(Bloomberg) — The Trump Organization’s longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, testified that greed fueled a tax fraud scheme he says he engaged in with the firm’s controller and the two Trump companies standing trial.
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Weisselberg, the prosecution’s star witness against the two business units, told a jury in Manhattan on Thursday that the scheme, which spanned more than a decade, was driven by the simple determination to evade taxes.
“It was my own personal greed that led to this,” the 75-year-old former CFO said on his second day on the witness stand in New York state court.
Alan Futerfas, a lawyer for Trump Payroll Corp., one of the two units, tried to show during his cross-examination that Weisselberg’s machinations were concealed from Donald Trump and his family. Weisselberg, who is still drawing his $640,000 annual salary at the Trump Organization even after pleading guilty in the case this summer, grew emotional when Futerfas asked if he had betrayed the family, for whom he has worked for almost 50 years.
Linchpin of Case
Weisselberg’s admission that he committed his crimes together with the Trump companies is the linchpin of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s case against them. Donald Trump himself, who isn’t charged, has called the trial a baseless vendetta.
“Given that you were getting about $200,000 in expenses, without it being taxed, wasn’t this a savings to the Trump Corporation, because they saved themselves from having to give you a double raise?” Executive Assistant DA Susan Hoffinger asked Weisselberg.
“The Trump Corporation saved some payroll taxes, yes,” he said. Weisselberg later acknowledged that Trump Corp., the other company of the pair, would have had to award him at least $400,000 more to make up for the taxes he’d owe if his compensation weren’t hidden within perks like luxury cars and high- end housing.
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“I committed those crimes with Jeff McConney, who I dealt with directly, and Trump Payroll and the Trump Corporation,” Weisselberg told the jury under questioning by Hoffinger.
Trump Organization Controller Jeffrey McConney, who was the prosecution’s first witness, was granted immunity in exchange for his testimony but proved so evasive on the stand that he was declared a hostile witness.
What About the Trumps?
Weisselberg told the jurors Thursday the scam was already in place when he started working for Trump in 1986.
“Did you scheme with any member of the Trump family?” Futerfas asked in his cross-examination.
“No,” Weisselberg said.
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Weisselberg has admitted that Donald Trump personally paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in private school tuition for the executive’s grandchildren. The former CFO and his wife each got a Mercedes-Benz and an apartment paid for by the Trump companies. Prosecutors say these perks were all part of the fraud.
At one point Weisselberg appeared to help the prosecution significantly when Futerfas asked him whether the Trump companies had benefited from the fraud — a crucial part of the DA’s case.
“I didn’t do the analysis,” Weisselberg said, “but I knew there was a benefit to the company.”
Yet when asked whether not paying taxes on the perks was his decision alone and solely for his own benefit, Weisselberg said yes.
He grew emotional when Futerfas asked if he had lived up to the trust the Trump Organization had placed in him.
“Did you betray that trust?” Futerfas asked.
“Yes,” Weisselberg said.
“And you did it for your own personal gain?” the lawyer asked.
“Correct,” Weisselberg said.
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The executive — who has worked for three generations of Trumps, starting under Donald Trump’s father, Fred — then grew teary, his voice cracking.
“Are you embarrassed by what you did?” Futerfas asked.
“More than you can imagine,” Weisselberg said.
“Ashamed?” the attorney pressed.
“Yes, very much so,” Weisselberg said, his face reddening.
He continues his testimony when the trial resumes Friday.
The case is People v. Trump Organization, 01473-2021, New York State Supreme Court (Manhattan).
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