(NEW YORK) — Former Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg testified Tuesday that he didn’t pay taxes on a range of perks provided by the company, as prosecutors sought to show his actions implicate the company itself in a years-long tax fraud scheme.
The namesake real estate company of former President Donald Trump is on trial in New York City for tax evasion.
Prosecutors allege that the actions of Weisselberg, who pleaded guilty in August and is testifying for the prosecution as part of a plea deal, implicate the company because he was a “high managerial agent” entrusted to act on its behalf.
Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger asked Weisselberg about all of his functions as chief financial officer and executive vice president, and about the seniority of his position.
“Who were the top executives?” Hoffinger asked.
“I was one of them,” Weisselberg replied.
Weisselberg testified that the Trump Organization paid the rent on his Manhattan apartment, the leases on cars for himself and his wife, garage expenses, tuition for his grandchildren, furniture for his house in Florida, and other personal expenses.
“Those were received in addition to your reported compensation?” Hoffinger asked.
“That’s correct,” Weisselberg replied.
“And you didn’t pay taxes on them?” asked Hoffinger.
“That’s correct,” said Weisselberg.
Weisselberg also testified that his W2 tax forms were false because they underreported his income.
“Why didn’t you seek a taxed raise instead of personal expenses?” Hoffinger asked.
“In order to get a raise to be able to pay for those expenses, the Trump Corporation would have had to give me double the amount of those expenses because taxes would have been withheld,” Weisselberg said.
Prosecutors portrayed the savings as a benefit to the company. The defense has said Weisselberg acted on his own.
Weisselberg, who in 2005 moved from Long Island to a Manhattan apartment overlooking the Hudson River, said the move was Trump’s idea so Weisselberg could “spend more time at the office rather than sitting on the train” commuting.
“Was that a benefit to the company to have you close by?” Hoffinger asked.
“It was convenient for the company, yes,” Weisselberg said.
Weisselberg said he earned $640,000 per year plus a $500,000 bonus — an amount that remained unchanged even after he pleaded guilty in August to all 15 counts that he faced. Weisselberg said he expected to make the same bonus again this year, but conceded that “I don’t know yet.”
Trump Organization controller Jeff McConney, testifying earlier Tuesday, said that he knowingly broke the law by helping other executives avoid paying required taxes on certain expenses.
McConney, who has been employed by the Trump Organization for 35 years, testified that he helped Weisselberg, and another executive, Matthew Calamari, pay personal expenses without the requisite taxes.
Prosecutor Josh Steinglass said that among other expenses, the company paid $100,000 per year for Weisselberg’s apartment on the West Side of Manhattan.
“You never considered whether that might be taxable?” he asked McConney.
“No,” replied McConney, prompting Steinglass to say, incredulously, “You have a college degree in accounting!”
“You were knowingly breaking the law by helping Allen Weisselberg pay expenses with pre-tax dollars?” Steinglass asked in a separate exchange.
“Yes,” McConney replied.
The defense says the Trump Organization could not have known of any fraud because its accountant at the time, Mazars USA, never raised red flags about the payments.
Steinglass, however, questioned McConney on that point.
“Did you feel justified in failing to report personal expenses paid on behalf of Allen Weisselberg and Matthew Calamari because it was up to Mazars to catch you?” Steinglass asked.
“No,” McConney answered.
Steinglass showed McConney general ledger entries that he suggested intentionally obscured on whose behalf expenses were paid.
“Is it clear from this entry here, line 11, can you even tell this is a residential apartment?” Steinglass asked.
“No,” McConney said.
“Does it contain Allen Weisselberg’s name? Or the apartment number?” Steinglass asked.
“No,” McConney replied.
Accounts payable supervisor Deborah Tarasoff, who paid the bills at the Trump Organization, testified that she paid the rent on Weisselberg’s apartment and paid the leases for luxury cars for Weisselberg and his wife.
“Were you aware Allen Weisselberg and his wife had car leases paid by the Trump Corporation?” Steinglass asked her.
“Yes,” replied Tarasoff, who received immunity in exchange for her testimony. “I paid the bills.”
At one point Tarasoff drew a laugh in the courtroom when she was asked whether “E350W4” referred to a model of Mercedes Benz.
“I don’t know — I can’t afford a Mercedes,” Tarasoff replied.
Other perks Tarasoff said Weisselberg received included school tuition at Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School for Weisselberg’s grandchildren. Tarasoff told the jury that she altered the company’s general ledger in 2016 to remove 12 references to Weisselberg’s name in connection with the tuition payments.
“Allen called me into his office and told me to do it,” Tarasoff said. “He said, ‘I want you to go in and take my name off."”
Tarasoff testified that Weisselberg did not explain why, but that she had no concern about altering records of transactions from four or five years prior.
Prosecutors have said the Trump Organization tried to clean up its alleged fraud when Trump began running for office, because executives knew the company would come under additional scrutiny.
McConney testified that Trump himself was unaware of the fraud.
“As far as you knew, President Trump had no idea?” defense attorney Susan Necheles asked him.
“Correct,” McConney replied.
McConney, who spent five days on the witness stand, also said he never told Trump’s son Eric Trump, who ran the company while his father was in office, that two top executives were committing tax fraud.
The trial is among several legal challenges Trump faces as he prepares to announce his third run for the presidency.
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