Trump Organization Could Face Criminal Charges in D.A. Inquiry

The Manhattan district attorney’s office has informed Donald J. Trump’s lawyers that it is considering criminal charges against his family business, the Trump Organization, in connection with fringe benefits the company awarded a top executive, according to several people with knowledge of the matter.

If the case moves ahead, the district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., could announce charges against the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer, Allen H. Weisselberg, as soon as next week, the people said.

An indictment of the Trump Organization could mark the first criminal charges to emerge from Mr. Vance’s long-running investigation into Mr. Trump and his business dealings, and raises the startling prospect of a former president having to defend the company he founded and has run for decades.

While the prosecutors had been building a case for months against Mr. Weisselberg as part of an effort to pressure him to cooperate with the inquiry, it was not previously known that the company also might face charges.

Prosecutors recently have focused much of their investigation into the perks Mr. Trump and the company doled out to Mr. Weisselberg and other executives, including tens of thousands of dollars in private school tuition for one of Mr. Weisselberg’s grandchildren, as well as rents on apartments and car leases.

Prosecutors are looking into whether those benefits were properly recorded in the company’s ledgers and whether taxes were paid on them, The New York Times has reported.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers met on Thursday with senior prosecutors in the district attorney’s office in hopes of persuading them to abandon any plan to charge the company, according to several people familiar with the meeting. Such meetings are routine in white-collar criminal investigations, and it is unclear whether the prosecutors have made a final decision on whether to charge the Trump Organization, which has long denied wrongdoing.

It would be highly unusual to indict a company just for failing to pay taxes on fringe benefits, said several lawyers who specialize in tax rules. None of them could cite any recent example, noting that many companies provide their employees with perks like company cars.

Still, an indictment of Mr. Trump’s company could deal a significant blow to the former president just as he has flirted with a return to politics.

It is unclear whether Mr. Trump will ultimately face charges himself. The investigation, which began three years ago, has been wide-ranging, examining whether the Trump Organization manipulated the value of its properties to obtain favorable loans and tax benefits, people with knowledge of the matter have said.

The inquiry is also examining the organization’s statements to insurance companies about the value of various assets and any role that its employees — including Mr. Weisselberg — may have played in hush-money payments to two women during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Mr. Trump has derided the investigation by Mr. Vance, a Democrat, as a politically motivated “witch hunt.” He unsuccessfully tried to fight a subpoena from Mr. Vance’s office seeking eight years of his personal and corporate tax returns, a fight that twice reached the United States Supreme Court.

The indictment of the company and Mr. Weisselberg could increase pressure on him to cooperate with the investigation. Mr. Weisselberg could seek to cut a deal with prosecutors to testify against Mr. Trump in exchange for leniency.

A spokesman for the district attorney’s office declined to comment. A lawyer for Mr. Weisselberg, Mary E. Mulligan, also declined to comment. A spokeswoman for the Trump Organization could not immediately be reached for comment.

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