Allen Weisselberg, Donald Trump’s company chief financial officer and one of his most trusted executives, pleaded guilty to tax violations on Thursday, further complicating the former president’s legal woes.
Weisselberg, 75, has worked for the Trump family for five decades. He was accused of accepting more than $1.7 million in off-the-books compensation from the former president’s company, including untaxed perks like rent, car payments and school tuition.
Asked repeatedly by Judge Juan Merchan whether he and the Trump Organization had engaged in criminal conduct in connection with the charges, Weisselberg repeated over and over, “Yes, your honor.”
Weisselberg pleaded guilty to 15 charges and faced a 15-year sentence. Under the deal, he is expected to serve a five-month prison sentence at New York’s notorious Rikers Island prison. He will also have to pay back nearly $2 million in back taxes he owed, prosecutors told the court.
The Trump Organization is preparing to go to trial in October on similar charges of wrongful business practices, and as part of the deal, Weisselberg has agreed to testify against the company. He has refused to testify against Trump himself.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, whose office brought the charges, said Weisselberg used his position at the Trump Organization to “slander taxpayers and enrich himself.”
“Instead of paying his fair share like everyone else, Weisselberg had the Trump Organization provide him with a rent-free apartment, expensive cars, private school tuition for his grandchildren and new furniture, all without paying the required taxes” .
Bragg said the plea agreement “directly implicates the Trump Organization in a wide range of criminal activities 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 said.
Weisselberg’s guilty plea adds to a whirlwind of legal problems now surrounding the former president.
The Justice Department is investigating whether Trump violated the Espionage Act by storing top-secret documents at Mar-a-Lago, his Florida home. This week, former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani testified before a grand jury in Georgia, where he is the target of a criminal investigation related to efforts to invalidate Joe Biden’s election victory in the state. And in September, the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 uprising will reconvene its hearings amid charges that Trump incited a mob to attack the Capitol in an attempt to delay or stop the certification of Trump’s election victory. Joe Biden.
Considered one of Trump’s most loyal business partners, Weisselberg was arrested in July 2021. Weisselberg started working for Trump’s father, Fred Trump, in 1973, and no one outside the Trump family knows more about his business . “They’re like Batman and Robin,” Jennifer Weisselberg, the ex-wife of Allen Weisselberg’s son Barry, he told the New York Times.
Prosecutors alleged the company gave top executives, including Weisselberg, untaxed fringe benefits for 15 years. Weisselberg alone was charged with defrauding the federal, state and city governments of more than $900,000 in unpaid taxes and unearned tax refunds.
Under state law, the punishment for the most serious charge against Weisselberg, grand larceny, could have been up to 15 years in prison. But the charge carries no mandatory minimum, and most first-time offenders in tax-related cases never end up behind bars.
Tax fraud charges against the Trump Organization are punishable by a fine of twice the amount of unpaid taxes, or $250,000, whichever is greater.
Trump has not been charged in the criminal investigation. The Republican has denounced the New York investigations as a “political witch hunt” and said his company’s actions were common practice in the real estate business and in no way a crime.
Last week, Trump filed a statement in the parallel civil investigation by New York Attorney General Letitia James into allegations that Trump’s company misled lenders and tax authorities about the value of assets. Trump invoked his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination more than 400 times.
Weisselberg said nothing as he left court, and offered no response when asked by a reporter if he had a message for Trump.
Weisselberg’s attorney, Nicholas Gravante, said his client pleaded guilty “to end this case and the years of legal and personal nightmares it has caused for him and his family.”
“We’re glad to have this behind him,” the attorney added.
The Associated Press contributed to this article