September 28, 2023

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Trump Organization tax fraud trial delayed after witness tests positive for COVID By Reuters

2 min read

NEW YORK (Reuters) -The criminal tax fraud trial of the Trump Organization was put on hold on Tuesday after the company’s controller, Jeffrey McConney, who had been testifying as a prosecution witness, tested positive for COVID-19.

McConney had been coughing during his testimony earlier in the day and on Monday, when the trial began in Manhattan Supreme Court, and tested positive after complaining during Tuesday’s lunch break of feeling ill.

Justice Juan Merchan, who oversees the case, said the trial could resume on Nov. 7 if McConney felt better. He said court protocol recommended that McConney, 67, isolate for six days.

In 2021, the Manhattan district attorney’s office charged former U.S. president Donald Trump’s company with paying executives perks such as rent and cars without reporting those benefits to tax authorities, and falsely reporting bonuses as non-employee compensation.

The Trump Organization operates hotels, golf courses and other real estate around the world.

The case is one of several legal troubles facing the 76-year-old Trump as the Republican considers another bid for the presidency after losing to Democrat Joe Biden in 2020.

Trump himself has not been charged in the case. The two Trump Organization units charged have pleaded not guilty.

During opening statements on Monday, lawyers for the Trump Organization said former Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg, one of the executives alleged to have gotten perks, acted on his own behalf when he cheated on his taxes.

Weisselberg pleaded guilty in August and agreed to testify against the company at trial.

McConney’s illness was disclosed outside the jury’s presence by prosecutor Joshua Steinglass, who told Merchan that the district attorney’s office had arranged for a COVID-19 test.

The judge later announced that McConney tested positive.

McConney has worked for the Trump Organization since 1987.

Prosecutors granted him immunity after he testified before the grand jury that indicted Weisselberg and the companies.

McConney is still on the Trump Organization’s payroll, and prosecutors view him as a hostile witness.

If convicted, the Trump Organization could face $1.6 million in fines. A conviction could also further complicate the real estate firm’s ability to do business.

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