A judge in New York on Friday ordered Donald Trump’s eponymous real estate company to pay a criminal fine of $1.61 million after it was convicted of conspiracy to defraud tax authorities for 15 years.
Justice Juan Merchan of the Manhattan Criminal Court imposed the sentence, the maximum possible under state law, after Jurors last month found two members of the Trump Organization guilty of 17 criminal charges.
Merchan on Tuesday sentenced Allen Weisselberg, who worked for Trump’s family for half a century and was the company’s former chief financial officer, to five months in prison after testifying as a star witness for the prosecution.
Susan Necheles, one of the defense attorneys, said Trump’s company plans to appeal. No one else was charged.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, whose office who brought the case is still conducting a criminal investigation into Trump’s business practices.
“Today’s sentencing, along with the sentencing earlier this week, closes this important chapter in our ongoing investigation into the former president and his companies,” Bragg told reporters. “We are now moving on to the next chapter.”
Joshua Steinglass, one of the plaintiffs, appeared to regret the amount of the sentence, telling Merchan that the sentence was only a “small portion” of the Trump Organization’s revenue.
Corporations cannot be sentenced to prison or imprisonment.
Bill Black, a professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law who specializes in white-collar crime, called the sentence a “round-off error” that provides “zero” deterrence.
“This is a farce,” he said. “No one will stop committing crimes like this because of this punishment.”
The case has long been a thorn in the side of the Republican ex-president, who calls it part of a witch hunt by Democrats who hate him and his politics.
Trump also faces a $250 million civil lawsuit from Attorney General Letitia James accusing him and his grown children Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric of inflating his assets and his company’s assets to save on loans and insurance.
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Bragg and James are Democrats, as is Bragg’s predecessor Cyrus Vance, who filed the criminal case. Trump is aiming for the presidency in 2024, having lost his reelection opportunity in 2020.
FRAUD ‘CAST FROM TOP TO’
During a four-week trial, prosecutors offered evidence that Trump’s company covered personal expenses such as rent and car leases for executives without reporting them as income, and pretended that Christmas bonuses were non-employee benefits.
Trump himself signed bonus checks, prosecutors said, as well as the lease on Weisselberg’s luxury Manhattan apartment and the private school fees for the CFO’s grandchildren.
“Some of these fraudulent practices were explicitly sanctioned from above,” Steinglass said at Friday’s hearing.
Despite testifying for the government, Weisselberg said Trump was not part of the fraud scheme, and refused to assist Bragg in his broader investigation into the former chairman.
The Trump Organization had put Weisselberg on paid leave until they cut ties this week. His attorney said the split, announced Tuesday, was amicable.
Weisselberg, 75, is serving his sentence at New York City’s infamous Rikers Island Prison.
Trump faces several other legal troubles, including investigations related to the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, his retention of classified documents after leaving the White House, and efforts to reverse his 2020 Georgia election loss.