Trump CFO Allen Weisselberg pleads guilty in tax evasion case



NEW YORK — Allen Weisselberg, longtime chief financial officer of former President Donald Trump’s company, pleaded guilty Thursday to committing more than a dozen crimes, including criminal tax evasion and robbery.

Weisselberg and the Trump Organization have been charged Last year by New York authorities who accused them of concealing certain financial compensation as part of a year-long program to avoid paying taxes. The case is part of the legal whirlwind that still surrounds 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 his departure.

Appearing in a Manhattan courtroom, Weisselberg, 75, admitted his role in the scheme described by prosecutors – and agreed to testify, if called, in an ongoing trial for the company. . As part of his plea deal, Weisselberg, Trump’s close and trusted associate for decades, would spend five months in prison, followed by five years of probation.

The chief financial officer of former President Donald Trump’s company, Allen Weisselberg, appeared on August 18 in a New York court, facing more than a dozen felony charges. (Video: AP)

Weisselberg spoke sparingly during the hearing, answer “yes” to affirm his activities and his culpability in all respects. His future testimony, however, could prove damaging to the former president’s eponymous company, which prosecutors say carried out “a vast and audacious scheme of illegal payments.”

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Weisselberg’s sentence hinges on his “honest testimony” at the Trump Company trial, according to the district attorney’s office.

The plea deal “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 pursuing this case, Weisselberg will be spending time behind bars,” Bragg said. “We look forward to proving our case in court against the Trump Organization.”

The former president and his relatives have taken up the case, Linking it to the thicket of other investigations and reviews that he routinely calls a “witch hunt” coordinated by Democrats who dislike him.

In a statement, his company called Weisselberg a “good 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 endless, politically motivated quest to get the president. Asset.”

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

Jury selection in the Trump Organization trial is set to begin in late October, which the company said was “a few days before the midterm elections.”

Word that Weisselberg was to strike a plea deal appeared on monday, his 75th birthday. A person knowingly said then that he was not supposed to participate in an ongoing investigation into the former president. Weisselberg’s July 2021 indictment was partly an effort to gain 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 today to plead guilty to end this case and the legal and personal nightmares it has caused for him and his family for years. family,” Nicholas said. Gravante Jr., a Weisselberg attorney, said in a statement. “Rather than risk the possibility of 15 years in prison, he agreed to serve 100 days. We are happy to have that behind him.

Bragg, who took office earlier this year, has in the face of public pressure about his office’s investigation of Trump. Two senior prosecutors involved in the case resigned in protest after learning that Bragg would not allow them to seek an impeachment against the former president. Bragg does 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 pockets and fund a lavish lifestyle,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James (D), who is also investigating Trump and his business practices. , in a press release. “Today, this 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 preparing a new candidacy for the White House, faces a wave of legal controlincluding investigations examining efforts to nullify the 2020 election, his handling of classified documents after leaving office, his taxes, and his actions related to the January 6, 2021 riot at the US Capitol.

Highlighting the range of investigations and legal perils facing the former president and others in his orbit, Weisselberg’s plea came the same day as a hearing in South Florida whether an affidavit submitted before an FBI search of Trump’s residence could be made public.

A day earlier, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who worked as Trump’s attorney, appeared before a Georgia grand jury as part of a criminal investigation into efforts to nullify the 2020 election. Giuliani has been told he is a target of this 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 an apparent endgame to his criminal case that avoids a trial in the heart of Manhattan that would likely have attracted media attention.

In the indictment Last year, Weisselberg was described as “one of the biggest individual beneficiaries” of what prosecutors described as a large, long-running program.

The indictment alleges that the Trump Organization paid rent and utilities for a Manhattan apartment where he lived and financed the leases of Mercedes-Benz cars for Weisselberg and his wife, but did not declared this as income and paid the necessary taxes. The indictment also said he “intentionally omitted” his compensation from his tax returns.

In total, according to the indictment, Weisselberg hid approximately $1.7 million in his compensation from tax authorities over a period from 2005 to 2017, avoiding “hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal, state and local”.

As part of the plea deal outlined in court, Weisselberg agreed to pay back the taxes he owed, along with penalties and interest. — a total of $1.9 million, the district attorney’s office said. And if he breaches the plea agreement, 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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