Trump’s longtime finance chief testifies in company fraud trial

Trump’s longtime finance chief testifies in company fraud trial

NEW YORK — Donald Trump’s longtime finance chief remains a businessman, drawing a hefty salary from the former president’s namesake Trump Organization, even as he takes his long-awaited turn as the prosecution’s key witness. in a criminal trial for tax fraud.

Allen Weisselberg testified Tuesday that until recently he worked as a senior adviser to the company — off as CFO after his arrest last year, but with no loss of pay — and is now on paid leave after pleading guilty in August to tax evasion. over $1.7 million in benefits paid by the company.

Weisselberg, who still draws his regular salary of $640,000 and $500,000 in annual bonuses, said he even celebrated his 75th birthday at Trump Tower with cake and colleagues just hours after finalizing the plea deal, which now pits him against the company. in which he has worked since the mid-1980s.

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Asked if he was in line for another bonus this year, Weisselberg offered a seemingly nervous smile and said: “I don’t know yet. … I wish.”

Despite his financial entanglements, Weisselberg has good reason to fully cooperate with the plea deal that requires him to testify against the Trump Organization. Prosecutors could overturn the promised five-month prison sentence and seek the maximum sentence of 15 years in prison if he does not fully serve it.

The Trump Organization, the entity through which the former president manages his real estate holdings, marketing deals and other ventures, is accused of helping some top executives, including Weisselberg, avoid paying income taxes on compensation they also received. of their salaries for more than a decade.

Prosecutors argue that the Trump Organization, through its subsidiaries Trump Corp. and Trump Payroll Corp., is responsible for Weisselberg’s scheme because he was a “senior managerial agent” tasked with acting on behalf of the company and its various entities. .

The Trump Organization denies any wrongdoing. Although the company has continued to employ Weisselberg and has paid him handsomely, his lawyers have been attacking him in court.

They allege that Weisselberg devised the tax evasion scheme on his own without Trump or the Trump family knowing, and that the company did not benefit from his actions. If found guilty, the company could be fined more than $1 million.

But Weisselberg, reiterating his own guilt on the witness stand, testified that his scheming benefited the Trump Organization’s bottom line as well as his own.

Weisselberg said he saved the company hundreds of thousands of dollars by reducing his salary for the full cost of fringe benefits, including a Manhattan apartment with a terrace overlooking the Hudson River, plus Mercedes-Benz cars for himself and his wife. , instead of asking for a raise and paying them out of pocket.

If Weisselberg had done it that way, he said, the company would have had to pay twice as much, raising his salary enough to cover both the cost of benefits and the additional income tax he would have had to pay.

Weisselberg, who began working for Trump’s father in 1973, has intimate knowledge of the company’s financial dealings and could end up testifying for several days. But he is not expected to implicate Trump or any family members in his testimony. Weisselberg is free on bail and will be formally sentenced after his testimony.

Weisselberg described Trump as a hands-on leader who, before he went to the White House in 2017, received weekly briefings detailing the company’s finances and personally signed off on all major expenses. Weisselberg said he saw Trump daily in those days leading up to his presidency, but hasn’t spoken to him much since his 2020 election loss.

Weisselberg testified that it was Trump’s idea for him to move to a company-paid Manhattan apartment after his wife fell ill in 2005. Weisselberg said Trump told him that being closer to the office would allow him to continue working 10 to 12 hours a day without the burden of a three-hour round trip home to Long Island.

Trump signed Weisselberg’s apartment lease, authorizing him and his wife to receive Mercedes-Benz cars, the leases for which were paid for by the Trump Organization. Weisselberg said he concealed his schemes from the company’s accountant, who also prepared his personal tax returns. He gave no indication that Trump was aware that he was maneuvering to evade taxes.

Trump Organization lawyers spent part of court sessions Monday and Tuesday trying to counter Weisselberg’s testimony, using their cross-examination of the prosecution’s first two witnesses to underscore their contention that others at the company, including Trump, did not they knew nothing about the plan.

Jeffrey McConney, the company’s senior vice president and controller, and Deborah Tarasoff, an accounts payable supervisor, who both worked for Weisselberg, told jurors they were just following orders. Tarasoff agreed with a defense attorney’s description of Weisselberg as an overbearing and demanding micromanager who enjoyed immense trust within the company.

Tarasoff said he prepared company checks for Weisselberg to pay his apartment rent and car lease payments and wrote checks from Trump’s private account to pay private education tuition for Weisselberg’s grandchildren.

Tarasoff said that in September 2016, as the presidential vote that catapulted Trump to the presidency neared, Weisselberg ordered him to start removing entries on some of the transactions in the company’s accounting system. Tarasoff said he didn’t think Weisselberg was asking him to do anything illegal.

But even if he had, she said, “I guess I would because he’s the boss and he told me to.”

Melissa Galbraith
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.