In court on Thursday, Weisselberg said, “Yes, Your Honor” when asked if he pleaded guilty to his own choice.
Weisselberg pleaded guilty to 15 felonies and admitted he paid no taxes on $1.7 million in income, including luxuries such as rent and utilities for a Manhattan apartment, leases for a pair of Mercedes-Benz cars, and private school tuition for his grandchildren.
He admitted to hiding those benefits from his accountant in order to under-report his earnings and deliberately omit the earnings from his personal tax returns.
Weisselberg answered a series of specific questions from the judge about the settlement in a muffled and barely audible tone, repeatedly saying “Yes, Your Honor.”
As part of the deal, he will pay nearly $2 million in back taxes, interest and penalties and waive any right to appeal.
Judge Juan Merchan said Weisselberg would be sentenced after the Trump organization trial. He said the agreement was for a five-month jail term, followed by a five-year probation period. The judge warned Weisselberg if he does not meet all the terms of the plea deal: “I would be free to impose any legal penalty which in your case includes a prison term of 5 to 15 years.”
The plea puts him at odds with the Trump Organization, where he has worked for 40 years, and his testimony could harm the company if it goes to trial, as scheduled in October, over related tax charges.
Weisselberg has been very loyal to the Trump family and has worked for them since 1973. But even by giving testimony against the company, Weisselberg will not implicate a Trump family member who was not charged with any wrongdoing. If the Trump organization is convicted, it may be necessary to pay back taxes and fines, but no one will go to jail.
“Today, Allen Weisselberg admitted in court that he used his position with the Trump Organization to fool taxpayers and enrich himself,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a statement. “This plea deal directly implicates the Trump Organization in a wide variety of criminal activities and requires Weisselberg to give invaluable testimony in the upcoming trial against the company. In addition, thanks to the incredibly hard work and dedication of the team handling this case, Weisselberg will continues, spending time behind bars. We look forward to proving our case in court against the Trump Organization,” Bragg said.
Weisselberg will likely serve at Rikers Island, New York City’s infamous prison. With credit for good behavior, a third of the sentence could be quashed, meaning Weisselberg could spend about 100 days behind bars. None of the charges Weisselberg faces have a mandatory incarceration, but the most serious charges carry a maximum sentence of 15 years.
Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass said at the hearing that if Weisselberg does not meet all obligations, they will recommend a sentence in the state prison.
The Manhattan prosecutor’s office announced the tax bill last summer after it pressured Weisselberg to cooperate against Trump in its wide-ranging investigation into whether the Trump Organization and its top executives provided misleading financial statements to obtain loans, insurance and tax breaks. No charges have been filed in that investigation, which prosecutors say is continuing.
Weisselberg is not cooperating with New York prosecutors in that criminal investigation.
The conviction comes two months before Weisselberg was due to appear in court and a week after a New York state judge rejected his request to drop the charges.
Representatives of the Trump Organization have denied any allegation. Trump calls the investigations politically motivated. No other driver was charged in the tax case, and Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump were not charged with any wrongdoing.
The Trump Organization was charged with 10 counts and Weisselberg with 15 felony counts in connection with an alleged plan dating back to 2005 “to compensate Weisselberg and other Trump Organization executives in a way that was “off the books.”
Few people, including Weisselberg, could explain how decisions were made in the Trump Organization, and his testimony will provide insights during the trial.
Weisselberg acknowledged Thursday that the plan was carried out with Jeffrey McConney, the longtime controller of the Trump Organization.
McConney, who reported to Weisselberg, was given immunity for his grand jury testimony, people familiar with the case previously told CNN. He was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the indictment.
This story has been updated with additional developments.