eDonald Trump’s longtime finance chief is still a company employee, drawing a hefty salary from former President Trump’s namesake organization, even as he makes his long-awaited turn as the star witness in a criminal tax fraud trial.
Alan Weiselberg testified Tuesday that he until recently worked as a senior adviser for the company — stepped down as CFO after his arrest last year but without loss of pay — and is now on paid leave after pleading guilty in August to tax evasion on top of $1.7 million in bonuses paid by the company.
Weiselberg, who still earns his usual salary of $640,000 and $500,000 in annual bonuses, said he even celebrated his 75th birthday at Trump Tower with cake and colleagues just hours after the plea deal was finalized. which now pits him against the company he has worked for since the mid-1980s.
Asked if he’s in line for another bonus this year, Weiselberg gave a seemingly nervous smile and said, “I don’t know yet. … Let’s hope so.”
Despite his financial entanglements, Weiselberg has good reason to cooperate fully with the plea agreement requiring him to testify against the Trump Organization. Prosecutors can cancel his promised five-month prison sentence and seek a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison if he does not comply in full.
The Trump Organization — the entity through which the former president manages his real estate, marketing deals and other ventures — is accused of helping some top executives, including Weiselberg, avoid paying income taxes on the compensation they received in addition to your wages for more than a decade.
Prosecutors allege that the Trump Organization, through its subsidiaries Trump Corp. and Trump Payroll Corp., is responsible for Weisselberg’s scheme because he was a “senior management agent” entrusted to act on behalf of the company and its various entities.
The Trump Organization denies wrongdoing. While the company continued to hire Weisselberg and pay him handsomely, its lawyers took him to court.
They allege that Weiselberg devised the tax avoidance scheme on his own without Trump or the Trump family knowing, and that the company did not benefit from his actions. If convicted, the company could be fined more than $1 million.
But Weiselberg, repeating his own guilt on the stand, testified that his scheming benefited the Trump Organization’s bottom line in addition to himself.
Weiselberg said he saved the company hundreds of thousands of dollars by reducing his salary by the total cost of the perks — including a Manhattan apartment with a terrace overlooking the Hudson River, plus Mercedes-Benz cars for himself and his wife — instead of asking for a promotion and pays them out of pocket.
If Weiselberg had done it that way, he said, the company would have had to pay double, raising his salary enough to cover both the cost of the bonuses and the income tax he would have had to pay.
Weiselberg, who first started working for Trump’s father in 1973, has a close eye on the company’s financial dealings and could end up testifying for several days. But he is not expected to implicate Trump or family members in his testimony. Weiselberg is free on bail and will be formally sentenced after his testimony.
Weiselberg described Trump as a hands-on leader who, before leaving for the White House in 2017, received weekly reports detailing the company’s finances and personally signed off on all major expenditures. Weiselberg said he saw Trump daily in those days before the presidency, but hadn’t spoken to him much since his 2020 election loss.
Weiselberg testified that it was Trump’s idea for him to move into a company-paid apartment in Manhattan after his wife became ill in 2005. Weiselberg said Trump told him that if he was closer to the office, he would allowed him to continue working 10-12 hour days without the burden of the three-hour commute to his home in Long Island.
Trump signed the lease for Weissenberg’s apartment and authorized him and his wife to receive Mercedes-Benz cars, the leases of which were paid for by the Trump Organization. Weiselberg said he hid his scheming from the company’s accountant, who also prepared his personal tax returns. He gave no indication that Trump was aware that he was maneuvering to avoid taxes.
Attorneys for the Trump Organization spent part of court hearings Monday and Tuesday trying to counter Weisselberg’s testimony, using their cross-examination of the prosecution’s first two witnesses to underscore their claim that others at the company, including Trump, did not know nothing about the scheme.
Jeffrey McConey, the company’s senior vice president and controller, and Deborah Tarasoff, chief of duties, both of whom worked under Weisselberg, told jurors they were simply following orders. Tarasoff agreed with a defense attorney’s description of Weisselberg as a demanding, authoritarian micromanager who enjoyed immense trust within the company.
Tarasoff said she prepared company checks for Weiselberg to pay the apartment rent and car lease payments and cut checks from Trump’s personal account to pay private school tuition for Weiselberg’s grandchildren.
Tarasoff said that in September 2016, as the presidential vote that catapulted Trump to the presidency was nearing, Weiselberg ordered her to begin deleting records of some of the transactions in the company’s accounting system. Tarasoff said she didn’t think Weiselberg was asking her to do anything illegal.
But even if it was, she said, “I guess I would because he’s the boss and he told me to do it.”
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