Hunter Biden hit with 9 tax-related charges in new indictment

Hunter Biden has been indicted on nine tax-related charges, including three felony counts, according to documents filed Thursday in a federal court in Los Angeles.

The 56-page filing laid out a series of charges, including allegations that the president’s son failed to pay taxes, failed to file, evaded an assessment and filed a fraudulent form. The indictment says that “rather than pay his taxes, the Defendant spent millions of dollars on an extravagant lifestyle.”

“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 says.

The charges, which include six misdemeanor tax offenses, were brought by special counsel David Weiss, a Trump appointee who previously served as U.S. attorney in Delaware and has been overseeing the federal investigation into Hunter Biden.

The maximum penalty the president’s son could face if convicted is 17 years in prison, according to Weiss’ office.

“According to the indictment, Hunter Biden engaged in a four-year scheme in which he chose not to pay at least $1.4 million in self-assessed federal taxes he owed for tax years 2016 through 2019 and to evade the assessment of taxes for tax year 2018 when he filed false returns,” Weiss’ office said in a news release.

Hunter Biden attorney Abbe Lowell said in a statement that if the president’s son’s “last name was anything other than Biden, the charges in Delaware, and now California, would not have been brought.”

“I wrote U.S. Attorney Weiss days ago seeking a customary meeting to discuss this investigation. The response was media leaks today that these charges were being filed,” said Lowell, adding that Hunter Biden “paid his taxes in full” more than two years ago.

NBC News obtained the letter from Lowell to Weiss’ office dated Tuesday, in which he requested a meeting “that occurs in almost every white-collar investigation” to discuss the investigation.

“We would like to avail ourselves of the ability to engage with you and such offices,” Lowell wrote in the letter, which cited a Justice Department policy to “engage counsel in situations such as those that might be reviewed for other possible offenses.”

In his statement Thursday, Lowell said, “All these issues will now be addressed in various courts, the first to occur this Monday when the prosecutors knew our motions to dismiss their first set of questionable charges would be filed.”

The White House declined to comment on the charges. A White House official said it learned of the indictment from public reporting and did not have advance notice.

The case was assigned to Judge Mark Scarsi, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump.

The indictment, which does not appear to refer to President Biden or his previous role as vice president, argues that Hunter Biden had the opportunity to pay his taxes at various points taking into account the money he received for expenses from an entertainment lawyer who was a personal friend. The indictment also asserts that Biden misled his accountants into filing returns that included items marked as business expenses when he allegedly was not doing business at that time.

The indictment further points to certain payments that it says were incorrectly listed as expenses, including wired money that was written down as being for a “golf member deposit” when, according to prosecutors, it was used to “purchase a membership in a sex club.”

The additional charges are a significant development in a federal investigation that has drawn scrutiny from congressional Republicans, who have seized on Hunter Biden’s legal woes as rhetorical ammunition against his father. House Republicans subpoenaed Hunter Biden in November, and his legal team has said he is open to testifying publicly before the House Oversight Committee next week.

In a statement, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith, R-Mo., said the new charges “further confirm the need for Congress to move forward with an impeachment inquiry of Joe Biden in order to uncover all the facts for the American people to judge.”

NBC News has previously reported that the House could hold a vote next week to formally authorize the Republican-led impeachment inquiry into the president.

The new indictment largely tracks with the testimony of two IRS whistleblowers and what they said was a case they prepared to charge Biden, based on their publicly available testimony, affidavits and filed documents.

House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer, R-Ky., on Thursday praised the IRS whistleblowers, who have made allegations of meddling in the Hunter Biden investigation.

“The Department of Justice got caught in its attempt to give Hunter Biden an unprecedented sweetheart plea deal and today’s charges filed against Hunter Biden are the result of Mr. Shapley and Mr. Ziegler’s efforts to ensure all Americans are treated equally under the law,” Comer said in a statement, referring to Gary Shapley and Joseph Ziegler.

The Justice Department did not provide a comment on the new indictment.

Shapley and Ziegler, in a statement of their own, called the indictment a “complete vindication” of their work and said that “the evidence supported charges against Hunter Biden.”

In July, Hunter Biden pleaded not guilty to federal tax charges following the collapse of a plea deal. A federal judge dismissed the misdemeanor charges in August. Biden had originally been expected to plead guilty to two federal misdemeanor counts of failing to pay taxes.

Some legal experts have said that charges like the ones that were brought against Biden earlier this year are rarely prosecuted.

Andrew Weissmann, a former FBI general counsel and NBC News contributor, noted in June that first-time tax offenders “rarely get prosecuted.”

Hunter Biden was indicted on federal gun charges in September related to his being in possession of a gun while using narcotics. Two of the counts allege that he completed a form saying he was not using illegal drugs when he bought a gun. Another count asserts that he possessed a firearm while using a narcotic. He pleaded not guilty.

Lowell claimed in his statement Thursday that Weiss had “bowed to Republican pressure to file unprecedented and unconstitutional gun charges.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Weiss as special counsel in August to oversee the investigation into Hunter Biden.

“As special counsel, he will continue to have the authority and responsibility that he has previously exercised to oversee the investigation and decide where, when and whether to file charges,” Garland said in announcing Weiss’ appointment. “The special counsel will not be subject to the day-to-day supervision of any official of the Department, but he must comply with the regulations, procedures, and policies of the Department.”

Weiss was nominated by Trump in 2017 and started serving as U.S. attorney in Delaware the next year. He remained in office through the start of the Biden administration, even as most U.S. attorneys appointed during the Trump administration were asked to resign.

On Monday, Weiss asked a federal judge to deny Hunter Biden’s request to subpoena Trump, former Attorney General William Barr and other Trump administration officials.

“His allegations and subpoena requests focus on likely inadmissible, far-reaching, and non-specific categories of documents concerning the actions and motives of individuals who did not make the relevant prosecutorial decision in his case,” Weiss’ team said.

President Biden is expected to attend fundraisers this weekend in Los Angeles, where the charges against his son were filed. The trip was planned long before Thursday’s indictment.

The new indictment could lead to a court fight that plays out next year alongside the 2024 presidential campaign, when Democrats hope to draw attention to Trump and the trials awaiting him. The former president has two federal cases that are scheduled to go to trial next year, along with a trial in New York and one in Georgia for which a start date has not yet been scheduled.