NEW YORK — Longtime Trump Organization executive Allen Weisselberg took the stand Tuesday as the prosecution’s star witness in the company’s criminal trial on tax fraud charges.
Weisselberg, the former chief financial officer, testified that he received $1.76 million in untaxed, off-the-books perks from the company — confirming key elements of the Manhattan district attorney’s case against the Trump Organization.
Weisselberg, who has worked for the Trump family for nearly 50 years, pleaded guilty in August and agreed to testify against former President Donald Trump’s firm.
Under questioning by prosecutors, he said he knew he owed taxes on the compensation, which included an apartment overlooking the Hudson River, leases for two Mercedes-Benz and private school tuition for his grandchildren. He said he knew that his tax forms were false because they underreported his income.
He said the scheme benefited both him and the company, which would have had to give him a raise twice as large as the amount they spent on his personal expenses to provide the same benefit if taxes were withheld.
Weisselberg said he deliberately withheld information about the extra perks from accountants because he knew they were improper. “They may not have wanted to sign my tax return and prepare my taxes,” he said.
Far from being frozen out of the Trump orbit, Weisselberg revealed that he has continued to receive his full six-figure salary since pleading guilty and agreeing to testify against the company — even celebrating a birthday party at Trump Tower hours after his plea deal was finalized.
He stepped down as CFO after being charged in the case, but stayed on as a senior adviser with many of the same responsibilities until this October, months after his guilty plea, when he began a paid leave of absence.
He told the jury he continues to get paid $640,000 a year in salary and will “hopefully” receive his usual $500,000 bonus in January.
“Much to my regret,” he said, his son “arranged a birthday party for me” at Trump Tower the same day his plea deal was finalized in August, which was attended by other Trump Organization employees.
“It was a small cake. It was a cake. That was the party,” he said.
Weisselberg testified that it was Trump himself who suggested he move into a Riverside Drive apartment on the company dime. Trump later signed the lease for the apartment.
“He said it would help me be able to spend more time at the office rather than sitting on a train for three hours back and forth … and make my life easier,” he said. Weisselberg had previously been living on Long Island.
Weisselberg said he spoke to Trump “usually on a daily basis” until he became president and stepped away from his business empire. “We’d discuss football to business transactions. We were working on things we wanted to do in the future,” he said. “It ran the gamut.”
It was Trump, Weisselberg testified, who authorized his compensation and that of other senior executives. He said Trump was frequently in communication with his employees at the company. “He had an open door policy.”
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who is prosecuting the Trump Organization in his highest profile case since taking office, sat in the court room to watch Weisselberg’s testimony.
As part of his plea deal, Weisselberg is expected to be sentenced to five months on Rikers Island as long as he upholds the agreement and testifies truthfully. Should he violate the deal, he could face 15 years in prison.
If convicted, the Trump Organization could be fined $1.6 million. Weisselberg’s testimony is expected to continue on Thursday.