The longtime Trump administration chief financial officer has surrendered to New York authorities to face state tax charges after a grand jury charged him and his boss in the first criminal case against him. society of former President Donald Trump.
Allen Weisselberg, 73, went through an entrance of merchandise to avoid cameras waiting for his arrival at District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.
The exact charges he will face will be settled later in the day, but are expected to involve unpaid taxes on benefits extended to Weisselberg, according to a person familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified arguing confidential matters. Trump is not expected to be named in the indictment, but will add pressure on Weisselberg to cooperate against his boss.
Weisselberg’s cooperation could lead to a more expansive case against society and raise the prospect of a historic and politically charged persecution of a former president. With an unlikely trial before next year, Weisselberg will have months to decide whether to fight the charges or plead guilty and perhaps make a deal with the prosecutors. A Trump executive for four decades, Weisselberg has a unique vision of the former president’s finances and business dealings.
Trump flashed the probe from Vance, a Democrat, as politically motivated. “They will do everything to stop the MAGA movement (and for me),” he said in a June 28 statement, referring to his campaign slogan for “Making America Great.” Former Trump chief adviser Jason Miller tweeted Wednesday that a case against Weisselberg would be a “political disaster” for Democrats because it did not include Trump.
Trump Organization attorney Ronald Fischetti said last week that the district attorney’s case seemed meager.
“In my more than 50 years of practice, I have never seen the district attorney’s office assigned to a company on employee compensation or fringe benefits,” he said in a June 25 interview. . “The IRS would not, and has not brought such a case.”
But a number of legal experts have said the charges against his CFO have raised potential legal danger for Trump.
“The question is not whether this is the strongest case they can do against the Trump Organization, but whether this is the strongest case they can do against Weisselberg,” said Jeremy Temkin, former prosecutor. . “The pressure on a potential co-operative witness changes significantly when they are on the verge of an indictment. All of this is to put pressure on Weisselberg and get them to cooperate.”
Vance’s investigation initially focused on the Trump Organization’s reimbursement, through the Weisselberg office, of the money payments made by Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer and attorney. In preparation for the 2016 election, Cohen paid two women who say they had business with Trump.
The district attorney’s investigation has since become a review of the company’s relationships with a variety of external business entities, including Deutsche Bank AG and Ladder Capital, where one of Weisselberg’s sons works. New York Attorney General Letitia James earlier this year joined the criminal investigation, while also maintaining a separate civil investigation of the company’s business practices, particularly its property valuation.
Prosecutors also examined a number of benefits the Trump Organization has given to favored employees, including Barry Weisselberg, Allen’s son, who ran Trump-owned New York properties like Wollman Rink before the concessions were revoked by Mayor Bill DeBlasio this year. He has been provided with a rent-free apartment in a Trump building since 2005, Bloomberg reported.
The Trump Organization has also paid for private schools for Allen Weisselberg’s grandchildren. Such benefits are generally taxable as income, and failure to report them could be a crime.
To convict the Trump or Weisselberg Organization of tax fraud, prosecutors must prove they had intent to defraud, and they must demonstrate the value of these benefits and the taxes paid.
“Taxes on the appointment are due on income,” said Susan Hoffinger, a criminal tax attorney and former prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. “If these fringe benefits are considered income, they should be taxed on the nominee on that.”
(Updates to reflect initial charges against Trump Organization)
-With the help of Sophie Alexander, Jeremy Hill, Erik Larson and David Voreacos.