NEW YORK (AP) – Allen Weisselberg, longtime director of Donald Trump ‘s business empire, was remanded Tuesday to begin serving a five-month sentence for evading taxes on $1.7 million in job benefits — a sentence the judge who sentenced him likely was too lenient for a case “driven solely by greed .”
Weisselberg, 75, was promised the short sentence in August when he agreed to plead guilty to 15 tax crimes and to testify against the Trump Organization, where he worked since the mid-1980s. His testimony helped convict the former president’s company, where he had served as chief financial officer, of tax fraud.
But when he made the sentence official on Tuesday, Judge Juan Manuel Merchan said that after listening to Weisselberg’s testimony, he regretted that the sentence was not harsher. He said he was particularly appalled by testimony that Weisselberg gave his wife a $6,000 check for a no-show job so she could qualify for welfare.
Had he not already promised to give Weisselberg five months, Merchan said, “I would impose a sentence much greater than that.”
“I will not deviate from the promise, although I believe a harsher sentence is warranted after hearing the evidence,” he added.
Weisselberg, who came to court dressed for prison instead of his usual suit, was handcuffed and led away by court officers moments after the verdict was announced. He was taken to New York City’s infamous Rikers Island complex, where he was expected to be housed in an infirmary. He will be eligible for release after a little more than three months if he behaves behind bars.
Weisselberg’s sentencing also marked the end of his career at the Trump Organization, where he had been on leave since the fall and continued to earn $1.14 million in salary and bonuses even as he testified against the company. His attorney, Nicholas Gravante, said that as of Tuesday, the CEO and the company “parted amicably.”
As part of the plea agreement, Weisselberg was ordered to pay nearly $2 million in back taxes, penalties and interest, which prosecutors said he has done. Prosecutors recommended a six-month prison sentence, but Merchan said he settled for five months, in part because of mitigating factors, such as Weisselberg’s military service and tenure as an elementary school teacher. In addition, Merchan ordered Weisselberg to complete five years of probation after he leaves prison.
Gravante had asked the judge for an even lighter sentence than the one in the trial, citing Weisselberg’s age and “far from perfect health.”
“He has already been punished tremendously by the disgrace that he has brought not only on himself, but his wife, his sons and his grandchildren,” Gravante said.
Weisselberg faced the prospect of up to 15 years in prison — the maximum penalty for the top theft charge — if he reneged on his deal or if he did not testify truthfully at the Trump Organization’s trial. Weisselberg is the only person charged in the Manhattan district attorney’s three-year investigation into Trump and his business practices.
Weisselberg testified for three days and provided an insight into the inner workings of Trump’s real estate empire. Weisselberg has worked for the Trump family for nearly 50 years, starting as an accountant for his developer father, Fred Trump, in 1973. He joined Donald Trump in 1986 and helped grow the company into a global golf and hotel brand.
Weisselberg told jurors he betrayed the Trump family’s trust by conspiring with an underling to hide more than a decade of extras from his income, including a free Manhattan apartment, luxury cars and his grandchildren’s private school tuition. He said they disappeared payroll records and issued falsified W-2 forms.
A Manhattan jury convicted the Trump Organization in December, finding that Weisselberg had been a “senior managerial” agent entrusted with acting on behalf of the company and its various entities. Weisselberg’s arrangement reduced his own personal income tax, but also saved the company money because it didn’t have to pay him more to cover the cost of the perks.
Prosecutors said other Trump Organization executives also accepted off-the-books compensation. Weisselberg alone was accused of defrauding the federal, state and city governments of more than $900,000 in unpaid taxes and undeserved tax refunds.
The Trump Organization is scheduled to be sentenced Friday and faces a fine of up to $1.6 million.
Weisselberg testified that neither Trump nor his family knew about the scheme while it was going on, and he choked up as he told jurors, “It was my own personal greed that led to this.”
But prosecutors said in their closing arguments that Trump “knew exactly what was going on” and that evidence, such as a lease he signed for Weisselberg’s apartment, made it clear that Trump “explicitly sanctioned tax fraud.”
Attorneys for the Trump Organization have said Weisselberg made the scheme without Trump or the Trump family’s knowledge.
Weisselberg said the Trumps remained loyal to him even as the company struggled to end some of its questionable pay practices after Trump’s election in 2016. He said Trump’s eldest sons, who were entrusted with running the company while Trump was president, gave him a $200,000 raise after an internal audit found he had reduced his salary and bonuses by the cost of the perks.
The company only nominally punished him after his arrest in July 2021, reassigning him to senior counsel and moving his office. He even celebrated his 75th birthday at Trump Tower with cake and colleagues in August, just hours after closing the deal that began his transformation from loyal executive to prosecution witness and now prison inmate.
Rikers Island, a compound of 10 prisons on a tip in the East River just off the main runway at LaGuardia Airport in Queens, has been plagued in recent years by violence, inmate deaths and staggering staff shortages.
Although it’s only five miles from Trump Tower, it’s a veritable world away from the luxury life Weisselberg planned to build—a far cry from the gilded Fifth Avenue offices where he hatched his lot and the apartment overlooking the Hudson River , he reaped. as a reward.
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