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Top Trump Executive Under Criminal Investigation Over Taxes

The New York attorney general’s office has been criminally investigating the chief financial officer of former President Donald J. Trump’s company for months over tax issues, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The office of the attorney general, Letitia James, notified the Trump Organization in a January letter that it had opened a criminal investigation related to the chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, the people said. The investigators have examined whether taxes were paid on fringe benefits that Mr. Trump gave him, including cars and tens of thousands of dollars in private school tuition for at least one of Mr. Weisselberg’s grandchildren.

Previously, Ms. James’s office had been conducting only a civil investigation into the Trump Organization, meaning it could sue the company and seek fines, but not criminal charges.

The focus on perks and Mr. Weisselberg overlaps with the Manhattan district attorney’s long-running criminal fraud investigation of Mr. Trump and his family business. The district attorney’s office has been investigating the extent to which Mr. Trump handed out fringe benefits to some of his executives, including Mr. Weisselberg, and whether taxes were paid on those perks, The New York Times previously reported.

In recent weeks, Ms. James’s office suggested to the company in a new letter that it had broadened the criminal investigation beyond the focus on Mr. Weisselberg, one of the people said. It was unclear how the inquiry had widened.

In general, fringe benefits — which can include cars, flights and club memberships — are taxable, though there are some exceptions. Companies are typically responsible for withholding such taxes from an employee’s paycheck.

Rather than risk bumping into each other, the two investigative offices recently began collaborating, another person with knowledge of the matter said. Two assistant attorneys general from Ms. James’s office have joined the district attorney’s team, which has been seeking to turn Mr. Weisselberg into a cooperating witness against Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization, people with knowledge of that effort said.

Mr. Weisselberg has not been accused of wrongdoing. His lawyer, Mary E. Mulligan, declined to comment.

The attorney general’s office revealed the collaboration Tuesday, announcing, “We are now actively investigating the Trump Organization in a criminal capacity, along with the Manhattan D.A.” The office did not comment further, and the district attorney’s office declined to comment.

In addition to the fringe benefits, Ms. James and the district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., have examined whether Mr. Trump’s company inflated the value of his properties to obtain favorable loans and lowered the values to reduce taxes.

In a lengthy statement released Wednesday, Mr. Trump called the efforts an “investigation that is in desperate search of a crime.” As he has in the past, Mr. Trump, a Republican, attacked both investigations as politically motivated fishing expeditions. Mr. Vance and Ms. James are both Democrats.

Mr. Trump has been described by advisers as agitated by the two investigations. After moving last week from his private Florida club, Mar-a-Lago, to another of his clubs in New Jersey, he then decamped to Trump Tower for his first extended stay in years, spending time at the office where aides have been grappling with the inquiries for many months.

CNN reported earlier that Ms. James’s office had opened a criminal tax investigation into Mr. Weisselberg.

For months, Mr. Vance’s office has pursued Mr. Weisselberg as a potential cooperating witness, people with knowledge of that effort have said. Mr. Vance’s prosecutors, who have paid particular attention to Mr. Weisselberg’s fringe benefits, subpoenaed records from Mr. Weisselberg’s bank and the private school in Manhattan that his grandchildren have attended, The Times has reported.

Mr. Weisselberg’s former daughter-in-law, Jennifer Weisselberg, has said that prosecutors had asked her about the tuition payments as well as gifts her ex-husband, Barry Weisselberg, received from Mr. Trump, including an apartment on Central Park South and several leased cars.

Maggie Haberman and Jonah E. Bromwich contributed reporting.

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