Trump CFO Allen Weisselberg pleads guilty in tax-fraud case

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NEW YORK — Allen Weisselberg, the longtime top financial officer of former president Donald Trump’s company, pleaded guilty on Thursday to committing more than a dozen felonies, including criminal tax fraud and grand larceny.

Weisselberg and the Trump Organization were indicted last year by authorities in New York who charged them with concealing certain financial compensation as part of what they called a years-long scheme to avoid paying taxes. The case is part of the churning legal maelstrom still surrounding Trump and his close allies, with local, state and federal authorities scrutinizing everything from his namesake business to his handling of classified government documents since leaving office.

Appearing in a Manhattan courtroom, Weisselberg, 75, acknowledged his part in the scenario outlined by prosecutors — and agreed to testify, if called, at a pending trial for the company. As part of his plea agreement, Weisselberg, Trump’s close and trusted associate for decades, would spend five months in jail, followed by five years of probation.

Chief financial officer of former president Donald Trump’s company Allen Weisselberg appeared Aug. 18 at a NY court, facing more than a dozen felony charges. (Video: AP)

Weisselberg spoke sparingly during the hearing, answering “yes” to affirm his activities and guilt on every count. His future testimony, however, could prove damaging for the former president’s namesake company, which prosecutors say carried out “a sweeping and audacious illegal payments scheme.”

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Weisselberg’s sentence depends on him “testifying truthfully” at the Trump company’s trial, according to the district attorney’s office.

The plea agreement “directly implicates” the Trump Organization in a “wide range of criminal activity,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a statement.

“Furthermore, thanks to the incredibly hard work and dedication of the team prosecuting this case, Weisselberg will spend time behind bars,” Bragg said. “We look forward to proving our case in court against the Trump Organization.”

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The former president and those close to him have attacked the case, tying it to the thicket of other investigations and scrutiny that he routinely characterizes as a coordinated “witch hunt” by Democrats who dislike him.

In a statement, his company called Weisselberg “a fine and honorable man who, for the past 4 years, has been harassed, persecuted and threatened by law enforcement, particularly the Manhattan District Attorney, in their never ending, politically motivated quest to get President Trump.”

Weisselberg, the company’s statement said, pleaded guilty “in an effort to put this matter behind him and get on with his life.” The company pledged that the two corporate entities charged alongside Weisselberg would not make any plea deal, denying any wrongdoing, and said “we now look forward to having our day in court.”

Jury selection in the Trump Organization’s trial is scheduled to begin in late October, which the company noted was “just days before the midterm elections.”

Word that Weisselberg was expected to reach a plea deal emerged on Monday, his 75th birthday. A person with knowledge of the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive negotiations, said then that he was not expected to help with an ongoing inquiry into the former president. Weisselberg’s indictment in July 2021 was in part an effort to secure his cooperation against Trump, people with knowledge of the strategy said last year.

“In one of the most difficult decisions of his life, Mr. Weisselberg decided to enter a plea of ​​guilty today to put an end to this case and the years-long legal and personal nightmares it has caused for him and his family,” Nicholas Gravante Jr., an attorney for Weisselberg, said in a statement. “Rather than risk the possibility of 15 years in prison, he has agreed to serve 100 days. We are glad to have this behind him.”

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Bragg, who took office earlier this year, has faced public pressure over his office’s investigation into Trump. Two veteran prosecutors involved in the case resigned in protest after learning Bragg would not authorize them to seek an indictment against the former president. Bragg made a public statement in the spring saying the investigation was continuing, and his office reiterated that on Thursday.

“For years, Mr. Weisselberg broke the law to line his own pockets and fund a lavish lifestyle,” New York Attorney General Letitia James (D), who is also investigating Trump and his business practices, said in a statement. “Today, that misconduct ends. 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.”

The former president, who is said to be plotting another bid for the White House, is facing a swell of legal scrutiny, including probes examining efforts to overturn the 2020 election, his handling of classified documents after leaving office, his taxes and his actions related to the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the US Capitol.

Underscoring the array of probes and legal jeopardy facing the former president and others in his orbit, Weisselberg’s plea came the same day as a hearing in South Florida about whether an affidavit was submitted before an FBI search of Trump’s residence might be publicly released.

A day earlier, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has worked as Trump’s lawyer, appeared before a Georgia grand jury as part of a criminal probe into efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Giuliani has been informed he is a target of that investigationaccording to his lawyers.

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For Weisselberg, who has worked for the Trump family for nearly 50 years, the plea deal signals a seeming endgame to his criminal case that sidesteps a trial in the heart of Manhattan, which would have been likely to draw significant media attention.

In the indictment Last year, Weisselberg was described as “one of the largest individual beneficiaries” of what prosecutors depicted as a wide-ranging, long-running scheme.

The indictment alleges that the Trump Organization paid the rent and utilities for a Manhattan apartment where he lived, and financed the leases for the Mercedes-Benz cars for Weisselberg and his wife, but failed to report this as income and pay the necessary taxes. The indictment also said he “intentionally omitted” his compensation from his tax returns.

All told, the indictment said, Weisselberg obscured about $1.7 million in his compensation from tax authorities over a period from 2005 through 2017, dodging “hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal, state, and local taxes.”

As part of the plea deal outlined in court, Weisselberg agreed to repay the taxes he owed, along with penalties and interest. — a total of $1.9 million, the district attorney’s office said. And if he does not live up to the plea deal, he could face a harsher sentence imposed by the court.

Berman reported from Washington. Shayna Jacobs in New York and Josh Dawsey in Washington contributed to this report.

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