NEW YORK — A New York judge on Tuesday condemned the “offensive” greed of the Trump Organization’s Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg before sentencing him to five months behind bars.
At the CFO’s Manhattan Supreme Court sentencing, Justice Juan Merchan honored his promise to Weisselberg in August when he pleaded guilty to tax fraud. The sentence includes a term of five years' postrelease supervision.
But the judge denied a request from his lawyer to lessen the jail term. Merchan said he would never have made the deal in the first place had he grasped the selfish nature of Weisselberg’s crimes — revealed in evidence at the Trump Organization’s winter trial, which ended in two entities’ Dec. 6 convictions.
“Had I not made the promise, I would be imposing a sentence much greater than that,” said Merchan.
A check to the CFO’s wife placed in evidence at the Trump Organization trial was particularly grating to the judge. Jurors heard how Weisselberg directed the payment to his wife, Hilary, who has never worked for the Trump company, so that she would qualify for Social Security.
“The reason that this court finds that to be so offensive is because it was driven entirely by greed,” said Merchan. “Perhaps nothing spoke as loudly as that $6,000 payment.”
The judge said the Weisselbergs didn’t need it, nor were they entitled to it. He decried the executive’s greed, “a time when so many Americans work so hard in the hopes that they may one day be able to benefit from their contributions to Social Security.”
“No, I believe a stiffer sentence is warranted having heard the evidence,” said Merchan.
Wearing a Khaki green North Face fleece and sweatpants to court, Weisselberg showed little emotion at the proceeding. He closed his eyes as he hugged his lawyer, Nicholas Gravante, before officers took him to the cells in handcuffs.
In asking Merchan to give Weisselberg a pass or let him serve the second half of his sentence under house arrest, Gravante said he had been punished sufficiently in the court of public opinion.
“He is 75 years old and far from perfect health,” said Gravante. “The publicity in this case ... has exponentially increased the severity of punishment that he has had to suffer under these circumstances.”
Weisselberg declined to comment beyond what his lawyer said, telling Merchan Gravante had adequately summarized his feelings. He’s expected to serve his sentence at the North Infirmary Command on Rikers Island, once home to bold-faced names like Tupac Shakur and Lil Wayne.
The sentencing capped Weisselberg’s criminal case in Manhattan and his decadeslong career working for the Trump family.
“As of today, Mr. Weisselberg and the (Trump Organization) have amicably parted ways. He is grateful to the (Trump Organization) and members of the Trump family for their continued support,” Gravante said in a statement to the New York Daily News.
The veteran sentry of the Trump Organization’s coffers has worked for the Trump family since his hiring by Donald Trump’s father, Fred, in Brooklyn in the early 1970s as a bookkeeper. He described himself in a 2015 deposition as Trump’s “eyes and ears” from a financial standpoint.
In pleading guilty last August and in his testimony at the trial, Weisselberg admitted to receiving more than $1.7 million in off-the-books perks over 15 years while heading the Trump Org finances, on top of his $450,000 salary and hefty bonuses.
Weisselberg and the company didn’t notify Uncle Sam about luxury expenses like rent-free apartments in Manhattan for him and his son Barry’s young family, Mercedes-Benz car leases for him and his wife, private school tuition for his grandkids, and furniture for his holiday home in Florida.
On top of agreeing to a stint at Rikers — which is expected to last no longer than 100 days with good behavior — Weisselberg was also required to cough up nearly $2 million in restitution and fines, withdraw all defense motions filed on his behalf, and waive any appeals when he pleaded out.
Assistant District Attorney Susan Hoffinger told Merchan prosecutors had been satisfied with the CFO’s testimony at the trial and that he had settled his debts with the state by Jan. 3.
The case stems from Manhattan prosecutors’ ongoing probe into Trump’s business dealings, which District Attorney Alvin Bragg has said could still result in charges against the former president.
Bragg, who watched the sentencing from the courtroom’s back row, said the conviction spoke volumes.
“In Manhattan, you have to play by the rules no matter who you are or who you work for,” Bragg said. “These consequential felony convictions put on full display the inner workings of former President Trump’s companies and its CFO’s actions.”
The convicted Trump Organization entities, Trump Corp. and Trump Payroll Corp., are expected to be sentenced Friday. They face around $1 million in fines, representing a fraction of the legal bills for the half dozen lawyers who defended the case.