Trump CFO’s plea deal could make him a prosecution witness

FILE - Law enforcement personnel escort the Trump Organization's former Chief Financial Officer...
FILE - Law enforcement personnel escort the Trump Organization's former Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg, center, as he departs court, Friday, Aug. 12, 2022, in New York. Former President Donald Trump’s longtime finance chief is expected to plead guilty as soon as Thursday, Aug. 18 in a tax evasion case that is the only criminal prosecution to arise from a long-running investigation into the former president’s company, three people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press.(John Minchillo | AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)
Published: Aug. 17, 2022 at 3:56 PM AKDT|Updated: Aug. 18, 2022 at 6:08 AM AKDT
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NEW YORK (AP) — The chief financial officer of Donald Trump’s company, Allen Weisselberg, is expected to plead guilty to tax violations Thursday in a deal that would require him to testify about illicit business practices at the Trump Organization, two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press.

Weisselberg is charged with 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 school tuition.

He conversed quietly with his lawyers while awaiting the hearing at a Manhattan court Thursday morning.

The plea deal would require Weisselberg to speak in court Thursday about the company’s role in the alleged compensation arrangement and possibly serve as a witness when the Trump Organization goes on trial in October on related criminal charges, the people said.

The two people were not authorized to speak publicly about the case and did so on condition of anonymity.

Weisselberg, 75, is likely to receive a sentence of five months in jail, to be served at New York City’s notorious Rikers Island complex, and he could be required to pay about $2 million in restitution, including taxes, penalties and interest, the people said. If that punishment holds, Weisselberg would be eligible for release after about 100 days.

Messages seeking comment were left with the Manhattan district attorney’s office and lawyers for Weisselberg and the Trump Organization.

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 have 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.

The Trump Organization is not involved in Weisselberg’s expected guilty plea Thursday and is scheduled to be tried in the alleged compensation scheme in October.

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.

The tax fraud charges against the Trump Organization are punishable by a fine of double the amount of unpaid taxes, or $250,000, whichever is larger.

Trump has not been charged in the criminal probe. The Republican 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.

Last week, Trump sat for a deposition in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ parallel civil investigation into allegations that Trump’s company misled lenders and tax authorities about asset values. Trump invoked his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination more than 400 times.

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