Since July 2021, when the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office hit it with a number of criminal charges—including conspiracy and multiple counts of tax fraud and falsifying records—the Trump Organization has insisted that it is a totally innocent victim of a political witch hunt. The problem with that claim? Its longtime CFO, who was charged alongside the company, admitted to committing all those felonies, pleaded guilty this August, and is now about to detail them all to a jury, in testimony that is likely to majorly implicate Donald Trump’s family business.
On Monday, prosecutors with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office said in their opening statement that Allen Weisselberg would deliver an insider’s account of how the company allegedly spent 15 years engaging in a massive fraud scheme that boosted executive pay while allowing the company to avoid paying taxes. “This case is about greed and cheating, cheating on taxes,” attorney Susan Hoffinger told the jury. “The scheme was conducted, directed, and authorized at the highest level of the accounting department.” Weisselberg’s testimony, she added, “will give you the inside story of how he conducted this tax scheme.” In August, Weisselberg pleaded guilty to all 15 counts he was indicted on the year prior, agreeing to testify at the Trump Organization’s criminal trial. As The New York Times noted at the time, prosecutors have “essentially accused him of conspiring with the Trump Organization,” and his testimony will “undercut any effort by the company’s lawyers to contend that no crime was committed.”
While Weisselberg could, in theory, try to lie about the scheme in an effort to remain loyal to Trump, such a choice could result in his going to prison for up to 15 years. If he tells the truth—that he, as CFO of the company, engaged in a scheme to compensate himself and other executives with off-the-books perks for which taxes were not paid, and that he personally dodged taxes on $1.76 million of income over the last 15 years—he’s expected to be given a five-month prison sentence, in addition to his having to pay financial penalties. Among the perks Weisselberg received as part of the decade-and-a-half-long scam were an Upper West Side apartment, leased Mercedes-Benzes, and private school tuition for his grandchildren. When the indictment against him and the Trump Organization was unsealed last year, it suggested the company was dumb enough to keep actual spreadsheets of its alleged crimes. Responding to the news at the time, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump insisted that people dodge taxes all the time and that this whole thing was much ado about nothing. In fact, they posited that the $1.76 million on which Weisselberg failed to pay taxes was chump change.
As Hoffinger noted on Monday, Weisselberg directly reported to Trump for 35 years, and the Queens-born real estate developer trusted Weisselberg so much he made him a trustee of the business when he became president. It was also Weisselberg who reportedly arranged for the Trump Organization to pay Michael Cohen $35,000 a month, which served as a means of reimbursement for the $130,000 Cohen paid Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet about the alleged affair she’d had with Trump, which the former president denies to this day.
On Monday, lawyers for the Trump Organization tried to argue that the company and Donald Trump were totally in the dark about what Weisselberg was up to. “You were all here during jury selection and heard the DA repeatedly argue that Donald Trump was involved in or even knew what Allen Weisselberg was doing,” defense attorney Michael van der Veen said. “You will learn that Mr. Weisselberg hid what he was doing from the company and from the owners of the companies.”