NEW YORK — Every December, the Trump Organization would cut a check to a mail room employee. In a good year, the check was for $5,975. In less prosperous times, it was closer to $4,000.
It didn’t matter to the mail room guy. The money wasn’t for him.
His job was to cash the check at a local bank, lug the bills back to Trump Tower, take the elevator to the 26th floor and hand the money over to Allen Weisselberg, the company’s longtime chief financial officer. Weisselberg would then use it to tip garage attendants, his apartment doormen and others over the holidays, the jury learned in the criminal tax fraud trial of two Trump Organization business units that ended Tuesday.
Weisselberg used the free cash to live large, saving the Trump Organization from paying taxes on it as well, the jurors heard. Among the other expedients: dispensing fat bonuses as nonemployee compensation, providing his-and-hers Mercedes-Benzes for the Weisselbergs and covering their grandchildren’s private school tuition.
The annual Christmas kitty was just one of a jackpot of undeclared perks used to disguise taxable compensation, the jury was told in a monthlong trial that laid bare a remarkable array of squirrelly business practices at the closely held real estate empire. Now, even as Trump runs for a second term, the company that set him on his path to the White House in 2016, long an intensely private enterprise, has been branded a felon, its secrets on raw display for weeks in open court and in the news — the gamble Trump made in going to trial.
“The Trump Organization was a family business, privately held and not subject to outside scrutiny,” said Barbara McQuade, a former federal prosecutor who now teaches at the University of Michigan’s law school.
After less than two days of deliberation, the jury in New York state court in Manhattan returned convictions on all 17 counts against the two companies, including conspiracy, criminal tax fraud and falsifying business records. While Donald Trump himself wasn’t charged, prosecutors argued he was aware of the games being played by Weisselberg and other senior executives under his nose and had “explicitly sanctioned tax fraud.”
Trump said in a statement after the verdict that it was unfair to prosecute the two companies for the acts of the disgraced former CFO, with “every witness repeatedly testifying that President Trump and the Trump Family knew nothing about his actions.” The companies are appealing.
Trump Organization lawyer Alan Garten and Trump spokesman Steven Cheung didn’t immediately respond to emails seeking comment on the revelations.