A longtime senior executive at Donald Trump’s family business pleaded guilty on Thursday to helping it engineer a 15-year tax fraud, in an agreement that will require him to testify about the company’s business practices.
Allen Weisselberg, the former chief financial officer at the Trump Organization, entered his plea to all 15 charges he faced in a New York state court in Manhattan before Justice Juan Merchan.
Though Weisselberg, 75, is not expected to cooperate with Manhattan prosecutors in their larger probe into Trump himself, his plea will likely strengthen their case against the Trump Organization.
The trial is scheduled for October, and the Trump Organization has pleaded not guilty. Donald Trump has not been charged or accused of wrongdoing.
“This plea agreement directly implicates the Trump Organization in a wide range of criminal activity and requires Weisselberg to provide invaluable testimony in the upcoming trial,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a statement. “We look forward to proving our case in court.”
Trump Organization is yet to comment on the development.
Prosecutors charged the company and Weisselberg in July 2021 with scheming to defraud, tax fraud and falsifying business records, saying some executives were paid “off-the-books.”
Weisselberg was accused of concealing and avoiding taxes on $1.76 million of income.
This included rent for a Manhattan apartment, lease payments for two Mercedes-Benz vehicles, and tuition for relatives, with Trump signing the tuition checks.
The plea agreement calls for Weisselberg to serve five months at the Rikers Island jail, though he could be freed after 100 days.
Weisselberg’s proposed sentence also include five years of probation, and calls for him to pay $1.99 million in taxes, penalties and interest.
The jail sentence would begin after the Trump Organization’s trial concludes. He could have faced 15 years in prison if convicted at trial, including on a grand larceny charge.
During Thursday’s hearing, Weisselberg removed his mask as the judge described the charges in each count of the indictment, and agreed that the accusations against him were true.
Nicholas Gravante, a lawyer for Weisselberg, said in a statement: “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.”
Last Friday, Merchan denied defense motions to dismiss the indictment, rejecting arguments that the defendants had been “selectively prosecuted” and that Weisselberg was targeted because he would not turn on his longtime boss.
The Trump Organization manages golf clubs, hotels and other real estate around the world. It could face fines and other penalties if convicted at trial.
Jury selection begins on October 24, fifteen days before the November 8 midterm election, where Trump’s Republican Party hopes to recapture both houses of Congress from Democrats.
Trump has yet to say whether he plans another White House run in 2024.
Weisselberg has worked for Trump for about a half-century.
He gave up the CFO job after he and the Trump Organization were indicted, but remains on Trump’s payroll as a senior adviser.
The indictment arose from an investigation by former Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, but lost steam after Bragg became district attorney in January.
Two prosecutors who had been leading the investigation resigned in February, with one saying felony charges should be brought against Trump, but that Bragg indicated he had doubts.
In his statement on Thursday, Bragg said the investigation remained ongoing.
Trump faces many other legal battles.
Last week, FBI agents searched the former U.S. president’s home for classified and other documents from his time in office. read more
Two days later, Trump was deposed in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ civil probe into his business. He repeatedly refused to answer questions, citing his Fifth Amendment U.S. Constitutional right against self-incrimination.