Investigators have reportedly approached Trump Org. as if it was a mafia family
Prosecutors appear to be treating their investigation into former President Donald Trump’s business empire as if it were a Mafia family, according to several reports released this week.
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance is likely considering criminal charges centered on the idea that the Trump organization is a “corrupt business” under a New York State racketeering law resembling the Federal RICO law – an abbreviation of the Racketeering Act on Influenced and Corrupted Organizations, which was passed in 1970 to crack down on ubiquitous organized crime – several legal experts and former prosecutors Politico said.
“No self-respecting state attorney would give up on the corporate bribery charge,” said longtime New York defense attorney Robert Anello. “I’m sure they’re thinking about it.”
The law, known colloquially as “little RICO,” comes into play if prosecutors can establish that an organization or business has committed at least three separate crimes – a “pattern of criminal behavior” in legal parlance. A sentence under the law can result in up to 25 years in prison – with a mandatory minimum of one year.
Vance even hired veteran Mafia prosecutor and white-collar crime expert Mark Pomerantz to bolster his team, The New York Times reported in February.
Trump himself has a long history with several prominent New York Mafia families – the construction of its Trump Tower in Manhattan with the help of a concrete company run by Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno and Paul Castellano, who were at the time the bosses of the Genovese and Gambino families, Business Insider reported.
And just like in investigations that have put Salerno and Castellano behind bars, it appears prosecutors are hoping to rely on testimony from “family” members like the Trump organization’s chief financial officer, Alan Weisselberg, the one of the longest-serving employees of the company. Her former daughter-in-law Jennifer Weisselberg is cooperating with Vance’s investigation and says she believes her ex-husband’s father will turn on Trump because of his age and aversion to spending time in jail.
New York Attorney General Letitia James, who recently agreed to partner with Vance on his separate investigation into Trump’s trade relations, also forced Trump’s son Eric to sit down for a deposition interview , according to the New York Times.
But the decision to pursue racketeering charges comes with its own risks, and many legal experts believe prosecutors are better off seeking simple indictments for specific crimes that are easier to plead.
“Why overload and complicate something that could be simple enough?” Jeremy Saland, a former attorney in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, told Politico. “Why muddy the waters? Why give a defense attorney something that might confuse a jury and be able to say he beat a charge in a dismissal motion?”
Trump has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and called the investigations politically inspired “witch hunts.”