The highest-ranking Trump Organization executive indicted for alleged felony tax evasion told a jury that shortly after he pleaded guilty, the company stripped him of his title and booted him from the prestigious floor where Donald Trump worked.
Former CFO Allen Weisselberg, the prosecution’s star witness in the trial of two Trump companies, took the stand in state court in Manhattan on Tuesday in a charcoal suit and blue tie. Weisselberg, 75, said that after entering his plea in August and agreeing to testify against the companies — which are accused of hiding taxable income inside luxury perks — his title was demoted to senior counsel.
“My location also changed,” he told the jury, under questioning from Assistant District Attorney Susan Hoffinger, explaining that he dropped his perch on the 26th story of Trump Tower and was carried down a hill. He then described a party that Trump Organization executives threw for him anyway.
“Much to my regret,” Weisselberg said, “my son wanted to make sure I had a birthday party” and arranged it at Trump Tower.
“It was a little birthday cake,” he added.
But even after pleading guilty to all 15 counts against him, including charges of conspiracy and tax evasion, Weisselberg is still receiving his full salary of $640,000 and hopes to collect his $500,000 bonus in January, said him to the jury.
How benefits worked
Prosecutors are trying to show that the alleged tax evasion at the Trump Companies was not secretly orchestrated by Weisselberg and Jeffrey McConney, as the defense claims, but part of the company’s established business practices. Trump himself, who is not indicted, has called the trial a baseless vendetta.
In his first day on the stand, Weisselberg was a stark contrast to McConney, the prosecution’s first witness, who hesitated and was so withdrawn that the judge on Monday declared him a hostile witness, giving prosecutors more room to cross-examine him. Weisselberg, on the other hand, appeared calm as he told the jury how he received the perks and bonuses.
Weisselberg said she reaped a slew of benefits totaling about $1.7 million, including an apartment with a garage, and his and her Mercedes Benz to go with it. He testified that he also received undeclared cash and had various personal expenses paid for his home and his son’s apartment, including flat screen televisions and new furniture. These things should have been taxed like income.
Between 2005 and 2017, Trump Corp., one of the two companies on trial, paid nearly $1.2 million in rent for an apartment for Weisselberg and his wife, according to the DA. Weisselberg explained to jurors Tuesday that the benefits came about after his wife became ill and moved to Florida. Trump offered him an apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side to be closer to the office, he said.
“Donald knew I was going home to an empty house and nobody was there,” Weisselberg told the court. “He said, ‘Move into the city instead of spending three hours on the train.’
Trump later personally paid about $359,000 in private school tuition for Weisselberg’s grandchildren, according to prosecutors.
Why not an increase?
Hoffinger asked Weisselberg why he didn’t just ask for a raise. Weisselberg said he was helping the company save money.
“In order to get a raise, Trump Corp. would have had to give me double the amount, because taxes would have been taken into account,” he said.
Under the terms of his plea deal, Weisselberg must testify truthfully and face up to 100 days in jail, according to his attorney Nicholas Gravante, rather than the maximum 15 years he could otherwise face. He will continue his testimony on Thursday, when the trial resumes.
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