NEW YORK — A top employee at the family firm of former President Donald Trump pleaded guilty to tax evasion on a free apartment and other perks on Thursday, striking a deal with prosecutors that may make him a star witness against the corporation in a fall trial.
Allen Weisselberg, a prominent Trump Organization counsel and former longstanding chief financial officer, pled guilty to all 15 charges in the case.
Weisselberg stated in a quiet, somewhat hoarse voice that he received about $1.7 million in untaxed extras, such as school tuition for his grandchildren, free rent for a Manhattan apartment, and lease payments for a fancy car, and that he intentionally kept some of the goodies off the books.
Judge Juan Manuel Merchan agreed to sentence the 75-year-old CEO to five months in the Rikers Island jail complex in New York City, but he will be eligible for release in a little more than three months if he behaves while there. Weisselberg must pay roughly $2 million in taxes, fines, and interest, and serve five years of probation, according to the judge.
The plea agreement also requires Weisselberg to testify truthfully as a prosecution witness in October, when the Trump Organization will stand trial on charges relating to this case. The corporation is accused of aiding Weisselberg and other executives in evading income taxes by neglecting to fully declare their total salary. Trump is not personally charged in the case.
Following the company’s trial, Weisselberg will remain free on bail until he is formally sentenced. As he exited court, he remained silent and did not respond when a reporter inquired whether he had a message for Trump. If Weisselberg violates the terms of his plea agreement, prosecutors have stated that they will seek a “substantial state prison sentence,” and Merchan has warned that he might face the maximum 15-year sentence for the most serious felony, grand theft.
Nicholas Gravante Jr., Weisselberg’s attorney, stated that his client pleaded guilty “to put an end to this matter and the years of legal and personal nightmares it has caused him and his family.”
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg stated in a statement that Weisselberg’s guilty plea “clearly implicates the Trump Organization in a vast array of illegal activities and needs Weisselberg to provide vital testimony in the impending trial against the company.”
He continued, “We look forward to establishing our case against the Trump Organization in court.”
Weisselberg’s testimony might harm the company’s defense. The company could face double the amount of unpaid taxes in fines or be placed on probation and required to alter its business operations if convicted.
Weisselberg has been “persecuted and threatened by law enforcement, particularly the Manhattan district attorney, in their never-ending, politically motivated effort to get President Trump,” according to the company’s Thursday statement.
In a statement, the business accused prosecutors of pressuring Weisselberg to cast aspersions on Trump and of overreaching to construct a criminal case out of executive privileges like a company car.
The firm, which was not engaged in Weisselberg’s guilty plea on Thursday, stated that it had committed no wrongdoing, would not enter a guilty plea, and looked forward to “getting our day in court.”
Weisselberg, regarded as one of Trump’s most faithful business partners, is the lone individual facing criminal charges in the Manhattan district attorney’s lengthy probe into the corporation. Weisselberg began working for the Trump Organization in 1973, when Trump’s father Fred was in charge. After his arrest in July 2021, the firm changed his position from CFO to senior adviser. The job of CFO remains unfilled.
Weisselberg agreed to plead guilty days after Merchan denied his attempt to dismiss the allegations during a court hearing. The judge dismissed the defense’s claim that the district attorney’s office punished Weisselberg for refusing to provide damaging material about Trump.
The district attorney has also been investigating whether Trump or his corporation misrepresented the worth of its properties to banks or the government in order to secure loans or lower tax obligations.
The inquiry was initiated by then-District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who authorized his deputies to present evidence to a grand jury and seek an indictment of Trump, according to former prosecutor Mark Pomerantz, who previously supervised the investigation. After Vance left office in January, however, his replacement, Bragg, authorized the grand jury to disband without bringing any indictments. Both attorneys are Democrats. Bragg has indicated that the probe is ongoing.
Prosecutors stated that the corporation provided senior employees, including Weisselberg, with untaxed fringe perks for 15 years. Weisselberg was accused of defrauding the federal government, the state, and the city of more than $900,000 in unpaid taxes and fraudulent tax refunds.
Trump, a Republican, has referred to the New York probes as a “political witch hunt” and stated that his company’s conduct was legal and typical in the real estate industry.
Trump was deposed last week as part of a parallel civil probe by New York Attorney General Letitia James into charges that Trump’s corporation misled lenders and tax officials about asset values. More than 400 times, Trump invoked the Fifth Amendment’s protection against self-incrimination.
James, whose investigation unearthed the evidence that led to Weisselberg’s indictment, said in a statement: “Let this guilty plea send a loud and clear message: we will crack down on anyone who steals from the public for personal gain, as no one is above the law.”