(CNN) — Allen Weisselberg, former chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, pleaded guilty Thursday to his role in a 15-year tax fraud scheme. And, as part of the settlement, he agreed to testify in court against former President Donald Trump’s real estate company.
In court, Weisselberg said “yes, your honor” when asked I ask if he accepted the charges by his own choice.
Weisselberg pleaded guilty to 15 felonies and admitted that he did not pay taxes on $1.7 million in income. Among them, luxury perks like rent and utilities for a Manhattan apartment, leases for a couple of Mercedes-Benz cars, as well as private school tuition for his grandchildren.
The former executive of the Trump Organization admitted to hiding those benefits from his accountant so as not to declare his income. Also that you knowingly omitted the income from his personal tax returns.
To the judge’s series of specific questions about the scheme, Weisselberg responded in a low, barely audible tone. He replied “yes, your honor” repeatedly.
As part of the plea agreement, he will pay nearly $2 million in back taxes, interest and penalties. He also waives any right of appeal.
Judge Juan Merchan said that Weisselberg will receive his sentence after the trial against the Trump Organization. He also noted that the agreement established a sentence of five months in prison followed by five years of probation. In addition, Merchan warned Weisselberg that if he does not comply with all the conditions of the plea agreement, “I would be free to impose any legal sentence, which in his case includes 5 to 15 years in prison.”
Weisselberg to testify against the Trump Organization
The guilty plea pits Weisselberg against the Trump Organization, where he has worked for 40 years. And his testimony could affect the company if it goes to trial on related tax charges, scheduled for October.
Weisselberg, fiercely loyal to the Trump family, has worked for them since 1973. But even if he has to testify against the company, Weisselberg will not implicate any of the Trumps, as they have not been charged with any crimes. If the Trump Organization is convicted, it could be required to pay taxes and fines, but no one will go to prison.
“Today, Allen Weisselberg admitted in court that he used his position at the Trump Organization to defraud taxpayers and enrich himself,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a statement. “This plea deal directly implicates the Trump Organization in a wide range of criminal activity. And it requires Weisselberg to provide invaluable testimony in the upcoming trial against the corporation. And thanks to the incredibly hard work and dedication of the team that prosecute this case, Weisselberg will spend time behind bars. We look forward to proving our case in court against the Trump Organization,” Bragg said.
Weisselberg is likely to serve his prison time at Rikers Island, New York City’s notorious jail. With credit given for good behavior, a third of the sentence could be expunged, meaning Weisselberg could end up serving about 100 days behind bars. None of the charges Weisselberg faces carry a mandatory prison sentence, but the most serious of the charges carries a maximum sentence of 15 years.
Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass said during the hearing that if Weisselberg fails to meet all obligations, he will recommend a state prison sentence.
Weisselberg’s guilty plea comes amid a dramatic legal period for Trump. Precisely, last week the former president invoked his right to the Fifth Amendment during a statement in the framework of the investigation by the New York attorney general. Thus, Trump refused to answer hundreds of questions about the financial statements of the Trump Organization.
In turn, that came two days after the FBI executed a search warrant at Trump’s private Florida residence, Mar-a-Lago. This as part of a criminal investigation into the handling of presidential records, including classified documents.