Former Trump CFO Allen Weisselberg exits the courtroom of the Manhattan Supreme Court on August 18
Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s veteran chief financial officer, pleaded guilty Thursday in a deal with prosecutors that will see him testify against the former president’s family business in October.
Weisselberg was charged in July 2021 with a series of financial crimes centered on his and the company’s tax evasion by failing to declare nearly $2 million in lavish gifts over the years.
While his testimony could have earth-shattering ramifications for Donald Trump’s real estate empire, it’s very likely limited to what concerns the ex-president himself.
Despite months of pressure to flip his boss, the longtime Trump aide instead accepted a 100-day jail sentence — a fraction of the 15 years he could have gotten — and agreed to give a narrower testimony about the tax fraud scheme he used He was showered with high-end cars, homes and tuition for his children.
If he ultimately fails to testify, prosecutors may seek a harsher sentence.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s broader criminal investigation focuses on whether Trump knowingly provided misleading financial reports on his hotels, golf courses and other properties to secure greater benefits.
It’s worth noting that Weisselberg’s plea deal does not grant immunity for any of his other crimes that may emerge as the investigation unfolds.
That could mean prosecutors expect to uncover more information from Weisselberg and his encyclopedic knowledge of the Trump Organization’s finances.
“I doubt Weisselberg would be useful in building a case against Trump personally because he would have agreed to cooperate against him in this case,” New York Law School professor Rebecca Roiphe told .
“He has very valuable information to bring to the case against the company.”
In his own $1.7 million in gifts from the Trump Organization
Both Weisselberg and the Trump Organization have been charged with a 15-year-old tax evasion scheme in which the company evaded payroll taxes by giving generous perks to executives.
Weisselberg will be forced to speak to prosecutors about the charges he has pleaded guilty to, including accepting $1.7 million in employer gifts that prosecutors say neither he nor the company included in their taxes .
These include an apartment on affluent Riverside Drive on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and leases to two Mercedes-Benz cars that Weisselberg and his wife had for personal use.
According to the indictment, Trump’s personal checkbook covered tuition for Weisselberg’s children and grandchildren to attend elite private schools.
Weisselberg pleaded guilty to 15 charges of various financial crimes while working for the Trump Organization
Weisselberg admitted accepting $1.7 million in lavish gifts that were improperly declared as part of his compensation, allowing both he and the Trump Organization to avoid payroll taxes
Although the Trump Organization has pleaded not guilty, admission to a company-wide tax system by one of its most senior employees could be devastating to its operations.
“A company can be held criminally liable in New York if a high-ranking official has committed crimes on behalf of that company,” Roiphe told .
“It looks like this will be Weisselberg’s testimony that will ensure as good as a conviction.”
Will anyone else be involved?
The indictment against Weisselberg notes that the “off the books” perks he received were also granted to “other Trump Organization executives” and associates.
While it doesn’t name other executives, it’s possible prosecutors could require Weisselberg to name names in order to broaden the investigation. Increasing company-wide pressure could be a way for prosecutors to turn the heat on Trump, who has not yet been accused of any wrongdoing in the investigation.
Prosecutors describe other Trump Organization employees who have benefited from a similar scheme in Weisselberg’s indictment, including his own relative and colleague of Trump’s.
This person is accused of living in a Trump Organization apartment near Central Park while paying just $1,000 a year before moving to an apartment on the Upper East Side where she paid no rent at all.
The indictment accuses Weisselberg’s relatives of “deliberately” not listing the high-end homes as compensation for their taxes.
“Two other employees” were similarly compensated with unreported and untaxed rentals of New York City housing and automobiles.
What about Trump’s children?
Weisselberg’s plea deal doesn’t appear to mention anything about members of the Trump family other than the former president.
While his indictment doesn’t mention who the other two employees who benefited alongside Weisselberg and his relative are, it’s worth noting that all three of Trump’s eldest children were executives in the family business at some point.
Weisselberg is said to have repeatedly said “Yes, Your Honor” in response to the judge’s questions
Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump are currently Executive Vice Presidents of the Trump Organization. Ivanka Trump left her C-suite role to serve at her father’s White House.
All three have testified in a separate parallel civil investigation conducted from the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James.
James examines whether Trump and his three eldest children mislead banks and other lenders by inflating their assets to appear more valuable and then trimming those valuations to pay less taxes.
One such asset is an apartment Ivanka Trump was reportedly given for a fraction of the cost the company thought it was worth.
A previous file on James — which has nothing to do with Weisselberg’s investigation or Bragg’s investigation overall — shows the home was offered to her for $8.5 million, but was appraised at $25 million from 2011-2013.
It’s not clear what her dollar compensation was when she worked for the Trump Organization from 2005 to 2017.
Law professor Rebecca Roiphe told : “He has to testify honestly and if it comes to implicate someone in the Trump family, he would certainly have to do that to get the reduced sentence, but I suspect he did.” not planning to imply that any Trump family member was involved in the scheme.
Ivanka had an option to buy an $8.5 million Park Avenue apartment after renting it on “extraordinarily favorable terms,” according to a separate investigation by New York Attorney General Letitia James. Ivanka can be seen in the apartment with two of her children. The finding is unrelated to the Manhattan Attorney’s Office investigation
Who will not be affected?
One person who – at least for the time being – has evaded personal responsibility with Weisselberg’s plea is Donald Trump himself.
That Weisselberg will at least accept some jail time so as not to upset the former president is a testament to their years-long relationship.
The chief financial officer began working as a junior accountant for Fred Trump, the ex-president’s father, at the Trump Organization in the 1970s before rising through the ranks to his senior role.
Trump was recently removed from office by the New York Attorney General for their civil investigation, along with his children. The former president had fought the subpoena for months over fears his testimony could be used in Bragg’s criminal investigation.
Weisselberg’s lack of immunity for crimes outside of those he has pleaded guilty to could mean the risk of legal jeopardy for Trump is not entirely clear, but for now he appears to be dodging direct blame.
Roiphe told on Thursday: “Weisselberg may have valuable information about this investigation, but we have no way of knowing if he will. Given that settlement and his loyalty to the Trump family, I’m inclined to think no.
“If the company and Weisselberg are convicted, prosecutors would still have to prove that Donald Trump knew the deal was conducted as agreed and was in some way involved in the fraudulent compensation scheme,” the legal scholar said.
“Something like this is difficult, but not impossible, to prove with documents alone.”
Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti predicted on Twitter on Wednesday: “Weisselberg will testify that Trump kept his hands off it and relied on his judgment.”
“Prosecutors would have to prove Trump’s knowledge and intentions beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict him,” Mariotti said.