By Evan Perez, Paula Reid, Marshall Cohen, Hannah Rabinowitz and Holmes Lybrand, CNN
(CNN) — Hunter Biden has been charged in connection with a long-running Justice Department investigation into his taxes – the second criminal case that special counsel David Weiss has brought against President Joe Biden’s son.
The charges span nine counts, including failure to file and pay taxes; evasion of assessment; and false or fraudulent tax return. CNN was first to report a new criminal case had been filed.
According to the special counsel’s team, Hunter Biden “engaged in a four-year scheme to not pay at least $1.4 million” in taxes that he owed from 2016 through 2019. Though Hunter Biden did eventually pay his taxes from 2018, prosecutors allege that he included “false business deductions in order to evade assessment of taxes to reduce the substantial tax liabilities he faced.”
Prosecutors also allege in the 56-page indictment that he “subverted the payroll and tax withholding process of his own company” by withdrawing millions of dollars outside of its payroll and tax withholding process.
The president’s son “spent millions of dollars on an extravagant lifestyle rather than paying his tax bills,” according to the indictment, which states that “between 2016 and October 15, 2020, the Defendant spent this money on drugs, escorts and girlfriends, luxury hotels and rental properties, exotic cars, clothing, and other items of a personal nature, in short, everything but his taxes.”
The indictment also referenced Hunter Biden’s 2021 memoir, “Beautiful Things,” in which he detailed some of his personal struggles with addiction and substance abuse. He was paid more than $140,000 related to the book from January through October 15, 2020, according to the indictment.
Hunter Biden’s attorney, Abbe Lowell, said in a statement that “based on the facts and the law, if Hunter’s last name was anything other than Biden, the charges in Delaware, and now California, would not have been brought.”
“First, U.S. Attorney Weiss bowed to Republican pressure to file unprecedented and unconstitutional gun charges to renege on a non-prosecution resolution. Now, after five years of investigating with no new evidence – and two years after Hunter paid his taxes in full – the U.S. Attorney has piled on nine new charges when he had agreed just months ago to resolve this matter with a pair of misdemeanors,” he continued.
Lowell had sent a letter to Weiss on Tuesday asking to speak with prosecutors “before any additional charging decisions are made.” He said in his Thursday statement that the “customary meeting to discuss this investigation” did not occur.
Asked for comment, the White House referred CNN to the Justice Department and Hunter Biden’s representatives.
In a news release announcing the charges Thursday, the Justice Department said Hunter Biden could face a maximum of 17 years in prison if convicted of the charges.
The case had been close to being resolved in July when a plea deal fell apart. The new tax case stems from Hunter Biden’s lucrative overseas business dealings – including his involvement with Ukrainian energy company Burisma and a Chinese private equity fund – which are at the center of House Republicans’ impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden.
Now, the president will be campaigning for a second White House term and fighting a Republican impeachment bid while his son fights to avoid prison in two criminal cases.
According to court filings from the now-defunct plea deal, Hunter Biden repeatedly missed IRS deadlines to pay his federal taxes on time, and eventually owed about $2 million to the government. He paid the money back in 2021, with a loan from a friend.
Federal prosecutors have been scrutinizing Hunter Biden’s finances since 2018, and Trump-appointed US attorney David Weiss was designated special counsel in August.
The probe appeared to be winding down this summer when Hunter Biden agreed to plead guilty to two tax misdemeanors, and prosecutors would recommend no jail time. They also agreed that a gun charge would be dropped in two years if he stayed out of legal trouble.
But both proposed deals collapsed after scrutiny from a federal judge and disagreements over the fine print. Then Weiss indicted Hunter Biden in September on three charges related to his purchase of a gun from a shop in Delaware in 2018 at a time prosecutors say he was an illegal drug user. He has pleaded not guilty in the gun possession and false statements case.
Hunter Biden’s attorneys previously accused Weiss of “bending to political pressure” from Republicans and said that his actions “present a grave threat to our system of justice.”
One of the reasons Republicans have attacked Weiss is because of testimony from two IRS whistleblowers who were involved in the probe and said they witnessed political interference by the Justice Department. The whistleblowers said career IRS agents recommended felony tax charges against Hunter Biden in early 2022.
Weiss and Attorney General Merrick Garland have refuted the whistleblowers’ claims.
Hunter Biden made millions of dollars from private equity deals, corporate consulting and legal fees in Ukraine, China, Romania and other countries. Prosecutors previously said he had the money to buy luxury items like a Porsche and was warned about his looming tax bills by accountants and associates – but still missed the IRS deadlines.
House Republicans have zeroed in on many of these overseas deals as part of their own probes.
They’ve uncovered some evidence that Hunter Biden leveraged his father’s position to make money. But their impeachment inquiry is largely based on their unproven claims that Joe Biden was involved in “corrupt” business deals with his son.
To date, federal prosecutors have never offered any evidence backing up GOP claims that Joe Biden was in business with his son or abused his powers to enrich his family.
This headline and story have been updated with additional developments.
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