By Andréa Bambino
Allen Weisselberg, a longtime executive at the Trump Organization, was sentenced on Tuesday to five months in prison on charges of fraud and tax evasion.
Weisselberg, 75, was the chief financial officer of former president Donald Trump’s real estate and entertainment group from 2005 to 2021.
He pleaded guilty in August to 15 counts of tax fraud in a deal in which he agreed to testify at the criminal trial of his former employer’s company.
In a statement announcing the sentence, New York district attorney Alvin Bragg said Weisselberg’s behavior was part of a 13-year scheme to defraud federal, state and city authorities.
“In Manhattan, you have to play by the rules no matter who you are or who you work for,” Bragg said.
“Weisselberg used his high-level position to secure lavish work perks such as a rent-free luxury Manhattan apartment, multiple Mercedes Benz automobiles and private school tuition for his grandchildren — all without paying required taxes,” he said.
Weisselberg’s testimony helped prosecutors gain the December 6 conviction of the Trump Organization and sister firm Trump Payroll Corp on 17 similar fraud and tax evasion charges that involved falsifying business records.
Although he testified against the company, Weisselberg did not implicate the former president, who is again running for the White House in 2024, in any crime.
A close friend of the Trump family, Weisselberg admitted he schemed with the company to receive undeclared benefits such as a rent-free apartment in a posh neighborhood, luxury cars for him and his wife and his grandchildren’s fees at an expensive private school.
According to his plea deal, Weisselberg agreed to pay nearly $2 million in fines and penalties in addition to the prison time and a five year probation period.
US media reported that Weisselberg was taken in handcuffs to the notorious Rikers Island prison.
Bragg said the felony convictions of Weisselberg and the Trump Organization “put on full display the inner workings of former president Trump’s companies.”
No end to probes
Billionaire Trump, who now appears less involved in the day-to-day operation of his flagship company, has branded the investigation by the New York City prosecutor a witch hunt.
After the December verdict against the companies, Trump declared on his social media platform that the Trump Organization bore no responsibility for “Weisselberg committing tax fraud on his personal tax returns.”
But Tuesday’s sentencing does not end the legal troubles of the former president, who has been repeatedly accused of breaking laws.
Trump was impeached twice while president in 2017-2021, for abuse of power and obstruction of justice in the first case, and for incitement of insurrection in the second, following the January 6, 2021 assault on the US Congress by his followers.
In December the congressional investigation into January 6 concluded that he should be prosecuted for insurrection and conspiracy to defraud the United States.
The Justice Department has not commented on that non-binding conclusion.
But it has named a special counsel, Jack Smith, to investigate Trump and a number of his aides for their role in the violent Capitol assault, for which some of the attackers have already been convicted of seditious conspiracy.
Smith has also taken over a separate Justice department investigation into Trump allegedly illegally keeping highly classified documents at his Florida Mar-a-Lago home and obstructing the investigation into this case.
In the state of Georgia, he faces possible indictment for interfering with the voting in the state during the November 202 election, which Trump lost to President Joe Biden.
And in New York, state Attorney General Letitia James has filed a civil suit against Trump and three of his children, accusing them of fraud by overvaluing assets to secure loans and then undervaluing them to minimize taxes.
James is seeking $250 million in penalties as well as banning Trump and his children from serving as executives at companies in New York.