Donald Trump’s namesake company and longtime financial chief pleaded not guilty on Thursday to criminal charges in a sweeping indictment from a probe by Manhattan’s district attorney into the former U.S. president and his business practices.
The Trump Organization and its chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg were charged with having schemed since 2005 to defraud tax authorities through the awarding of “off the books” benefits to company executives.
Weisselberg, who has worked for Trump for 48 years, was able to conceal $1.76 million of income from tax authorities, including rent for a Manhattan apartment, tuition and auto lease payments, according to prosecutors.
The 15-count indictment includes charges of tax fraud and falsifying business records.
“It was orchestrated by the most senior executives who were financially benefiting themselves and the company, by getting secret pay raises at the expense of state and federal taxpayers,” prosecutor Carey Dunne said at the arraignment in Manhattan Criminal Court.
The indictment could undermine the relationships of Trump’s company with banks and business partners.
It could also complicate Trump’s political future, as he resumes holding rallies and mulls a 2024 White House run.
Cyrus Vance, the Manhattan district attorney, began his still-ongoing investigation nearly three years ago, and has been working in recent months with the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James.
Vance and James are Democrats, and both attended Thursday’s arraignment. Weisselberg, 73, wore handcuffs as he was led to the courtroom.
Alan Futerfas, a lawyer for the Trump Organization, told reporters after the arraignment that the company was “very optimistic” the indictment would not significantly hurt its business.
“If the name of this company was something else, I don’t think these charges would have been brought,” he said.