After literal decades of avoiding any and all consequences for a life of corruption that has included everything from inciting an attack on the U.S. Capitol to attempting to extort Ukraine, to allegedly directing his lawyer to violate campaign finance laws, to lying to the public about COVID-19, to allegedly stiffing hundreds of contractors, is Donald Trump actually going to be held accountable for running a company accused of, among other things, conspiracy, grand larceny, and multiple counts of tax fraud and falsifying records? On the one hand, he never has, so why would anyone expect it to happen now? On the other, thanks to the work of Manhattan prosecutors and helpful witnesses, he appears to be closer than ever to a situation in which he spends numerous years in prison!
Weeks after the Trump Organization and its longtime CFO, Allen Weisselberg, were hit with a slew of criminal charges, for which the latter faces more than a decade in prison and to which they both pleaded not guilty, the Daily Beast reports that Weisselberg‘s ex-daughter-in-law, who’s been extremely helpful to Cyrus Vance Jr.’s office thus far, provided the Manhattan D.A.’s office with explosive information concerning Donald Trump’s involvement in the crimes his company and longtime employee have been accused of committing.
According to reporter Jose Pagliery, during a Zoom call with investigators on June 25, Jennifer Weisselberg, who was previously married to Allen’s son Barry Weisselberg, told investigators that she was in Trump’s office at Trump Tower during a January 2012 meeting in which the real estate developer discussed compensation with Allen and Barry, explaining that while the latter would not be getting a raise, his children’s private school tuition, which clocked in at more than $50,000 a year per child, would be paid for. According to Jennifer Weisselberg, Trump turned to her and allegedly said, “Don’t worry, I’ve got it covered.” While that might sound like an instance of the ex-president being an uncharacteristically generous guy, prosecutors have claimed that Allen Weisselberg was awarded numerous fringe benefits over the years—like a free apartment, cars, and, yes, private school tuition—for the express purpose of avoiding paying taxes. Which, according to the indictment against him, he did, to the tune of $900,000.
According to two sources, among the prosecutors on the call were Carey Dunne, the Manhattan DA’s general counsel; Mark F. Pomerantz, a white collar crime specialist brought on for this investigation; and Gary Fishman, an assistant attorney general deputized to work on this joint investigation. If true, Jennifer Weisselberg’s claims would directly tie Trump to what a New York criminal indictment described as a corporate scheme to pay executives “in a matter that was ‘off the books.’”
“The scheme allowed the Trump Organization to evade the payment of payroll taxes that [it] was required to pay,” an indictment for the Trump Organization claims. On the flip side, it also alleges that executives avoided having to pay income taxes on a huge chunk of their pay…. The indictment, filed the very next week on June 30, does not criminally charge Trump as an individual, but it does describe how he signed checks that paid for the Weisselberg children to attend an expensive private school in Manhattan’s Upper West Side. While longtime chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg could be crucial to a criminal case against Trump, it’s Jennifer Weisselberg—his former daughter-in-law—who’s thus far been more helpful. Prosecutors have already used documents in Jennifer Weisselberg’s divorce case to explore how Trump paid more than $50,000 a year, starting in 2012, for the kids to attend the Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School.
Meanwhile, Jennifer’s claims during the Zoom call are seemingly backed up by testimony Barry gave during a 2018 divorce deposition, in which he said that his salary had remained flat for years, while his father ensured other aspects of his lifestyle were covered, including an apartment on Central Park South and later one on the Upper East Side. During his divorce deposition, Barry Weisselberg, who previously managed the Wollman ice rink for the Trump Organization, said he didn’t know if taxes had been paid on the corporate apartment where his family had lived. Asked to explain discrepancies between what he said he earned and what he actually reported to the IRS, Barry reportedly responded: “I’m not an accountant. I know what I make. I’m not too sure of certain things.”
The offices of Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr. and New York Attorney General Letitia James have indicated that the investigation is ongoing. Prosecutors have yet to file charges against others allegedly involved in the scheme, but judging by the indictment, more charges could be on the way. For instance, the indictment identifies an “unindicted co-conspirator #1,” who remains unnamed but is described as the company’s “agent” and is accused of underreporting the CFO’s taxable income in 2009.
A lawyer for the Trump Organization declined the Daily Beast’s request for comment. Previously, that attorney has suggested the D.A.’s investigation is a politically motivated witch hunt against Trump, an argument the president himself has made on multiple occasions.
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