Ex-Trump CFO Weisselberg admits breach of trust during tax fraud trial – USA TODAY

NEW YORK – Allen Weisselberg, the onetime confidante and top financial lieutenant of former President Donald Trump, his family, and his businesses, fought back tears Thursday as he acknowledged he had betrayed their trust by committing tax fraud crimes to achieve personal gain.

The former Trump Organization CFO made the admission during cross-examination by a defense attorney for one of the Trump companies shortly after his testimony as a prosecution witness accused another Trump executive and one of the Trump Organization’s many businesses in the crimes.

The contrasting testimony marked the most dramatic development so far in the Manhattan Supreme Court criminal trial of the Trump Corporation and the Trump Payroll Corporation. They have pleaded not guilty to charges of doling out secret off-the-books payments, free apartments and cars, and other perks to Weisselberg and other top Trump executives.

Former CFO Allen Weisselberg leaves the courtroom for a lunch recess during a trial at the New York Supreme Court on November 17, 2022, in New York City. The Trump Organization is charged with criminal tax fraud, falsifying business records, and filing false tax returns in a scheme to defraud the state. Former CFO Weisselberg, who is on his second day of testimony, has pleaded guilty to 15 criminal charges as part of the probe.

Defense attorney Alan Futerfas noted that Weisselberg had worked for the Trump family for roughly 50 years, rising to the post of chief financial officer and trusted to oversee all financial and acounting records for the sprawling business empire. Then he launched a rapid-fire courtroom exchange.

“Mr. Weisselberg, did you honor the trust that was placed in you?” asked Futerfas.

Weisselberg conceded he did not.

“And you did it for your own personal gain?” asked the defense lawyer.

“I did,” said Weisselberg.

“Are you embarrassed by what you did?” asked Futerfas.

“More than you can imagine,” said Weisselberg.   

The now-former CFO became the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office most important witness against the two Trump companies after he pleaded guilty in August to all the criminal counts against him in a 2021 indictment that charged him and the two companies.

Former President Trump, who recently announced a 2024 White House bid, is not charged in the case and is not expected to appear at the trial.

Weisselberg’s plea was part of an agreement with prosecutors that required him to testify against the accused Trump firms in exchange for a more lenient sentence – roughly 100 days in jail, instead of the maximum 15-year prison term he faced.

Answering questions from prosecutor Susan Hoffinger, Weisselberg’s Thursday testimony provided evidence that the Trump companies benefitted from the illegal financial maneuvers he used to evade federal, state and New York City taxes by paying him lower salaries and getting lower costs for the Medicaid portion of payroll expenses.

One of the dodges included cutting his salary and bonus to cover the thousands of dollars Trump voluntarily paid for the private school tuition payments of Weisselberg’s grandchildren. Although he testified it was the right thing to do, Weisselberg acknowledged the maneuver still enabled him to use pre-tax dollars for the bills, a major savings.

Weisselberg’s testimony about the impact on the companies is important, because finding the Trump firms guilty under New York Law would require proving that the tax-free payments were improperly directed by a high-ranking executive in the course of his or her job and were carried out “in behalf” of the companies.

Futerfas sought to undercut that testimony through questions that prompted Weisselberg to testify that most of the indictment’s counts referred specifically to falsifications of his own tax returns and others of his confessed crimes.   

“The company never saw your tax returns, correct?” asked Futerfas.

“That is correct,” answered Weisselberg.

The disgraced former Trump executive acknowledged that the only person who conspired with him and knew about his tax evasion maneuvers was Jeffrey McConney, the controller of the Trump Corporation.

McConney was granted immunity from prosecution and testified against the companies earlier in the trial, including for part of that testimony as a hostile witness. He testified that Weisselberg was the lead figure in the alleged tax evasion schemes.

Futerfas’ cross-examination Thursday appeared to echo one of the defense team’s opening arguments that characterized Weisselberg as a prodigal son who had let the Trump family down

“Wasn’t it your responsibility to protect the family and their companies from just this kind of conduct?” asked Futerfas.  

“Yes,” said Weisselberg.

The trial is scheduled to resume on Friday.

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