Trump Organization CFO pleads guilty to tax evasion case – Boston News, Weather, Sports

NEW YORK (AP) – A top executive at former President Donald Trump’s family business pleaded guilty Thursday to tax evasion in a deal with prosecutors that could make him a star witness against the company at a trial this fall.

Allen Weisselberg, CFO of the Trump Organization, pleaded guilty to all 15 charges he faced in the case.

In a low, slightly hoarse voice, he admitted to taking in over $1.7 million in untaxed perks — including tuition for his grandchildren, free rent on a Manhattan apartment, and lease payments on a luxury car — and specifically some of the Keep plums from books.

Judge Juan Manuel Merchan agreed to sentence Weisselberg to five months in New York’s Rikers Island prison complex, although he can be released much sooner if he behaves well behind bars. The judge said Weisselberg would have to pay nearly $2 million in taxes, penalties and interest and serve five years of probation.

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

Weisselberg said nothing as he left the court and made no reply when a journalist asked if he had a message for Trump.

Weisselberg’s attorney, Nicholas Gravante Jr., said his client pleaded guilty to “putting an end to this case and the years of legal and personal nightmares he and his family have caused.”

“We’re glad to have this behind us,” the attorney added.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a statement that Weisselberg’s pleading “directly implicates the Trump Organization in a wide array of criminal activities and requires Weisselberg to make invaluable testimony against the company in the upcoming trial.”

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

Statements by Weisselberg could potentially weaken the Trump Organization’s defense. If convicted, the company could face fines or possible probation and be forced to change certain business practices.

Messages were sent to a company attorney and spokesman for comment on Weisselberg’s plea.

Weisselberg, 75, is so far the only person facing criminal prosecution in the Manhattan Attorney’s long-running investigation into the company’s business practices.

Weisselberg is considered one of Trump’s most loyal business partners and was arrested in July 2021. His lawyers have argued the Democrat-led prosecutor’s office is punishing him for failing to offer information that would harm Trump.

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

Then-district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who opened the investigation, last year directed his deputies to present evidence to a grand jury and seek an indictment against Trump, according to former prosecutor Mark Pomerantz, who previously led the investigation.

But after Vance left office, his successor, Bragg, allowed the grand jury to dissolve without indictment. Both prosecutors are Democrats. Bragg said the investigation is continuing.

The Trump Organization is not involved in Weisselberg’s guilty plea on Thursday and is scheduled to go on trial in October in the alleged compensation scheme.

Prosecutors alleged the company provided 15 years of untaxed fringe benefits to senior employees, including Weisselberg. Weißelberg alone has been accused of defrauding the federal, state and local government out of more than $900,000 in unpaid taxes and unearned tax refunds.

Under state law, punishment for the most serious charge against Weisselberg, grand larceny, could carry a sentence of up to 15 years in prison. But the charge doesn’t have a mandatory minimum, and most first-time tax offenders never end up behind bars.

His sentencing will come after the trial of the Trump Organization, which faces charges of tax fraud, which is punishable by a fine of twice the unpaid taxes or $250,000, whichever is greater.

Trump has described the New York investigation as a “political witch hunt” and said his company’s actions are standard practice in the real estate business and in no way punishable.

Last week, Trump sat for testimony in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ parallel civil investigation into allegations that Trump’s company misled lenders and tax authorities about assets. Trump referred to his Fifth change protection against self-infliction more than 400 times.

(Copyright (c) 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed, or redistributed.)

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