Trump Org. executive says he helped colleagues dodge taxes

Friday, November 11, 2022
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Trump Organization senior vice president and controller Jeffrey McConney returns to the courthouse after a break in the company’s trial on Nov. 1, 2022, in New York.
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NEW YORK (AP) — One of Donald Trump’s top moneymen admitted Thursday to breaking the law to help fellow Trump Organization executives avoid taxes on company-paid apartments and other perks, including by preparing misleading tax returns and failing to report the benefits to tax authorities.

Senior Vice President and Controller Jeffrey McConney testified at the company’s criminal tax fraud trial that he filed false tax returns on behalf of a father-son executive duo whose Manhattan apartment rents were paid by the Trump Organization.

McConney, who was granted immunity to testify as a prosecution witness, also testified that a few years before Trump became president, the company’s accountant raised concerns about the way it paid out holiday bonuses — a topic that has consumed hours of trial testimony.

According to McConney, the accountant warned that the Trump Organization’s dubious and since-discontinued practice of splitting bonus payments between an executive’s salary and onetime independent contractor payments from subsidiaries could jeopardize the law license of one such executive: its top lawyer.

The Trump Organization, the entity through which Trump owns hotels, golf courses and other assets, is accused of helping some top executives avoid income taxes on compensation they got in addition to their salaries.

The company, which could be fined more than $1 million if convicted, has denied wrongdoing. Its lawyers allege that another executive — longtime finance chief Allen Weisselberg — went rogue, concocted the scheme without Trump or the Trump family’s knowledge and lied to the company about what he’d done.

Trump Organization lawyer Susan Necheles kept the jury’s attention on Weisselberg as she questioned McConney on cross-examination Thursday afternoon, showing emails indicating that McConney needed to get permission from Weisselberg to complete even simple tasks, such as approving a $100 expenditure or writing a few sentences to describe the ice rinks the company managed in Central Park.

McConney said that Weisselberg, his boss for years, had wide latitude over the company’s operations and even quoted him as saying that Trump hired him to essentially run the company. Weisselberg has pleaded guilty to taking $1.7 million in off-the-books compensation and agreed to testify as a prosecution witness, possibly next week, in exchange for a five-month jail sentence.

The Trump Organization trial resumed Thursday after an eight-day delay while McConney and the judge, Juan Manuel Merchan recovered from COVID-19. The trial was abruptly interrupted on Nov. 1, just the second day of testimony, when McConney tested positive for the virus during a lunch break.

Merchan wore a blue surgical mask on the bench. About half the jurors also wore masks. McConney, who had been coughing off and on during his testimony last week, didn’t do so nearly as much on Thursday and testified that he was feeling “much better.”

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