Donald Trump's longtime CFO Allen Weisselberg takes felony plea in Trump Organization payroll tax-dodge case

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Donald Trump's former CFO Allen Weisselberg sits between his defense attorneys, Mary Mulligan and Nicholas Gravante Jr.,  before pleading guilty to a corporate payroll tax-dodge scheme in NY State Supreme Court in Manhattan on August 18, 2022
Donald Trump's former CFO Allen Weisselberg sits between his defense attorneys, Mary Mulligan and Nicholas Gravante Jr., before pleading guilty to a corporate payroll tax-dodge scheme in NY State Supreme Court in Manhattan on August 18, 2022Ted Shaffrey/AP
  • Allen Weisselberg, Donald Trump's longtime company CFO and family bookkeeper, is now a felon.

  • As part of a plea deal set in Manhattan Thursday, Weisselberg admitted he and the Trump Organization schemed to avoid payroll taxes.

  • Weisselberg must serve five months jail, pay back $2 million, and testify when Trump's company goes on trial in October.

In a plea deal before a Manhattan judge Thursday, Donald Trump's longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, admitted to orchestrating a 15-year payroll tax-dodge scheme at the Trump Organization.

The plea makes Weisselberg — a loyal, 30-year bookkeeper for Trump and his family — a felon, guilty of 15 felony counts including scheme to defraud, conspiracy, grand larceny, and criminal tax fraud.

Under the plea's conditions, Weisselberg must serve five months jail and then five years probation. He must pay back $1,994,321 in back taxes, interest, and penalties.

Significantly, he also must testify against his now-former co-defendant — Trump's multi-billion-dollar real estate and golf resort business — should its lawyers go forward to trial, as scheduled, in October.

If Weisselberg fails to pay up or cooperate at trial, the judge could invalidate the promised sentence, leaving the 75-year-old bookkeeper faced with a potential maximum of 5-to-15 years in prison under the top charge he pleaded to, second degree grand larceny.

"In one of the most difficult decisions of his life, Mr. Weisselberg decided to enter a plea of guilty today to put an end to this case and the years-long nightmares it has caused him and his family," said his attorney, Nicholas Gravante, Jr.

"Rather than risk the possibility of 15 years in prison, he has agreed to serve 100 days. We are glad to have this behind him."

Weisselberg's eventual testimony against the Trump Organization could be a damning elaboration on the tax-dodge scheme he admitted to in a series of softly-spoken, "Yes, your honor's" on Thursday.

Over the course of 15 years, the company gave Weisselberg $1.76 million in free perks, he admitted, including a Trump-branded, Hudson riverfront apartment, his-and-hers Mercedes for him and his wife, and tuition for his grandchildren's private schools.

Internally, the perks were considered part of his compensation, but they were ommitted from his tax forms and tax returns, Weisselberg admitted. Unnamed and unindicted other executives also benefitted, he admitted.

"Weisselberg admitted the scheme involved the failure of the Trump Organization to withhold income taxes on wages, salaries, bonuses and other forms of compensation paid to Weisselberg and other company employees," Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a statement after the plea.

"None of these payments were reported as taxable income to local, state or federal tax authorities as required by law."

Weisselberg has steadfastly refused to cooperate against Trump himself, and his admission of guilt and description of the Trump Organization scheme on Thursday did not directly accuse Trump of any illegal behavior.

He has no intention of implicating anyone with the last name of Trump, either as part of his testimony or in cooperation with the DA's ongoing Trump Organization probe, a source familiar with his thinking told Insider on Wednesday.

Weisselberg spoke softly as he took his plea during a brief morning hearing, seated at the defense table before New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan in a courtroom filled with press, attorneys, and prosecutors with the Manhattan DA's office.

"Yes, your honor," Weisselberg said repeatedly, when asked if he understood the plea and was willingly admitting his guilt and giving up his right to an appeal.

He pleaded guilty to the entire indictment lodged against him last summer.

"You will serve a sentence of five months of jail and that period of incarceration will be followed by five years of probation. Do you understand?" the judge asked.

"Yes, your honor," he answered, his voice barely audible.

Weisselberg remains free without bail; his sentencing will be held at a yet-specified date after the Trump Organization trial.

"The investigation concerning former President Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization is ongoing," Bragg said in his statement.

 

 

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