Longtime Trump executive Weisselberg to plead guilty in tax fraud scheme

·3 min read

By Karen Freifeld

Aug 18 (Reuters) - A longtime senior executive at former President Donald Trump's family business is expected to plead guilty on Thursday to conspiring with the company in a 15-year tax fraud.

Allen Weisselberg, the former chief financial officer at the Trump Organization, is expected to enter his plea before Justice Juan Merchan in a New York state court in Manhattan.

He is not expected to cooperate with Manhattan prosecutors, including in a larger probe of Trump himself, though he could be required to testify against the Trump Organization at trial, a person familiar with the matter said.

A grand jury last year indicted Weisselberg, 75, for concealing $1.76 million of "off-the-books" income.

That included rent for a Manhattan apartment, lease payments for two Mercedes-Benz vehicles, and tuition for family members, with Trump himself signing the checks for the tuition.

Weisselberg will likely be sentenced to five months in jail and could be freed after about 100 days, another person familiar with the matter said.

That's far shorter than the many years in state prison he could face if, rather than pleading guilty, he were convicted at trial of the charges against him, which include grand larceny, scheming to defraud, conspiracy, tax fraud, and falsifying business records.

Weisselberg is expected to plead guilty to all the charges he faces, the second person said.

A spokeswoman for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg declined to comment. A lawyer for Weisselberg and a spokeswoman for the Trump Organization declined comment.

Last Friday, Merchan denied defense motions to dismiss the indictment, rejecting arguments that the defendants had been "selectively prosecuted" and that Weisselberg was targeted because he would not turn on his longtime boss.

Trump's company manages golf clubs, hotels and other real estate around the world.

The company has pleaded not guilty, and could face fines and other penalties if convicted at trial.

Jury selection begins on Oct. 24, fifteen days before the Nov. 8 midterm election, where Trump's Republican Party hopes to recapture both houses of Congress from Democrats.

Trump has not been charged, and has yet to say whether he plans another White House run in 2024.

Weisselberg has worked for Trump for about a half-century.

He gave up the CFO job after he and the Trump Organization were indicted in July 2021, but remains on Trump's payroll as a senior adviser.

The indictment arose from an investigation by former Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, but lost steam after Bragg became district attorney in January.

Two prosecutors who had been leading the investigation resigned in February, with one saying felony charges should be brought against Trump, but that Bragg indicated he had doubts.

Trump faces many other legal battles.

Last week, FBI agents searched the former U.S. president's home for classified and other documents from his time in office.

Two days later, Trump was deposed in New York Attorney General Letitia James' civil probe into his business but repeatedly refused to answer questions, citing his Fifth Amendment U.S. Constitutional right against self-incrimination. (Reporting by Karen Freifeld in New York Editing by Alistair Bell)