New York prosecutors Tuesday called Allen Weisselberg, who spent half a century working for the Trump Organization, to testify as part of their case against the company.
Two Trump Organization entities and Weisselberg, the former chief financial officer of the company, are accused by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office of more than a dozen counts of fraud and tax evasion. Weisselberg entered a guilty plea in the case in August, admitting that he received more than $1.7 million in untaxed compensation in the form of luxury perks.
Weisselberg and his family, who both sides agree enjoyed lavish untaxed corporate benefits, have been the focus of the trial, which began Oct. 31.
Prosecutors allege Weisselberg was part of a corporate scheme to help executives “cheat” their taxes. The Trump Organization denies wrongdoing and says Weisselberg acted independently, hiding the tax scheme from the company.
Weisselberg and his wife, Hilary, lived in a $8,200 per month company-owned apartment under a lease agreement signed by Donald Trump himself, while driving luxury cars paid for by the Trump Organization. His son Barry Weisselberg, who also worked for the company, paid just $1,000 per month to live in a high-rise overlooking Central Park, far below the going rate for that high-demand location.
The first witness to take the stand, Trump Organization controller Jeff McConney, was called by prosecutors at the start of the trial and testified for more than five days, spread out over more than two weeks after McConney tested positive for, and then recovered from, COVID-19.
McConney was declared a hostile witness Monday after the judge said McConney appeared to be avoiding giving meaningful answers to even basic questions.
Judge Juan Merchan said McConney had “a hard time giving very credible answers” to prosecutors’ questions, while “it is pretty clear to the average observer that he is very helpful to” Trump Organization attorneys.
McConney has an attorney paid for by the company and has met with Trump Organization attorneys during the trial, he and they have acknowledged.
Under questioning from attorneys for the company, McConney said he was misled by Weisselberg and an outside accountant about certain tax practices. Asked by lawyers on both sides whether he helped Weisselberg and another executive “cheat” on taxes, McConney acknowledged that he did.
As part of Weisselberg’s plea deal with prosecutors, he agreed to testify in the case. Merchan is expected to address Weisselberg’s formal sentencing at a hearing scheduled on Nov. 28. 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.