Jonathan Kraut | The Question for Trump: ‘¿Que Rico?’

Jonathan Kraut

Days just before the Fourth of July holiday, New York state prosecutors issued a 15-count indictment charging the Trump Organization and personally its chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, with fraudulent tax evasion.  

One charge was issued for each year of significantly falsified tax filings of the Trump Organization.  

This criminal indictment alleges an ongoing scheme that even the least experienced and naïve business owner or accountant knows is criminal and is wholly illegal.  

Essentially, the Trump Organization is alleged to have over at least 15 years executed a bold, yet stupid strategy designed to enrich senior Trump Org executives with off-the-books payments, free luxury apartments, free luxury cars, and private school tuition for senior execs’ grandchildren. 

This ongoing abuse of the tax code makes it seem as though Trump Org leadership believed this conduct would never be revealed. 

The New York indictment charges Weisselberg with concealing about $1.76 million in personal taxable income and benefits. The Trump Org’s response to these charges essentially is a claim that everyone commits fraud and this indictment is not a big deal. 

While the ex-president is not yet criminally charged, it is reported by prosecutors that Trump personally signed all or most of the checks and authorized almost every disbursement necessary to permit these fraudulent transactions to process. In addition, Trump reportedly has also benefitted by the same scheme over as many years and clearly is the unidentified “co-conspirator” who has not yet been officially named.  

Of course, Mr. Wealthy Business Mogul who reports to be the expert on everything about anything will in time deny any knowledge of tax laws and act stupid. 

In my view this conduct appears to qualify under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). 

Enacted by Congress in 1970, RICO is a federal law created to criminally prosecute and punish organizations configured to perpetrate criminal acts that ingratiates its key executives and leaders. In other words, RICO goes after those who integrate unlawful practices as a routine part of an ongoing business enterprise.  

While we might think of egregious criminal activity to include illegal gambling, bribery, kidnapping, murder, money laundering, counterfeiting, drug trafficking, human slavery, sex trafficking, etc., tax fraud and embezzlement clearly can be applied to RICO as well.  

To convict a defendant under RICO, prosecutors must prove defendants engaged in two or more instances of racketeering activity in an organization in which these defendants maintained an interest or control.  

The US Code Title 18, Chapter 96, specifically defines “(1) racketeering is … (B) any act which is indictable under the provisions of Title 18 …to include… Section 1344 (relating to financial institution fraud).” 

While Trump perpetually gripes that any claims against him are politically motivated, if not for the policy that sitting presidents cannot be indicted, Trump and the Trump Organization would have been charged years ago rather than just now. Even Trump’s personal tax returns were not handed over until the very end of his term as president so as not to tarnish the Office of the President.  

I guess Trump is hoping to die of old age before he is held responsible for his career of misconduct. 

Being president may have delayed prosecution and deferred punishment, but it is ridiculous to claim that alleged crimes perpetrated those who configured a business model 15 years ago to commit fraud is politically motivated by someone who had no meaningful political participation until about seven years ago. 

Bottom line: Trump is in big doo-doo. 

Especially when it comes to money laundering, both claiming tax losses while promoting to lenders overstated valuation at the same time, and all while defrauding taxpayers of fair and honest contributions, no one should harbor any sympathy for Trump. 

There will be die-hard MAGA fans who will contribute toward Trump’s defense, although Trump claims to be exceedingly rich. Many Trump acolytes will protest against Trump’s rightful prosecution who also claim to be defenders of law and order. And “Trump patriots” will ask we defy our Constitution and promote a coup to overturn a legal and certified election. 

The irony is that what keeps Trump relevant is that his supporters continue to ignore the standards of conduct they themselves pretend to uphold and support. 

Without ardent supporters of Trump’s persistent misconduct, to include those who ignore his criminal ambitions and illegal acts, Trump would be just another con man, tax-evading, power-thirsty, self-absorbed, lying ex-president like…. wait, I can’t think of any other like him.  

Jonathan Kraut directs a private investigations agency, is the CEO of a private security firm, is the COO of an accredited acting conservatory, a published author, and Democratic Party activist. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal or of other organizations. 

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