Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s finance chief, will say in Manhattan court Thursday that he conspired with several of the ex-president’s companies when he pleads guilty to state tax crimes, two sources familiar with the case tell Rolling Stone.
As part of Weisselberg’s plea deal, he has agreed to testify against The Trump Corporation and the Trump Payroll Corporation at trial, which is scheduled for October.
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If called to the witness stand during trial, Weisselberg will provide testimony that is the same as what he admits to in court this week, the source said. One of the sources said that while Weisselberg is agreeing to testify, that does not mean he necessarily will; it depends on whether prosecutors decide to call him. The New York Times first reported that Weisselberg was expected to plead guilty, and CNN reported he would testify if called.
Weisselberg will not go beyond his testimony to help the criminal probe, one of the sources said. Still, his potential testimony could pose a severe threat to Trump’s companies. This possible testimony, which allegedly implicates Trump’s businesses, could be key to prosecutors’ securing a guilty verdict against these companies. When a company is found to have engaged in criminal conduct, significant fines can pile up quickly — potentially leading to its demise.
Weisselberg’s expected guilty plea stems from an indictment last year from the Manhattan district attorney’s office accusing him and several of Trump’s companies of tax crimes in a “sweeping and audacious illegal payment scheme.” These financial offenses related to the lavish perks that came with being CFO of Donald Trump’s real estate empire. (The Trump Organization has maintained its not guilty plea, so his namesake business, and several related entities, remain under indictment.)
Starting in 2005, Weisselberg, a Trump family employee of some five decades, lived gratis in an apartment on Manhattan’s Riverside Boulevard. The Trump Corporation, which leased the apartment, was covering his rent — along with Weisselberg’s utilities and parking fees, the indictment charged. The Trump Organization also allegedly made sure his longtime moneyman rode in style. From 2005 to 2017, the ex-president’s company paid the leases on two Mercedes Benzes that Weisselberg and his wife used as their personal cars. Trump’s company gave Weisselberg cash around Christmastime so he could pay “personal holiday gratuities,” prosecutors alleged.
Weisselberg’s family was also well taken care of, prosecutors said. The company covered Weisselberg’s personal expenses “for his homes and for an apartment maintained by one of his children,” according to the indictment. Among these requests were items such as “new beds, flat-screen televisions, the installation of carpeting, and furniture for Weisselberg’s home in Florida.” Weisselberg’s grandchildren benefited from this arrangement, too, with the Trump Corporation footing the bill for private school tuition, per the charging papers. Prosecutors alleged that Weisselberg didn’t declare these benefits on his taxes, meaning he purportedly received $1.7 million in unlawful payments.
A lawyer for Trump’s companies declined to comment. A spokesperson for the Manhattan D.A.’s office did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Speaking generally about how a Weisselberg guilty plea could impact Trump, Rebecca Roiphe, New York Law School professor, tells Rolling Stone: “It is another Trump person being convicted of something, and it also reflects on him more than just the company he keeps. This is obviously conduct that occurred separately from his presidency and has to do with how he conducted his businesses. Whether or not he was directly involved in these actions, or knew about them or was criminally liable for them, it’s serious and significant.”
Weisselberg pleading guilty does not mean that Trump will wind up convicted of financial crimes. Roiphe explained that in corporate contexts, however, the discovery that a company higher-up is committing crimes like Weisselberg’s offenses could mean the end of a business.
“It should — and does — bear upon his reputation as a businessperson in New York. Assuming they can convict the organization as well, it can have direct consequences on his business and his work and his business’s ability to continue in New York,” Roiphe said. “Criminal liability is usually a pretty big deal for a corporation— it’s often a death sentence. The penalties could be so significant that the organization cannot survive past it. The penalties can be so high the company just doesn’t exist, and it could ultimately end in the dissolution of the company.”
The potential of criminal liability for Trump was greater in the Georgia election meddling case and South Florida federal records inquiry. “There’s a parallel civil and criminal investigation in New York [and] while we don’t know where it will ultimately lead, there have certainly been signs that show the [New York] criminal investigation has been lagging,” Roiphe said.
Noah Shachtman contributed
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