Trump Organization CFO Pleads 'Not Guilty' After Turning Himself in Ahead of Tax Fraud Charges
Donald Trump faces a growing list of legal issues since he left office in January
The Trump Organization and its top financial executive, Allen Weisselberg, pleaded "not guilty" to criminal indictments on Thursday after he and the former president's company were charged with an allegedly "sweeping and audacious" tax fraud scheme.
Weisselberg, the Trump Organization's longtime chief financial officer, turned himself into authorities early Thursday morning and appeared in court later in the day with his hands handcuffed behind his back.
The 73-year-old executive will "fight these charges in court," his attorney Mary Mulligan told PEOPLE before his and the company's arraignment.
The Trump family's real estate business has been under an increasingly serious investigation in New York.
On Thursday, prosecutors accused Weisselberg of being part of an alleged tax fraud scheme "orchestrated by the most senior executives" of the Trump Organization, according to the Associated Press.
In court documents reviewed by PEOPLE, prosecutors allege Weisselberg avoided paying taxes on more than $1.7 million in income from the Trump Organization from 2005 through this year.
The Manhattan district attorney's filing called Weisselberg "one of the largest individual beneficiaries" of the alleged tax scheme. The Trump Organization is accused of paying for the rent at Weisselberg's apartment on Riverside Boulevard as well as his utilities, garage expenses and his grandchildren's tuition, prosecutors said.
Weisselberg has been with the company for 48 years, according to the Trump Organization. He most recently helped run the business alongside Eric and Donald Trump Jr. while their father was president.
CNN reported that a Manhattan grand jury filed its indictments Wednesday, before the charges were unsealed Thursday.
Former President Donald Trump, 75, was not charged on Thursday and his company decried the case against Weisselberg as part of a strategy to target him.
Weisselberg has worked for the company since 1973, according to the AP. The Times reports that the executive — whom Trump has long praised for his loyalty — has helped with Trump's own tax returns since the 1990s when he became the CFO.
The Wall Street Journal was the first to report this week that charges were coming and prosecutors were hoping Weisselberg would cooperate with their investigation.
A spokesperson for the Manhattan district attorney's office did not respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.
New York Attorney General Letitia James, who is also investigating the Trump Organization's shady financial dealings, said in a statement that "today is an important marker in the ongoing criminal investigation" into the Trump Organization and Weisselberg.
"This investigation will continue, and we will follow the facts and the law wherever they may lead," James added.
A spokesperson for the Trump Organization accused prosecutors of using Weisselberg "as a pawn in a scorched earth attempt to harm the former president."
"This is not justice; this is politics," the company spokesperson said Thursday in a statement to PEOPLE.
Prosecutor Carey Dunne refuted that in court on Thursday, according to the AP.
"Politics has no role in the jury chamber and I can assure you it had no role here," Dunne said.
The investigation by Manhattan prosecutors coincided with another long-running probe into the Trump Organization launched by James' state office.
In late May, the two offices announced that at least one of their cases had become criminal.
The investigations have centered on whether the Trump Organization undervalued or overvalued its property in order to obtain loans and more favorable tax breaks, according to the Times.
According to CNN, Weisselberg's son's ex-wife had handed documents over to investigators and has been cooperating with the investigation.
The Times first reported in August 2020 that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.'s office was investigating the Trump Organization for possible fraud.
That investigation began with inquiries into hush money payments Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen made on behalf of the former president to two women who allegedly had affairs with Trump.
In late 2019, the Supreme Court rejected Trump's push to block his tax records from being released to the Manhattan prosecutors. The Supreme Court upheld its decision again this past February, when Trump again tried to keep his tax records sealed.
In statements, the former president has repeatedly called the investigations "the greatest Witch Hunt in American history."
He faces a growing list of legal problems now that he's no longer in office, including two defamation lawsuits from women who say he sexually assaulted them, lawsuits over his role in the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, lawsuits over his push to somehow overturn the 2020 election results in his favor and the ongoing New York investigations.
In another lawsuit against Trump filed by his niece, Mary, she writes: "Fraud was not just the family business. It was a way of life."
The Trumps deny wrongdoing.