The longtime chief financial officer of Donald Trump’s company has pleaded guilty to 15 counts of tax fraud he carried out in his capacity at the Trump Organization. Allen Weisselberg, 76, who served Trump for decades as accountant, accountant and eventually CFO of the Trump Organization, admitted in court Thursday that he intentionally tampered with company books and lied on his tax returns to hide more than $1.7 million additional compensation. The extra income came in the form of a slew of lavish perks — the Trump Organization paid his rent, lent him a car, and even paid for his grandchildren to attend a fancy private school in New York City.
Although Weissleberg oversaw the Trump Organization’s financial books and acknowledged in his guilty plea that he had altered the company’s financial records, the whole case still points ominously in the direction of Trump himself, since all of the money Weisselberg received came from the eng led network flowed from companies almost exclusively owned by Trump. The Trump Organization was indicted along with Weisselberg last summer, and prosecutors from the Manhattan DA’s office expect to bring that case to court in October.
Weisselberg faced up to 15 years in prison, but thanks to his guilty plea today, he likely won’t serve more than 100 days in prison (allowing for good behavior) — but he won’t serve out the sentence at New York City’s infamous Riker’s Island, a state penitentiary. Then-Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance indicted Weisselberg last summer as part of an ongoing investigation into Trump, presumably hoping to pressure Weisselberg into hiring his boss, but the accountant adamantly refused to play ball — or they even meet with one to offend.
Prosecutors said Weisselberg will have to pay more than $1.9 million in back taxes, interest and penalties and will recommend a sentence of five to 15 years if he fails to testify truthfully in the upcoming Trump Organization trial.
On Thursday, Weisselberg spoke softly in court, repeating “Yes, Your Honor,” as New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan walked him through a detailed account of the various crimes he has now admitted to. He pleaded guilty to everything the prosecution had brought against him and waived the right to appeal. In the course of Thursday’s guilty plea, Weisselberg agreed that many of his crimes took place in direct coordination and collaboration with the Trump Organization and its various entities — a fairly damning set of testimonies that preview testimony he will make in court could. However, Weisselberg only attacked one other person at the Trump Organization, a longtime accountant named Jeffrey S. McConney, who testified before a grand jury on the matter and apparently took much of the blame for the tax avoidance program. McConney has not been charged with any crime.
But even if the plea deal doesn’t touch Trump personally, Weisselberg’s testimony against the Trump organization is still very damaging. There is no distance between Trump and the body that bears his name. He personally owns nearly 100 percent of all of the hundreds of LLCs and corporations that comprise the Trump Organization. For most financial and legal purposes, the Trump Organization donald trump
Following his request, Weisselberg left the courtroom without answering the reporter’s questions, and he and his attorneys exited the courthouse. In a statement, his attorney, Nicholas Gravante Jr., suggested the request was nothing more than an attempt by Weisselberg to essentially get to the point and get it all over with.
“In one of the most difficult decisions of his life, Mr. Weisselberg decided to enter a guilty plea today to put an end to this case and the years of legal and personal nightmares he and his family have caused,” Gravante said. “Rather than risk the possibility of 15 years in prison, he has agreed to serve 100 days. We’re glad to have that behind him.”
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who inherited the case filed by his predecessor Vance last summer, was not in court (Vance attended Weisselberg’s indictment last year), but said in a statement that the settlement agreement for the Trump organization is devastating.
“Today Allen Weisselberg admitted in court that he used his position at the Trump Organization to defraud taxpayers and enrich himself,” Bragg said. “This plea agreement directly implicates the Trump Organization in a variety of criminal activities and requires Weisselberg to make invaluable testimony against the company in the upcoming trial.”
*This is an evolving story.