The chief financial officer of Donald Trump's company, Allen Weisselberg, pleaded guilty to tax violations Thursday in a deal that would require him to testify about illicit business practices at the Trump Organization.
Weisselberg, 75, pleaded guilty to all 15 charges he faced.
In a low, somewhat hoarse voice, he admitted to accepting more than $1.7 million in off-the-books compensation from the former president's company over several years, including untaxed perks like rent, car payments and private school tuition, in order to avoid paying taxes on the perks.
“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 legal and personal nightmares it has caused for him and his family," Weisselberg's attorney Nicholas Gravante, Jr. said in a statement after the hearing. "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."
The plea deal is contingent on Weisselberg testifying truthfully about the company's role in the alleged compensation arrangement when the Trump Organization goes on trial in October on related criminal charges, prosecutors said. The company is accused of helping Weisselberg and other executives avoid income taxes by failing to accurately report their full compensation to the government.
In a statement, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said Weisselberg's guilty plea "directly implicates the Trump Organization in a wide range of criminal activity," and the agreement to testify will provide "invaluable testimony" at the upcoming trial.
Weisselberg is also required to pay the New York State and the city of New York nearly $2 million in restitution, including taxes, penalties and interest.
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Judge Juan Manuel Merchan agreed to sentence Weisselberg to five months incarceration and five years probation at New York City’s Rikers Island jail complex, although he will be eligible for release much earlier if he behaves well behind bars.
The company praised Weisselberg on Thursday as a trusted, honorable veteran employee who has been “persecuted and threatened by law enforcement, particularly the Manhattan district attorney, in their never-ending, politically motivated quest to get President Trump.”
In a statement, the company accused prosecutors of trying to pressure Weisselberg to cast aspersions on Trump, and of stretching to make a criminal case out of familiar executive perks such as a company car.
The company said it has done nothing wrong, won't plead guilty and looks forward “to having our day in court.”
Weisselberg is the only person to face criminal charges so far in the Manhattan district attorney's long-running investigation of the company's business practices.
Seen as one of Trump's most loyal business associates, Weisselberg was arrested in July 2021. His lawyers previously argued the Democrat-led district attorney’s office was punishing him because he wouldn’t offer information that would damage Trump.
The district attorney has also been investigating whether Trump or his company lied to banks or the government about the value of its properties to obtain loans or reduce tax bills.
Then-District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who started the investigation, last year directed his deputies to present evidence to a grand jury and seek an indictment of Trump, according to former prosecutor Mark Pomerantz, who previously led the probe.
But after Vance left office, his successor, Alvin Bragg, allowed the grand jury to disband without charges. Both prosecutors are Democrats. Bragg has said the investigation is continuing.
Prosecutors alleged that the company gave untaxed fringe benefits to senior executives, including Weisselberg, for 15 years. Weisselberg alone was accused of defrauding the federal government, state and city out of more than $900,000 in unpaid taxes and undeserved tax refunds.
Under state law, punishment for the most serious charge against Weisselberg, grand larceny, could carry a penalty as high as 15 years in prison. But the charge carries no mandatory minimum, and most first-time offenders in tax-related cases never end up behind bars.
His sentencing won't happen until after the trial of the Trump Organization, which is facing tax fraud charges punishable by a fine of double the amount of unpaid taxes, or $250,000, whichever is larger.
Trump has decried the New York investigations as a “political witch hunt,” and has said his company’s actions were standard practice in the real estate business and in no way a crime.
Testimony by Weisselberg could potentially weaken the Trump Organization’s defense. If convicted, the company could face fines or potentially be placed on probation and be forced to change certain business practices.
Last week, Trump sat for a deposition in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ parallel civil investigation into allegations Trump’s company misled lenders and tax authorities about asset values. Trump invoked his Fifth Amendment protectionagainst self-incrimination more than 400 times.