Trump’s CFO Describes Tax-Fraud Scheme: As Allen H. Weisselberg described how the money for cars, residences, and tuition was hidden in the ledgers of the corporation that he worked for, he was on the verge of breaking down in tears.
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The criminal trial of Donald J. Trump’s family business took an emotional turn Thursday when a devoted colleague disclosed a tax scheme. Allen H. Weisselberg said the scheme benefited the Trump Organization. Off-book pleasures saved the company taxes, he said. Mr. Weisselberg, 75, a longtime Trump employee and key prosecution witness, further distanced Trump and his family from the crimes. They didn’t assist him in doing crimes, he said. He says he only behaved for himself 13 times. Near tears, he revealed abandoning a longtime employer.
Mr. Weisselberg said, “More than you can think” Personal drama contributed to a financial dissection throughout the seven-hour trial. The sad jury was riveted by critical moments. Mr. Weisselberg pleaded guilty to 17 crimes to avoid incarceration. He remains on the company’s payroll, making $640,000, and has refused to flip on Trump, who is under investigation.
Weisselberg’s freedom and livelihood are threatened. He’s caught between prosecutors he negotiated with and his 50-year client family. His lawyer, Nicholas A. Gravante Jr., said Weisselberg’s legal standing is difficult. “Faithful Trump Organization employee” had to testify. Mr. Weisselberg “answers honestly”
Gravante and Weisselberg met with both sides to prepare for his testimony, highlighting his delicate situation. Mr. Weisselberg’s preparation shows the importance of his testimony. His evidence will be crucial if the firm is convicted. Even if the firms are acquitted, the stigma of a longtime lieutenant speaking in court may persist. Weisselberg’s testimony, which began the week Trump announced his third presidential run, will leave a lasting impression on the company.
Weisselberg and other Trump officials received excessive benefits. Mr. Weisselberg didn’t pay taxes on his Manhattan apartment, leased Mercedes-Benz, or cable bill. Mr. Weisselberg and the business were charged in 2021; he pled guilty and agreed to testify honestly about the plot. If he does, he may spend 100 days with good behavior.
Weisselberg could spend 15 years in prison if convicted of lying. In his first appearance on the stand Tuesday, Mr. Weisselberg confirmed he got the perks and knew he didn’t pay taxes on them. He revealed the scheme’s organic foundations on Thursday. It grew owing to accounting’s disorganization. More incentives were given as the company grew from a local developer to a casino empire. Mr. Weisselberg said “Sure” when told other colleagues got pricey cars.
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Testimony showed the former president’s tax ties. Prosecutors haven’t charged Trump or his family with conspiracy, but they’ve tied him to benefits. Weisselberg never repaid Trump after saying he would. When asked how much tuition was, Mr. Weisselberg laughed, “It was too much” and said $100,000. Prosecutors must prove Weisselberg acted “for” the Trump Organization to win. Prosecutors must establish that Weisselberg’s “acts were not totally” for his profit, said Judge Juan Merchan.
Mr. Weisselberg seemed to show prosecutors Thursday morning that he was representing the business. Instead of returning Trump’s money, he deducted it from his pay. Mr. Weisselberg repaid the family by reducing his salary and bonus. Weisselberg claimed he owed the company money for being overpaid. Ms. Hoffinger asked Mr. Weisselberg how the company benefitted from healthcare. “They cut Medicare taxes,” he stated.
Cross-examination set up an acquittal or hung jury. Futerfas persuaded Weisselberg that Trump wasn’t culpable by asking, “Did he encourage tax fraud?” Trump disagreed with Weisselberg. “Did you cut pay to prevent damaging the company?” Futerfas questioned Weisselberg. “No, I wanted to protect pretax funds,” he said, undermining the prosecution’s claim that Weisselberg wasn’t in it for himself. Mr. Futerfas asked if “just you, Allen Weisselberg,” paid tuition. YES
Trump Organization attorneys are baffled by Weisselberg’s testimony. Throughout the trial, one of the company’s lawyers remarked, “Weisselberg did it for Weisselberg.”
As cross-examination begins, Trump Organization attorneys may allege Weisselberg testified under pressure because he faced years in jail without the plea deal. The attorneys have been careful to portray Mr. Weisselberg as compassionate. Since the violations were discovered, he’s been treated as a close relative who made criminal mistakes, van der Veen said. “It’s antique. Well-known is the prodigal son story.