Former Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg pleaded guilty Thursday to 15 counts of fraud and tax evasion, acknowledging that he was part of a scheme to receive more than $1.7 million in off-the-books perks and compensation from former President Donald Trump's namesake firm.
Weisselberg, 75, entered the plea in a Manhattan courtroom, where he admitted to his crimes and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in the criminal case against two Trump Organization entities.
Weisselberg was charged in July 2021 alongside two Trump Organization entities that prosecutors claim took part in the scheme, which also allegedly benefited other company executives. The company has pleaded not guilty, and jury selection for its trial is scheduled for Oct. 24.
"This plea agreement directly implicates the Trump Organization in a wide range of criminal activity and requires Weisselberg to provide invaluable testimony in the upcoming trial against the corporation," Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a statement. "Furthermore, thanks to the incredibly hard work and dedication of the team prosecuting this case, Weisselberg will spend time behind bars. We look forward to proving our case in court against the Trump Organization."
Weisselberg's deal with prosecutors calls for a sentence of five months in New York's Rikers Island jail, followed by five years' probation. He must also pay $1.9 million in back taxes and fines, and must appear as a witness during the company's trial to testify under oath. He has not agreed to provide any new or supplemental information about Trump or the company that bears his name, according to sources familiar with the matter.
Weisselberg will be sentenced at the conclusion of the Trump Organization trial, and prosecutors will seek state prison time if he does not honor the terms of the deal, Bragg said. A judge will make the final sentencing decision.
Nicholas Gravante Jr., an attorney for Weisselberg, said the former executive's move to accept a plea deal was "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 years-long legal and personal nightmares it has caused for him and his family," Gravante 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."
New York Attorney General Letitia James, whose office is overseeing its own civil probe into the former president's business dealings, said the plea demonstrates that authorities "will crack down on anyone who steals from the public for personal gain because no one is above the law."
Weisselberg and the company were indicted by a grand jury in July 2021. The indictment alleged the company and Weisselberg funneled "indirect employee compensation" to the longtime executive beginning in 2005 through payments for his Manhattan apartment, luxury car leases, school tuition for family members and other personal expenses. The company failed to report the payments to tax authorities, prosecutors said.
Trump was not charged in the case, and has previously denounced the investigation as a "witch hunt."
"It was orchestrated by the most senior executives, who were financially benefiting themselves and the company, by getting secret pay raises at the expense of state and federal taxpayers," Carey Dunne, at the time an assistant district attorney, told the judge at a court hearing last year.
Weisselberg and the company asked New York Supreme Court Judge Juan Merchan in February to dismiss all 15 counts charged against them. On Aug. 12, Merchan dismissed one of tax fraud counts against the Trump Organization, but allowed 14 others to remain. No charges against Weisselberg were dismissed.
New York Attorney General Letitia James issued this statement:
“Today is an important marker in the ongoing criminal investigation of the Trump Organization and its CFO, Allen Weisselberg. In the indictment, we allege, among other things, financial wrongdoing whereby the Trump Organization engaged in a scheme with Mr. Weisselberg to avoid paying taxes on certain compensation. This investigation will continue, and we will follow the facts and the law wherever they may lead.”