-cash purchases and development of his two Scottish golf resorts," HuffPost reports.

Citing the Trump Organization's legal and financial woes with prosecutors in New York, the lawyers argue that their concerns about the Aberdeenshire and Ayrshire properties have merit.

Last week, Kay Springham, a lawyer for the American-based nonprofit Avaaz, laid out his arguments during a virtual hearing with Scotland's highest civil court.

"It's evident from the matters set out in the petition that there are real and substantial concerns about financial arrangements of the Trump Organization, of which Mr. Trump is the sole or principal owner," Springham argued.

Springham also referenced the charges against Allen Weisselberg, former chief financial officer for the Trump Organization. Prosecutors allege Weisselberg was part of "a 15-year tax scheme to defraud the city, state and federal government by concealing the salaries of top company executives."

In fact, Weisselberg is even accused of hiding certain details about more than $1.7 million of his own income.

Springham is now seeking an extension outside of his three-month deadline to prepare a full case for the court, as he noted that the Scottish Parliament voted against a previous motion that would have required Trump to disclose the sources of his cash.

HuffPost reports Judge Lord Sandison said "that as far as the issues raised by the petition were concerned, they passed the test set out by the law, so he was convinced "there is enough to have a sensible argument."

Political Spending At Trump Properties Plunges Sharply

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica

The number of federal political committees that have spent money in the first half of 2021 at Trump Organization properties has dropped dramatically from the same period two years ago, Federal Election Commission filings show. Those continuing to spend: a smaller circle of loyal supporters of former President Donald Trump and candidates jockeying for his favor in contested Republican primaries.

During the first six months of 2021, 27 federal committees have reported spending $348,000 at Trump Organization properties, with the Republican National Committee accounting for more than half the total. That's a steep decline from the 177 committees that did so during the 2019-2020 election cycle or the 78 committees that spent more than $1.6 million at Mar-a-Lago, the Trump International Hotel in Washington and other company sites in the first half of 2019, filings show.

Of course, that spending came in the run-up to a presidential election in which Trump was the incumbent. The biggest spenders in 2019 were the RNC and Trump's own political committees raising money to support his campaign.

While the RNC is the top spender so far in 2021, many of the other PACs that used Trump properties as venues for fundraising events and other activities appear to have stopped their spending. The National Republican Congressional Committee, the fundraising arm of House Republicans, has not reported spending any money at Trump properties through May of this year after spending $32,532 during the previous election cycle. (National party committees will file reports covering activity in June on July 20, which may show some spending at Trump's facilities.)

Those that have spent money at Trump properties this year represent some of the former president's most fervent loyalists, including Reps. Mo Brooks of Alabama, who is running for an open Senate seat, and Ronny Jackson of Texas, who previously was the White House physician. Overall, 13 of the 23 committees spending this year are connected to current members of the House or Senate.

"Republican candidates are in a delicate moment, I think, because of uncertainty surrounding Trump's future power," said Abby Wood, a professor of law, political science and public policy at the University of Southern California, in an email. "Trump's power in the next election is much less certain than it was from the vantage point of folks spending money (and enriching him) at his properties in 2019."

The drop in political spending comes at a precarious time for the Trump Organization, which in early July was hit with 10 felony charges brought by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., as well as additional charges against Allen Weisselberg, the organization's chief financial officer. Both Weisselberg and the company have pleaded not guilty to the charges, but the impact of the investigation and the fallout of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol appear to have damaged the company's business prospects. The Washington Post described the company as at its "lowest point in decades."

The other spenders include congressional candidates advertising their ties to Trump, such as Lynda Blanchard, who is one of Brooks' opponents for the GOP nomination in the Alabama Senate race, and Josh Mandel, who's running for an open Senate seat in Ohio. Brooks, Blanchard and Mandel have each paid to use Mar-a-Lago, Trump's property in Palm Beach, Florida, while Jackson paid for an event at the Trump hotel in Washington.

"It is my intention to do fundraisers at Mar-a-Lago as often as I can, so long as they help generate positive cash flow for my Senate campaign for America First policies," Brooks said in a statement. "I personally thank President Trump for allowing me to use Mar-a-Lago and hope he will continue to be so generous in the future."

The campaigns of Blanchard, Jackson, and Mandel, along with the RNC and the Trump Organization, did not respond to requests for comment. The RNC has spent more money for events at other locations this year, including $529,000 for a donor event at the Four Seasons Resort in Palm Beach in April.

Mar-a-Lago, a private club that also doubles as the former president's residence, has been the leading recipient of federal political committee spending among Trump properties, bringing in at least $283,000 this year, much of it for hosting an RNC donor retreat in May. In addition to getting the venue and Florida weather, politicians holding events at the club stand a good chance of having Trump make an appearance.

The Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., and the BLT Prime restaurant located there, have seen a significant drop-off in political spending compared to the first half of 2019. Two years ago, the D.C. hotel and restaurant brought in more than $518,000, according to FEC records. This year, without Trump in the White House nearby, the total is less than $15,000.

"Given Trump is no longer president and there is less need to curry favor with him, congressional incumbents and party committees may choose less expensive venues," said Paul Herrnson, a political science professor at the University of Connecticut.

Weisselberg Dumped As Director Of Trump's Scottish Golf Course

Reprinted with permission from DCReport

Allen Weisselberg, the indicted Trump Organization executive, was removed this week as a director of Donald Trump's under par golf resort in Aberdeen, Scotland, public records show.

The move is the first to indicate how the indictment of Trump's longtime chief financial officer is affecting operations of the twice-impeached former president's real estate and resort empire.

Weisselberg's removal comes as Scottish lawmakers and Avaaz, a global public-interest organization, are pushing for an "unexplained wealth" inquiry into how Trump got the money to buy and refurbish both of his money-losing Scottish golf courses.

A 2018 British law lets investigators examine company and personal financial records to determine sources of money and riches that they deem suspicious. It's been called the McMafia law.

Trump's Aberdeen course lost nearly $1.5 million (£1.1 million) in 2019, up slightly from 2018. The property has lost money for seven years in a row.The course also has an interest-free loan from the Trump Organization of $61.1 million (£44.4 million), disclosure documents show. Manipulating interest expenses is a common tax avoidance technique that can justify criminal charges of tax fraud unless executed with extreme care.

There are only two ways Weisselberg could be removed as a director of the Trump International Golf Club Scotland, Ltd.

Weisselberg could have done so on his own. In that case, lawyers may have advised him to do so for reasons not yet clear.

The other way would have been on orders from Donald Trump and executed through his sons Don Jr. and Eric, who remain as the only directors. That, too, may indicate a criminal defense strategic move. Since Weisselberg remains on the Trump Organization payroll it almost certainly does not suggest a split between the interests of Weisselberg and his boss.

Trumps Tighten Grip

The move suggests that Trump may be trying to make sure only he and his family members exercise any legal control over the Trump Organization.

Removing Weisselberg would not block or limit any Scottish inquiry or the investigation by the New York county district attorney's special grand jury, which on July 1 indicted Weisselberg and the Trump Organization.

The New York indictments detailed a calculated 15-year scheme using two sets of books to cheat the federal, state and city governments out of more than $800,000 in taxes.

Larceny, Tax Fraud, Conspiracy

Weisselberg and the Trump Organization face 15 counts of grand larceny, tax fraud and conspiracy. Weisselberg could get 15 years on conviction, but he also could get probation without even home confinement. None of the crimes for which Weisselberg is charged come with a mandatory prison sentence upon conviction.

Weisselberg plead not guilty when brought in handcuffs before a state judge in Manhattan. The judge released the 73-year-old executive on his own recognizance.

The 25-page indictment is the first in what I'm sure will be multiple cases as prosecutors try to persuade insiders that they will be better off turning state's evidence than sticking with Trump.

Those who agree to help prosecutors early on get the best deals, often involving no prison time. Those who hold out may face prison even if they eventually cooperate. The indictment signals that prosecutors have solid evidence against tax cheats in the Trump Organization as well as anyone who took part in manipulating business records.

As I read it, the indictment hints at future charges against Trump's two oldest sons, daughter Ivanka and Weisselberg's son Barry. The latter runs the cash-only ice rink and carousel in Central Park for Trump.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is trying to cancel that lucrative contract and another pact Trump has for a municipal golf course.

'Consultant Fees' For Ivanka

Ivanka was a Trump Organization vice president when she was paid more than $700,000 in consulting fees, which may be a disguised gift subject to tax.

Barry Weisselberg got a free apartment near Central Park, a car and other perks on which his ex-wife Jennifer has said no taxes were paid. Jennifer Weisselberg, following a contentious divorce, is supplying prosecutors with extensive financial documents.

Donald Trump and his lawyers have tried to minimize the criminal charges while not disputing that Weisselberg received $1.7 million in non-cash compensation that was never reported to tax authorities as required by law.

I critiqued Trump's cavalier attitude in this earlier column.

Weisselberg has never been a director of Trump's larger Scottish course, Turnberry, where son, Eric, is the sole director. Weisselberg, however, is listed in British disclosure reports as a person exerting significant control along with Don Jr., while Eric is not listed as having significant control.

Trump's Turnberry golf resort showed a small loss in 2019 after losing $19 million (£13.8 million) in 2018. It has never turned a profit under Trump.

The United Kingdom requires private companies like the Trump Organization to make more disclosures than American law requires. The list includes total revenue (called "turnover") and profits, fees paid to directors, dividends paid to owners and loans outstanding.

In America, only companies with publicly traded stock or bonds must make such disclosures. As Donald Trump's personal property, the Trump Organization and its more than 500 affiliated enterprises are not required to make similar public disclosures.

David Cay Johnston is the Editor-in-Chief of DCReport. He is an investigative journalist and author, a specialist in economics and tax issues, and winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Beat Reporting.

Will Ivanka Be Indicted Next In Trump Organization Criminal Probe?

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Back in November 2020, after investigations into decades of Donald Trump's tax returns revealed the former president didn't seem to ever pay any taxes, reports came out in The New York Times detailing inquiries being made by the New York district attorney's office concerning "consulting fees" Ivanka Trump pulled in over the years. A reported $747,622 of these fees were paid to Ivanka by way of a company she co-owned, and appeared within the $26 million in "deductions" claimed by Donald Trump over the years. Whether there were more "consulting fees" received by Ivanka or any of the other Trump offspring was not reported, but considering what we know about the Trumps, speculating that the answer is a resounding and very provable yes seems like a safe bet.

Now that prosecutors have charged the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg with contributing to (and benefiting from) a tax fraud scheme, Weisselberg's financial compensation from the company he helped run seems to have been very clearly set up to hide taxable income. Prosecutors reportedly have two sets of books used by the Trump Organization over the years to delineate how they were scamming the government out of taxes. Since that time it has become clear that even more Trump tax information has been seized by investigators, and what those documents might detail remains to be seen. But one thing is for sure, to all who are paying attention: Ivanka Trump and other family members tied to the Trump Organization are clearly under investigation as well.

When the Times story came out in November 2020, Ivanka tweeted, "This is harassment pure and simple." Not unlike her father, Ivanka seems to use her Twitter account to whine about being persecuted while lying about things in general. One of the more problematic aspects of Ivanka's $747,622 consulting fee that appeared on a 2017 disclosure form is that"Ivanka was an executive officer of the Trump companies that made the payments." This means she received consultant tax breaks for a company of which she was also a full-time employee. It's an old-timey tax dodge.

On Monday, former federal prosecutor Cynthia Alksne gave MSNBC her opinions on what investigators were doing now that Weisselberg has been charged, saying, "Prosecutors went to an amazing amount of effort to show Weisselberg 'we have everything we need,' and they're really not only pressuring him to flip, but the amount of detail in this indictment tells me that they're trying to tell other people you have got to flip, because 'we have everything; we have the double books. We know what you told your tax accountants was a lie. We know that we're gonna be able to prove these cases.'" She went on to say that while we don't know exactly who the unnamed individuals inside of the Weisselberg indictments are, they are likely the next people who will receive the New York prosecutors' legal attentions. "We've heard a lot of this reporting about Ivanka Trump getting consulting fees, consulting fees for things she may or may not have done. That looks to be the next place," said Alksne. "We'll just have to see."

Donald Trump biographer Michael D'Antonio told CNN that the Trump Organization's dirty dealings don't take the highest level of investigation to uncover, calling much of the corruption "all so obvious." D'Antonio explained that the most shocking aspect of the multimillion-dollar organization's tax dodging is "how unsophisticated it is. This is just simple greed, the kind of things almost anyone could imagine, and the minute [prosecutors] went looking for it they found it."

"The other person who I think is in peril is Ivanka Trump. One of the things that Allen Weisselberg is in trouble for is taking money as a contractor and then claiming self-employed status so that he can get some of the retirement benefits that the tax code allows for self-employed people. Well, we know that Ivanka Trump got quite significant sums paid to her as non-employee compensation. That freed the Trump Organization from paying part of her taxes, and it put her in a status that I think the IRS would have lots of questions about. So, these folks don't know how to play the game straight. I think everything they do is crooked," D'Antonio said.

On Saturday, former personal lawyer Michael Cohen had this insight into Donald Trump.

You can watch Trump's biographer D'Antonio talking about the Trump family's legal problems on July 4, and below that you can watch former federal prosecutor Cynthia Alksne talking about what might be happening next for the Trump gang.

Trump biographer Ivanka's tax issues www.youtube.com


Former federal prosecutor Cynthia Alksne talks about the Trump family's potential tax fraud problems www.youtube.com

Ex-Trump Org Executive Confirms New York Indictment’s Charges

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

In a recent piece for the New York Daily News, former Trump Organization executive Barbara Res offered an insider's view of criminal charges against the ex-president's company and its CFO, Allen Weisselberg.

Res, who worked with Donald Trump on the construction of Trump Tower in the 1980s, has a grim assessment of his integrity and business practices from that era. And while it's been decades since she worked for the man, and her time at his company dates back well before the current charges, she argued that the allegations made against the Trump Organization and Weisselberg — which include a scheme to defraud the government out of taxes on the CFO's non-salary compensation benefits — rings completely true. Based on her view of the inside of Trump's operation, the prosecutor's story lines up exactly with his typical conduct.

"Flaunting and ultimately disobeying the tax laws was a way of life," she explained. "I was on salary, but some executives on the payroll were paid as independent contractors. That meant that Trump could avoid paying his share of payroll taxes and the employee could deduct all sorts of things to diminish his income that you can't do on salary. It was a win-win for everyone except the city, state and federal governments."

Her piece also provides answers to one of the mysteries that arose in the wake of the indictment. The prosecutors accuse the Trump Organization of avoiding taxes on $1.7 million of compensation to Weisselberg over more than a decade. This is a hefty sum from any average person's perspective, and it's certainly the kind of amount that can catch the eye of law enforcement if they're paying attention. But in the perspective of the Trump Organization's size, it's really not that much money. Why wouldn't Weisselberg and Trump just pay the proper taxes? Why take the risk of avoiding taxes when it wouldn't really affect the company's bottom line in any substantial way?

These were reasonable questions. But Res provides a compelling answer, and one that accords with the way Trump behaves in public: This is just how he acts. He tries to cut every corner and cheat at everything, because he thinks he's entitled to.

"If I know the way Trump thinks, and I do, Trump never gave a serious thought about what was legal, only to whether it could be gotten away with. And as far as he was concerned, he could get away with anything. As he has proven so far," she wrote. "The man's M.O. was bending and breaking the rules for maximum profit and advantage."

Another factor, too, helps explain the rationale behind this risky conduct. According to Res, it was about maintaining loyalty from people like Weisselberg:

Trump went to great lengths to make people loyal to him. The definitive example of this was giving a job to an employee's child. This was a default for Trump; it was easy and it cost him nothing. Often Trump "found" jobs, sometimes making them up. The employee then could not go against Trump because the child would lose his job. And he did this with his most loyal employees.
Trump went even further with Weisselberg's kids. Trump paid for one to live in a very expensive apartment and gave him a lucrative job. He helped the other get a prestigious job at a company he did business with. So that made Weisselberg even more loyal and his kids super loyal.

And inducing someone to break the rules with you — to be complicit in the crime of, say, defrauding the government by concealing the true extent of your compensation — binds them to you. They have an interest in protecting you, because you're all in on the same misdeeds.

Res argues that this may even be a force that could keep Weisselberg from flipping against Trump now. She suggests Trump may know about additional criminal conduct Weisselberg engaged in, or that Weisselberg's children may have engaged in, which the ex-president could expose if he feels betrayed. But Res ultimately argues that Weisselberg will cooperate with prosecutors against Trump.

Crucially, too, she says that Trump would've been aware of the illegal tax scheme the company has been charged with.

"In my experience, as with all facets of his business, major decisions like paying someone's rent or tuition were made by Trump and Trump alone. And with his other tax avoidance schemes, Trump had his minions to carry them out — but he was always in charge," she wrote. She told several anecdotes to illustrate the point, including:

The workers who did the demolition prior to the erection of Trump Tower were not paid fair wages and most of them were illegal immigrants. When this came up in court, Trump denied having any knowledge of it. In fact, he had a man on the job watching everything that happened and reporting it back to Trump, every day. Trump knew exactly what was going on.

All this would seem to make Trump himself criminally culpable, but he remains uncharged. One reason observers suspect prosecutors want to get Weisselberg to flip is so they can get him to testify about Trump's own intent to violate the law. Then they could bring criminal charges directly against the former president, rather than just against his company.

As I recently explained, Trump seems to be anticipating this. He is already trying to push the narrative that he was ignorant about the relevant tax laws — and in this case, ignorance of the law can be a legally useful defense. Prosecutors will likely have to prove Trump willfully and knowingly violated the law if they want to criminally charge him.

For those wondering, though, there's little chance Res's account on its own will change Trump's legal circumstances or help prosecutors make the case against him. It's a compelling narrative about his past, and can lead the casual observers to draw damning inferences, but it's not the type of evidence that will likely be allowed in court, as legal experts Eric Columbus and Joyce Vance explained: