(NEW YORK) — Former President Donald Trump called the criminal charges unsealed Thursday against his organization’s long-serving chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg a “disgrace” and “shameful,” telling ABC News he is a “tremendous man.”
Weisselberg and the Trump Organization pleaded not guilty in Manhattan State Supreme Court to 15 charges related to what the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office general counsel Carey Dunn called a “15-year-long tax fraud scheme.”
Weisselberg allegedly benefited from the scheme to the tune of $1.7 million, Dunn said.
“During the operation of the scheme, the defendants arranged for Weisselberg to receive indirect employee compensation from the Trump Organization in the approximate amount of $1.76 million … in ways that enabled the corporate defendants to avoid reporting it to the tax authorities,” the indictment said.
Weisselberg arrived at the Manhattan District Attorney’s office with his lawyer hours after a grand jury on Wednesday voted to indict him and the Trump Organization on the charges, which include grand larceny, criminal tax fraud, conspiracy and falsifying business records.
A special grand jury in Manhattan voted Wednesday to indict Trump’s firm and its chief financial officer.
The indictment said that, beginning in 2005, Weisselberg used the Trump corporation’s bank account to pay the rent for his apartment and his utility bills, as well as to cover nearly $360,000 in upscale private school payments for his family and nearly $200,000 in luxury car leases.
“Weisselberg intentionally caused the indirect compensation payments to be omitted from his personal tax returns, despite knowing that those payments represented taxable income and were treated as compensation by the Trump Corporation in internal records,” said the indictment.
Weisselberg’s former daughter-in-law Jennifer Weisselberg, who was married for 14 years to Allen Weisselberg’s son Barry, cooperated with the Manhattan DA during the investigation. Earlier this year, she said investigators had asked her about Allen Weisselberg’s “compensation at the apartment at Trump Place on Riverside Boulevard.”
She told ABC News on Thursday that she “didn’t realize the extent of the indictment,” referring to the $1.7 million figure, and called the charges “justice.”
“It feels right and it feels good,” she said.
“I hate to say this because it took me a minute to ingest it, but I am thrilled that he had to walk [into court] in handcuffs because what he’s done to my children and I, what he’s even done to his own sons, he’s never felt an ounce of accountability,” she said.
In response to news of the charges, the Trump Organization said in a statement, “Allen Weisselberg is a loving and devoted husband, father and grandfather who has worked at the Trump Organization for 48 years. He is now being used by the Manhattan District Attorney as a pawn in a scorched earth attempt to harm the former President. The District Attorney is bringing a criminal prosecution involving employee benefits that neither the IRS nor any other District Attorney would ever think of bringing. This is not justice; this is politics.”
Trump has called the investigation a politically motivated “witch hunt,” and has said that Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance and New York Attorney General Letitia James are pressuring Weisselberg to lie against him. When asked if he thought Weisselberg would cooperate, he told ABC News, “No.”
Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen, whose congressional testimony was the initial basis for the Manhattan DA’s investigation, told ABC News on Thursday that he’d spoken to the Manhattan DA’s office 10 times, and that “there are more than a dozen different areas that are being investigated at the present moment by the district attorney as well as the attorney general’s office. Each and every one of them is significant, and there are different actors in each of the different investigations.”
Cohen, who is currently serving a three-year prison sentence in home confinement for campaign finance crimes and tax evasion, told Congress in 2019 that the Trump Organization had valued its holdings differently when seeking loans versus when talking to tax authorities. Prior to Cohen testifying, but after he was sentenced, Trump fired back at Cohen on Twitter, calling him a “rat.”
Cohen speculated on Thursday that it was a “heavy day for everybody at the Trump Organization because none of them know who’s next, and that’s the biggest problem.”
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