LONGTIME TRUMP CFO FLIPS: Top Trump Executive Weisselberg Pleads Guilty In Tax Case, Agrees To Testify

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FILE - Allen Weisselberg, right, stands behind then President-elect Donald Trump during a news conference in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York, Jan. 11, 2017. Weisselberg, Trump's chief financial officer, is expected to plead guilty on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022 to tax violations in a deal that would require him to testify about business practices at the former president's company. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

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A top executive at former President Donald Trump’s family business pleaded guilty Thursday to evading taxes on a free apartment and other perks, striking a deal with prosecutors that could make him a star witness against the company at a trial this fall.

Allen Weisselberg, a senior Trump Organization adviser and formerly the company’s longtime CFO, pleaded guilty to all 15 of the charges he faced in the case.

In a low, somewhat hoarse voice, Weisselberg admitted taking in over $1.7 million worth of untaxed extras — including school tuition for his grandchildren, free rent for a Manhattan apartment and lease payments for a luxury car — and explicitly keeping some of the plums off the books.

Judge Juan Manuel Merchan agreed to sentence the 75-year-old executive to five months in New York City’s Rikers Island jail complex, although he will be eligible for release much earlier if he behaves behind bars. The judge said Weisselberg will have to pay nearly $2 million in taxes, penalties and interest and complete five years of probation.

The plea bargain also requires Weisselberg to testify truthfully as a prosecution witness when the Trump Organization goes on trial in October on related charges. The company is accused of helping Weisselberg and other executives avoid income taxes by failing to report their full compensation accurately to the government. Trump himself is not charged in the case.

Weisselberg will remain free on bail until he is formally sentenced following the company’s trial. He said nothing as he left court, offering no reply when a journalist asked whether he had any message for Trump. If Weisselberg fails to comply with the plea terms, prosecutors said they would seek a “significant state prison sentence,” and Merchan warned that he could be subject to the maximum punishment for the top charge — grand larceny — of 15 years.

Weisselberg’s lawyer Nicholas Gravante Jr. said his client pleaded guilty “to put an end to this case and the years-long legal and personal nightmares it has caused for him and his family.”

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a statement that Weisselberg’s plea “directly implicates the Trump Organization in a wide range of criminal activity and requires Weisselberg to provide invaluable testimony in the upcoming trial against the corporation.”

“We look forward to proving our case in court against the Trump Organization,” he added.

Testimony by Weisselberg could weaken the company’s defense. If convicted, the company could face fines of double the amount of unpaid taxes or potentially be placed on probation and forced to change its business practices.

The company praised Weisselberg on Thursday as a trusted, honorable employee who it said has been “persecuted and threatened by law enforcement, particularly the Manhattan district attorney, in their never-ending, politically motivated quest to get President Trump.”

In a statement, the company accused prosecutors of trying to pressure Weisselberg to cast aspersions on Trump, and of stretching to make a criminal case out of familiar executive perks such as a company car.

The company, which was not involved in Weisselberg’s guilty plea Thursday, said it has done nothing wrong, won’t plead guilty and looks forward “to having our day in court.”

Weisselberg, seen as one of Trump’s most loyal business associates, is the only person to face criminal charges so far in the Manhattan district attorney’s long-running investigation of the company. Weisselberg started working for the Trump Organization in 1973, when it was run by Trump’s father, Fred. Following his July 2021 arrest, the company changed his title from CFO to senior adviser. The CFO position remains vacant.

Weisselberg agreed to plead guilty days after a court hearing where Merchan denied his request to dismiss the charges. The judge rejected the defense’s argument that the district attorney’s office was punishing Weisselberg because he wouldn’t offer information that would damage Trump.

The district attorney has also been investigating whether Trump or his company lied to banks or the government about the value of its properties to obtain loans or reduce tax bills.

Then-District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who started the investigation, directed his deputies last year to present evidence to a grand jury and seek an indictment of Trump, according to former prosecutor Mark Pomerantz, who previously led the probe. But after Vance left office in January, his successor, Bragg, allowed the grand jury to disband without charges. Both prosecutors are Democrats. Bragg has said the investigation is continuing.

Prosecutors alleged that the company gave untaxed fringe benefits to senior executives, including Weisselberg, for 15 years. Weisselberg alone was accused of defrauding the federal government, state and city out of more than $900,000 in unpaid taxes and undeserved tax refunds.

Trump, a Republican, has decried the New York investigations as a “political witch hunt” and has said his company’s actions were standard practice in the real estate business and in no way a crime.

Last week, Trump sat for a deposition in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ parallel civil investigation into allegations that Trump’s company misled lenders and tax authorities about asset values. Trump invoked his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination more than 400 times.

James, whose probe uncovered the evidence that led to Weisselberg’s charges, said in a statement: “Let this guilty plea send a loud and clear message: we will crack down on anyone who steals from the public for personal gain because no one is above the law.”

(AP)


12 COMMENTS

  1. The real issue here is that he agreed to testify about the Trump companies but NOT about any actions taken by Trump personally. Thats helpful, but not really what the prosecutors had hoped for. I also suspect their case was not as strong as might appear, or else they would have gone to trial.

  2. so, it’s revealed what a good boss trump is, practicing a long time business practice of providing perks ‘off the books’ like every single company does, and trump gets in trouble- 2 tiered “justice” system

  3. Really? This is what they’re busy with while people get away with assaulting, maming and even murdering other people daily in NYC? Why would anyone who owes that kind of money in taxes not seek a way out. American citizens should fork over their hard-earned money to be used for social welfare- most recently, housing border crossers in hotels? This world is so upside down – this guy is going to Riker’s while the people who make NY uninhabitable run free!!!!

  4. Someone upthread mentioned these ‘perks’ are “… a long time business practice of providing perks ‘off the books’ like every single company does…” No not every company does this. I’ve worked for a number of Fortune 500 companies and benefits are disclosed and taxed. I know business owners in the tri state area that refuse to risk their business by providing untaxed ‘perks’.

  5. To jack p: “off the books” is a euphemism for cheating on taxes. Dopes like me try to pay our taxes. Scum like Trump pay off the books.

  6. Tells you something about school tuition as it is listed along a free apartment… Is it a clear crime though if someone donated to a school and someone else tells the school that he helped bring a donor in lieu of tuition. If this is so what is the status of people “volunteering” for school for reduced tuition, or stam teaching for babkes with kids free or reduced? Are schools paying taxes on that?! Or at the extreme, a parent teaching his own kids should pay himself and contribute to taxes on the money he already earned and hopefully paid taxes aready?

  7. New York is getting a reputation as a place in which cases are decided based one’s political connections and ideological perception, and where selective prosecution and political bias dominate the judicial process. In effect New York is trading in a long cultivated reputation for fair adjudication for one in which rule of law has been replaced by politics. This is very dangerous since most business wish to be located in a jurisdiction with a strong orientation to rule of law, and most of New York’s businesses (and tax revenues) can relocate with a few clicks (they have accounts in New York, not factories) to a state with a more reliable and less biased legal system.