Former President Donald Trump is facing several ongoing criminal investigations and other potential legal woes, including a probe of his namesake Trump Organization by the Manhattan district attorney over alleged financial crimes.
The Manhattan DA just scored a guilty plea in that matter on Thursday from Allen Weisselberg, the former chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, on numerous charges related to tax avoidance on company benefits and perks, the Associated Press reported.
The 75-year-old former CFO, who now serves as a senior adviser to the company, will face minimal jail time as part of the plea deal on one condition — that he “testify truthfully” if called as a prosecution witness against the Trump Organization in an upcoming trial on similar charges.
Five months instead of 15 years
Weisselberg had been indicted on 15 criminal charges last year, along with the Trump Organization — but not Trump himself — by the Manhattan district attorney’s office-empaneled grand jury over his evasion of taxes on off-the-books company benefits for many years that totaled approximately $1.7 million and included such perks as private school tuition for his grandchildren, rent for a luxury apartment, and lease payments for luxury vehicles, among other things.
As part of the agreement approved by Judge Juan Manuel Merchan, Weisselberg will eventually be sentenced to five months in Rikers Island prison, five years probation, and have to pay almost $2 million in taxes, penalties, and interest. He will remain free on bail for now until after the company stands trial, and was warned that failure to abide by the terms of the deal, including potentially testifying against the company, could result in a maximum sentence of 15 years in state prison.
Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg heralded the guilty plea as implicating the Trump Organization in criminal wrongdoing, and New York Attorney General Letitia James, whose own parallel probe of the company uncovered the tax avoidance issue, similarly praised Weisselberg’s guilty plea as sending a message that “no one is above the law.”
The plea agreement does not require cooperation in other Trump probes
Politico reported that Weisselberg’s attorney, Nicholas Gravante Jr., issued a statement that clearly implied that his client had only accepted the deal in order to stop the harassment of him and his family by state prosecutors.
“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 yearslong legal and personal nightmares it has caused for him and his family,” the attorney said. “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.”
Interestingly enough, the outlet noted that while Weisselberg’s deal requires him to testify against the Trump Organization if called upon to do so at trial, the agreement did not require him to cooperate beyond that with any of the other ongoing investigations into former President Trump himself.
The company stands by their man
NBC News reported that while Weisselberg’s testimony in the trial of the Trump Organization could potentially be damning, the company issued a statement expressing loyalty to the former executive-turned-adviser who has served the organization since the 1970s.
A spokesperson for the company said that Weisselberg was an “honorable man who, for the past four years, has been harassed, persecuted and threatened by law enforcement, particularly the Manhattan District Attorney, in their never-ending, politically motivated quest to get President Trump.”
The Trump Organization faces separate but similar charges and reportedly rejected an offered plea deal, choosing instead to take its chances at trial, and the spokesperson said they “look forward to having our day in court.”