At least one employee of Donald J. Trump’s family business testified in front of a grand jury on Thursday as prosecutors in Manhattan were considering whether a company executive should be charged with tax offenses, according to experts.
Manhattan prosecutors are investigating whether the executive, Matthew Calamari, has benefited from what prosecutors have described as a 15-year program with the Trump Organization to aid their top leadership with tax evasion by dealing with them with non-literal Luxury perks like free cars and apartments.
The development came two months after prosecutors indicted the Trump organization’s chief financial officer, Allen H. Weisselberg, and the company itself over the perks.
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It is unclear whether prosecutors will indict Mr. Calamari, who once served as Mr. Trump’s bodyguard and rose to the position of Chief Operating Officer of the Trump Organization for over four decades.
Mr Calamari’s son, Matthew Calamari Jr., the Trump Organization’s 28-year-old corporate security director, testified to the grand jury Thursday.
Jeffrey McConney, who long served as the Trump Organization controller and administered the elderly Mr. Calamari’s taxes, was also expected to testify.
Two people close to the case, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the investigation, believe that prosecutors will decide around the next month whether the elderly Mr Calamari will be charged.
If they don’t indict him, they could seek his testimony before the grand jury as part of a fuller investigation into Mr. Trump’s and his company’s financial operations. Prosecutors who went to the United States Supreme Court twice to gain access to Mr. Trump’s tax returns are investigating whether Mr. Trump or the company has committed tax, insurance or banking fraud.
Under state law, witnesses who appear before the grand jury are given immunity from trial for their testimony, which means they cannot exercise their right to refuse to answer questions in the Fifth Amendment. However, if they lie, they can still be prosecuted for perjury.
“Matt Calamari Jr. has been summoned to testify before the grand jury,” said Nicholas A. Gravante Jr., an attorney who represents both the father and son. “He appeared today, was vaccinated and truthfully stated everything that is required by law. He is a model citizen, has never broken a law and is happy to have this distraction behind him. “
Mr. McConney’s attorney was not immediately available for comment.
Republican Trump has not been charged with a crime and has ridiculed Democrat Cyrus R. Vance Jr.’s investigation as a politically motivated fishing expedition. The Trump organization declined to comment on Thursday, as did the prosecutor.
Prosecutors have long sought Mr Weißelberg’s collaboration in the broad-based investigation against Mr Trump, and the charges against him could put pressure on him. An indictment, unsealed on July 1, accused Mr. Weisselberg of not paying taxes on services valued at $ 1.7 million, including leased Mercedes-Benz cars, bonuses and a rent-free apartment.
Mr. Trump also personally paid for private school tuition for Mr. Weißelberg’s grandchildren, and Mr. Weißelberg ordered that the indictment “by Allen Weisselberg” be removed from the check ledger, according to the indictment.
Mr. Weißelberg pleaded not guilty. He remains employed by the Trump Organization but has been removed from leadership positions in the company’s subsidiaries.
A lawsuit against Mr Calamari, who lived in a Trump building in Manhattan and drove a Mercedes-Benz leased through the company, could pose a challenge to prosecutors.
Unlike Mr. Weisselberg, an accountant who oversaw the company’s finances for decades, Mr. Calamari is not a finance specialist and was not responsible for the Trump organization’s bookkeeping. He could also argue that his job meant he had to live near the company’s offices in Trump Tower, and while fringe benefits are generally taxable, there are some exceptions.
The focus on fringe benefits is one element of a broader investigation into whether Mr. Trump and the company have manipulated real estate values to obtain certain loans and tax breaks, along with other potential financial crime. This investigation continued, although it is unclear whether this will lead to charges.
The company has denied any wrongdoing.
Maggie Haberman contributed to the coverage.