Hunter Biden, indicted on nine tax crimes in his second criminal case

A Los Angeles grand jury has opened a new case against the son of the U.S. president, which has provided further ammunition to the Republicans

Hunter Biden
Hunter Biden, the son of U.S. President Joe Biden, on November 23 in Nantucket, Massachusetts.TOM BRENNER (REUTERS)

Hunter Biden continues to be a headache for President Joe Biden. A Los Angeles grand jury on Thursday opened a new court case against the president’s son, who has been indicted on nine tax crimes. This is the second case that Hunter Biden is facing just as his father starts his 2024 presidential campaign. The indictment filed in a California federal court argues that the 53-year-old lawyer had enough money to pay $1.4 million in taxes between 2016 and 2019. Instead, he indulged in a lavish lifestyle that included renting a Lamborghini, staying at the exclusive Chateau Marmont Hotel and paying exotic dancers, among other expenses. The Republican Party has jumped on the case, arguing it is a sign of the corruption and nepotism of the Democratic administration.

The now-defendant initially admitted to committing two tax fraud offenses in 2017 and 2018 (regularized with the payment of $1 million) for which he was to be sentenced to lesser penalties and likely avoid prison time. The admission was part of a plea deal: the prosecutor waived the offense of illegal purchase and possession of a gun if Hunter Biden stayed away from drugs and did not attempt to purchase firearms for two years. But that deal collapsed, and in September, he was indicted on federal firearm charges in Delaware.

Now, Hunter Biden is facing a second indictment. On Thursday, he was charged with three felonies and six misdemeanors. The grand jury accuses Hunter Biden with purposefully lying to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), by signing false tax returns, using corporate money for personal expenses, and evading tax payments for several tax years.

In the indictment, special counsel David Weiss —who has been investigating Hunter Biden for five years — details the luxurious life Hunter Biden maintained while evading taxes. The document lists payments and transactions in luxury hotels, his ex-girlfriend’s expenses and purchases in exclusive stores in both New York and Los Angeles, where the president’s son lives. Weiss argues that many of these expenses — which could seem fitting for a movie star — appear in Biden’s autobiography Beautiful Things, which was published in 2021.

In April 2018, Hunter Biden paid $1,700 to rent a Lamborghini when he first arrived in California. Between April and May of that year, the lawyer and lobbyist spent $43,000 to stay at the Chateau Marmont, the famous Sunset Boulevard hotel frequented by entertainment industry stars and where some of Hollywood’s most exclusive parties are held. A little later in 2018, he loaned his then-girlfriend $7,215 to pay for Airbnb accommodations.

The prosecutor claims that Hunter Biden used the hotels as his personal residence, as he had no address at the time. This led to a trail of travel and overnight stays in Atlantic City, New York and Los Angeles amounting to $112,000. “There was no business purpose to staying at luxury hotels,” the indictment states. “Rather, as he described in his memoir, they were used to meet up with his then-girlfriend and for constant partying.”

Weiss also argues that Hunter Biden passed off personal expenses as corporate expenses in his records, including a $30,000 payment for one of his daughter’s tuition at Columbia University in New York.

In August 2018, Hunter Biden transferred $1,500 to an exotic dancer at a strip club via an app. The transaction was listed as an “artwork.” “The exotic dancer had not sold him any artwork,” the indictment adds. Hunter Biden also paid $11,500 to an escort to spend two nights with him. According to the indictment, the lawyer was trying to hide these payments by passing them off as wages.

The new indictment increases the pressure on the Biden family. The earlier plea deal collapsed in July due to divisions between the prosecution and the defense, and pressure from the Republicans. The Republican argued the agreement was a sign that the president’s son was getting special treatment, although deals are commonly struck with defendants who have been rehabilitated and have no criminal record.

Special counsel Weiss decided to file gun charges against Hunter Biden, who was charged with three counts. If convicted of all counts, he could face up to 25 years in prison and fines of up to $750,000, however it is rare for defendants to get the maximum penalty in cases such as this one for a non-violent crime. According to Weiss, Hunter Biden lied when he claimed he wasn’t addicted to drugs when he bought a .38-caliber Colt Cobra five years ago.

Hunter Biden, 53, submitted a written statement “certifying he was not an unlawful user of, and addicted to, any stimulant, narcotic drug, and any other controlled substance, when in fact, as he knew, that statement was false and fictitious,” according to the indictment. In that first case, the president’s son is charged with three crimes — two counts for alleged false statements he made while purchasing the gun (on the written statement and to the gun dealer) and a third count for possessing the gun while addicted to drugs.

Hunter Biden appeared in early October in federal court in Wilmington, Delaware, to hear the gun charges against him. He pleaded not guilty in a high-profile hearing that lasted just over 20 minutes.

Ammunition against the president

With less than a year to go before the 2024 presidential election, Republicans are using the case as a weapon against the president. Hunter Biden has been summoned to testify to the House of Representatives. The president’s son has agreed to attend, as long as the session is not held behind closed doors, as the Republicans want. Hunter Biden fears that the information in these statements could be selectively leaked and used to “manipulate, even distort, the facts and misinform the American public,” as he noted in a letter to congressmen.

The subpoena to Biden’s son is part of the preliminary investigation to see if there is enough evidence to impeach the president. Biden on Wednesday dismissed the Republican claims that he behaved illegally or unethically in connection with his son’s business dealings as “lies.” “I’m not going to comment on that. I did not, and it’s just a bunch of lies,” he said.

Republicans told Hunter Biden’s lawyers that the subpoena for a closed-door hearing on Dec. 13 is non-negotiable and that if he does not attend they will hold him in contempt of Congress. It is not clear, however, that Congress has the ability to force him to testify, even less so when the preliminary investigation has not been approved by the full House of Representatives. The probe was launched by former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who was trying to appease the hard-line wing of his party. The move failed and he was ousted by his own party members.

The new House Speaker, Mike Johnson, says the chamber will vote next week to authorize the impeachment inquiry into Biden. “The House has no choice if it’s going to follow its constitutional responsibility to formally adopt an impeachment inquiry on the floor so that when the subpoenas are challenged in court, we will be at the apex of our constitutional authority,” Johnson told reporters. He seems to agree with those who believe that the subpoenas currently have no binding force.

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