Opening arguments in the criminal tax fraud trial of the Trump Organization began Monday in New York City.
The Trump Organization is facing allegations of tax fraud following a three-year investigation. The business is accused of paying senior executives millions in off-the-books compensation through fringe benefits.
Neither former President Trump nor any of his children are charged or accused of any wrongdoing.
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Two Trump-related companies pleaded not guilty to tax-related crimes as part of that investigation.
During opening arguments Monday, Assistant District Attorney Susan Hoffinger told jurors that evidence would show that the Trump Organization “finally had to clean up” its “fraudulent tax practices” when Trump was elected president in 2016.
Hoffinger said that “most of the criminal conduct occurred” between 2005 and 2017.
“This case is about greed and cheating—cheating on taxes,” Hoffinger argued, adding that the Trump Corporation and the Trump Payroll Corporation “paid their already highly-paid executives even more by helping them cheat on taxes.”
Trump Organization defense attorney Susan Necheles, in her opening argument, insisted that former chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg committed the tax crimes and stressed that Trump was not aware.
Weisselberg pleaded guilty to tax violations in August and agreed to serve 100 days behind bars. He was charged with evading taxes by receiving perks that were not counted as income.
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Trump Payroll Corporation attorney Mike van der Veen insisted that the case is “about individual personal greed and the abuse of trust necessary to feed that greed,” referring to Weisselberg.
“Weisselberg did it for Weisselberg,” van der Even said, while adding that Weisselberg was a hard-working man who made his way up in the Trump family business and was “trusted by everyone.”
“He was like family to the Trump family,” he added, saying that Weisselberg made “serious mistakes” and committed crimes “that have hurt his family and the corporations.”
Van der Veen highlighted that Weisselberg, though, has been placed on a “leave of absence” from the company.
Weisselberg, who has pleaded guilty to taking $1.7 million in off-the-books compensation, pinned blame on himself and other top Trump Organization executives, including senior vice president and controller Jeffrey McConney.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.