An outside accountant gave testimony Tuesday about his dealings with a top executive at former US President Donald Trump’s real estate company that could undermine his defense as the Trump Organization trial on tax fraud charges drew to a close. Donald Bender, the first witness called by the defense, testified that Allen Weisselberg, who was the company’s chief financial officer, never told him that the Trump Organization paid his rent and other personal expenses for years. That could hurt the defense’s argument that Bender should have sued the company about Weisselberg’s fraud.
Under cross-examination by prosecutor Susan Hoffinger, Bender also said that if Weisselberg had told him about those payments and his misreporting of income, “we would have had a serious conversation about continuing as a client.” Prosecutors with the Manhattan district attorney’s office have accused the company, which operates hotels, golf courses and other real estate around the world, with orchestrating a 15-year tax fraud scheme starting in 2005 to pay executives through unofficial benefits and compensate them as if they were independent contractors.
The Trump Organization has pleaded not guilty. The company has tried to shift the blame onto Weisselberg, who pleaded guilty in August to tax fraud and other charges, and to Bender, who was granted immunity from prosecution after testifying before the grand jury that indicted the company and Weisselberg. Bender testified as a defense witness after the prosecution chose not to call him to the stand before resting their case on Monday. Bender testified Monday that he met with prosecutors to prepare for possible testimony on Saturday.
Bender testified Tuesday that Weisselberg assured him that the details the then-CFO provided to prepare his tax returns were accurate and did not warrant further investigation, which could make it more difficult for the defense to pin the blame. “I did my due diligence,” Bender told the jury. “I wasn’t blind to the situation. I talked to him. I trusted him,” Bender said.
The defense said it could rest its case next Monday, after a break for the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States. That would pave the way for closing arguments and jury deliberations next week. Trump has not been charged in the case. His company could face a fine of up to $1.6 million if he is found guilty.
Trump, a Republican who last week launched another run for president in 2024, called the charges politically motivated. Alvin Bragg, the current Manhattan district attorney, is a Democrat, as is the district attorney who filed the charges last year, Cyrus Vance.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)