Justin Sullivan/Getty Images, left. Nicolas Economou/Getty Images, right.
- Trump Org must pay $1.6 million, the maximum fine allowed by law, a Manhattan judge ordered Friday.
- The fine is Trump Org’s penalty for a decade-long tax-fraud scheme it was convicted of last month.
- Still, the real-estate company saved millions more through the scheme, prosecutors have said.
Donald Trump’s real-estate and golf-resort empire, the Trump Organization, was hit with a $1.6 million fine in state court in Manhattan on Friday, during the company’s sentencing for it’s December conviction on payroll-tax fraud.
The fine is the maximum allowed under New York State law, and came with harsh words from a Manhattan prosecutor.
The company “cultivated a pervasive culture of fraud,” said Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass, one of two lead prosecutors in the case.
As high as it is, the fine is still far less than what the company made in the scheme, according to the prosecution’s evidence. That means that Trump — the company’s sole owner and beneficiary — still comes out ahead.
Trump saved millions in payroll costs over the course of the decade-long scheme, Manhattan prosecutors argued, by paying a half-dozen favored C-suite executives significant chunks of their salaries in such off-the-books perks as luxury cars and apartments.
Between 2006 and 2017, the company saved a total of $1.76 million by paying perks instead of salary to one executive alone, ex-CFO Allen Weisselberg, Steinglass, reminded the judge during Friday’s sentencing.
“Because that compensation was unreported” to tax authorities, “Allen Weisselberg kept every dollar,” the prosecutor said.
“It would have cost them roughly double to get that same amount of money into Allen Weisselberg’s pocket” after taxes, he said.
Steinglass called the scheme “corrupt” and “egregious,” and decried the company’s “pervasive culture of fraud.”
The corruption was “explicitly sanctioned from the top down,” despite defense claims that the Trump family members at the top of the company were in the dark about the scheme, Steinglass also said.
New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan, who had presided over the company’s 7-week payroll tax-fraud trial, said little in rendering sentence.
“There’s no need to rehash what the prosecution has already stated,” he said. But like the prosecution, he expressed skepticism of defense lawyers’ continued insistance that the Trump family was not involved in a scheme masterminded by its own C-suite.
“I do think it’s interesting that the Trump Organization once again distances itself from the acts of other individuals,” Merchan said.
Weisselberg, the prosecution’s less-than-ideal star witness at trial, was sentenced on Tuesday to five months at Rikers Island, where he is being held in a relatively safe section of the notorious city jail complex that’s reserved for short-term convicts.
Even Weisselberg took a harder financial hit than Trump, paying up some $2 million in taxes and penalties as part of Tuesday’s sentencing.
This is a breaking story; please check back for developments.