Lawyer for Trump finance chief says he suspects more indictments

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A lawyer for Donald Trump’s indicted corporate finance chief has told a judge he has “strong reason to believe” more indictments are coming in a New York investigation into the former president’s property empire.

Bryan Scarlatos made the remark during Trump Organisation CFO Allen Weisselberg’s first court appearance since his July 1 arraignment on tax fraud charges.

Mr Scarlatos did not say what led him to believe more people would be charged in the closely watched case.

In recent weeks, two Trump Organisation executives have given evidence to a grand jury, which is meeting behind closed doors to hear testimony and review evidence.

“What I am concerned about is that he will become collateral damage in a larger fight between the Trump Organisation and the DA’s office.”

The lawyer raised the issue of more possible indictments while arguing for adequate time to review up to six million pages of documents he said prosecutors are turning over as evidence, calling it “a herculean task” and saying new indictments would create a ”moving target”.

Prosecutors said Weisselberg is “no stranger” to many of the documents because they include Trump Organisation business records that the executive is likely to have produced or reviewed as part of his job.

Judge Juan Manuel Merchan gave both sides until next spring to file motions in the case. He said he would decide on motions at a July 12 hearing, the next time Weisselberg is due in court.

Judge Merchan said he expected to set a trial date at that time and was likely to schedule it for the end of August or beginning of September.

“The reason I mention it now is that it’s on everybody’s radar,” he said. “I don’t have an exact date yet.”

Weisselberg has pleaded not guilty to charges he collected more than 1.7 million dollars in off-the-books compensation, including apartment rent, car payments and school tuition.

Allen Weisselberg
Allen Weisselberg (Craig Ruttle/AP)

Weisselberg sat quietly next to his lawyers at Monday’s brief hearing and did not speak to reporters on his way to and from court. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, everyone wore masks and the courtroom had clear plastic partitions between various parties.

Mr Trump has not been charged with any wrongdoing, and has condemned the case, the first to arise from New York authorities’ two-year investigation into the former president’s business dealings.

He has said his company’s actions were standard practice in the business and in no way a crime.

According to the indictment, from 2005 until this year, the Trump Organisation and Weisselberg cheated tax authorities by conspiring to pay senior executives off the books by way of lucrative fringe benefits and other means.

Weisselberg alone was accused of defrauding the federal government, state and city out of more than 900,000 dollars in unpaid taxes and undeserved tax refunds.

The most serious charge, grand larceny, carries five to 15 years in prison. The tax fraud charges against the company are punishable by a fine of double the amount of unpaid taxes, or 250,000 dollars, whichever is larger.

The 74-year-old has intimate knowledge of the Trump Organisation’s financial dealings from nearly five decades at the company.

The charges against him could enable prosecutors to pressure him to co-operate with the investigation and tell them what he knows, but so far there have been no signs of that.

The case is being led by Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr and New York attorney general Letitia James, both Democrats.

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