NEW YORK (AP) — The numbers guy did the math: Allen Weisselberg — a Donald Trump’s longtime lieutenant – could have faced years in prison if he had stood trial and failed to defeat the tax evasion allegations. But if he agreed to testify in an upcoming trial of the former president’s company, he would likely serve no more than 100 days.
Weisselberg, 75, took the case on Thursday, To plead guilty to 15 counts, including tax evasion and theft.
Now he’s potentially going to be the star witness against the Trump Organization in a trial over what prosecutors say was a “radical and bold” program by the company to help senior executives, including Weisselberg, avoid taxes on perks such as luxury cars and rent-free apartments.
Here’s the basics of the case and what Weisselberg’s decision to plead guilty means for Donald Trump and his family business.
WHAT HAVE ALLEN WEISSELBERG AND THE TRUMP ORGANIZATION BEEN ACCUSED OF DOING?
Federal authorities said Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s longtime chief financial officer, failed to pay taxes on more than $1.7 million in compensation.
Among these advantages: The Trump Organization paid rent for his apartment in Manhattan, covered private school tuition for his grandchildren, rented Mercedes-Benz cars for himself and his wife, gave him money to pass out as holiday tips and paid for flat-screen TVs, carpeting and furniture for his Florida winter home. Weisselberg’s son also didn’t have to pay rent, or paid below-market rent, while living in apartments owned by Trump.
SO AFTER ALL OF THIS – IS ALLEN WEISSELBERG STILL THE CFO OF THE TRUMP ORGANIZATION?
Weisselberg is still employed by the Trump Organization, but his title was changed to senior adviser after the July 2021 indictment.
WHY DID ALLEN WEISSELBERG DECIDE TO TAKE A PLEA AGREEMENT?
In the words of Weisselberg’s attorney, it was time to put an end to the “legal and personal nightmares this has caused for him and his family” for years. The Trump Organization appeared to hold no grudges, calling Weisselberg a “good and honorable man” who was “harassed, persecuted and threatened by law enforcement.”
WHAT ARE THE TERMS OF THE ALLEN WEISSELBERG ADVOCACY AGREEMENT?
A judge has agreed to sentence Weisselberg to five months in New York’s infamous Rikers Island prison complex. With good behavior, he can be released after a little over three months. He will also have to pay nearly $2 million and spend five years on probation. Most importantly, he must testify honestly when the Trump Organization goes on trial in October. Weisselberg will not be formally condemned until after the trial. Until then, he remains free on bail.
WILL THE TRUMP ORGANIZATION ALSO TAKE AN ADVOCACY AGREEMENT?
In its statement, the company said it had done nothing wrong and was “looking forward to our day in court.” Weisselberg and the Trump Organization initially pleaded not guilty to the charges, saying the benefits were the norm for corporations and the investigation was politically motivated. Weisselberg’s agreement to testify, however, could significantly harm the company’s defense. This could increase the pressure for him to solve the case without a trial.
WHAT DOES THE TRUMP ORGANIZATION ACTUALLY DO?
It is a business entity through which Trump manages his many entrepreneurial affairs, including his investments in office towers, hotels and golf courses, his many marketing deals and his television business. He manages golf clubs and hotels, collects checks from companies that rent office space, and charges building and other licensing fees for carrying Trump’s name.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR DONALD TRUMP?
It’s not clear. The Republican is not charged in the case. Prosecutors did not allege any personal wrongdoing by Trump. If his company is found guilty of a crime, it could result in hefty fines or complicate future business transactions. A trial beginning in October, just before the midterm elections, could also yield new revelations about the company’s business practices — though Trump supporters might not care. He said the whole thing was concocted by Democrats to harm him politically.