Prosecutors Weigh Perjury Charge For Ex-Trump CFO Allen Weisselberg

NEW YORK (AP) — Manhattan prosecutors are weighing a potential perjury charge against Donald Trump’s former corporate finance chief in connection with testimony he gave in October at the ex-president’s New York civil fraud trial, two people familiar with the matter told the Associated Press.

Allen Weisselberg, who had been the longtime chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, testified for two days at the trial, answering questions about allegations that Trump lied about his wealth on financial statements given to banks and insurance companies.

It wasn’t clear what part of Weisselberg’s testimony drew the scrutiny of prosecutors in the office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

A decision on charging Weisselberg didn’t appear imminent. Bragg’s office was in the preliminary stages of discussions, internally and with Weisselberg’s legal team, the people said. They may not necessarily lead to a criminal charge. The people were not authorized to speak publicly and did so on condition of anonymity.

News of a potential perjury charge was first reported by The New York Times. Messages seeking comment were left for Weisselberg’s lawyers. Bragg’s office declined comment. New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office, which brought the civil lawsuit, also declined comment.

Weisselberg served 100 days in jail last year for dodging taxes on $1.7 million in off-the-books compensation from the Trump Organization and is still on probation.

A new charge, with the threat of more jail time, would upend the 76-year-old’s Florida retirement and could weigh on his fierce allegiance to his old boss, who continues to pay his $2 million severance and legal bills.

The inquiry into the truthfulness of Weisselberg’s testimony in the civil lawsuit is separate from the criminal case that Bragg brought against Trump last year over allegations that he falsified company records to cover up hush money payments. That trial is scheduled to begin in late March.

Both Bragg and James are Democrats.

Testifying in the civil case, Weisselberg downplayed his involvement in preparing Trump’s financial statements, which state lawyers allege inflated the former president’s wealth by up to $3.6 billion. Frequently, he failed to answer questions clearly, uttering variations of “I don’t remember” or “I don’t recall” more than 100 times, according to transcripts.

But Weisselberg was firm in his response on Oct. 10 when a state lawyer asked him about how Trump’s penthouse at Trump Tower came to be overvalued based on figures listing it as three times its actual size, 10,996 square feet (1,022 square meters).

Weisselberg testified that he didn’t pay much mind to the apartment’s size because its value amounted to a fraction of Trump’s wealth.

“I never even thought about the apartment. It was de minimis, in my mind,” Weisselberg said, using a Latin term that means, essentially, too small to care about. “It was not something that was that important to me when looking at a $6 billion, $5 billion net worth,” Weisselberg added.

Weisselberg said he learned of the Trump Tower penthouse size discrepancy only when a Forbes magazine reporter pointed it out to him in 2016. He testified that he initially disputed the magazine’s findings but said he couldn’t recall whether he directed anyone to look into the matter.

“You don’t recall if you did anything to confirm who was right?” state lawyer Louis Solomon asked.

Weisselberg said he did not.

He was still on the witness stand when Forbes, whose reporters had discussed the size disparity with Weisselberg and revealed it publicly in 2017, published an article on its website suggesting he had perjured himself.

“Trump’s Longtime CFO Lied, Under Oath, About Trump Tower Penthouse,” the article’s headline said. It said old emails and notes showed that Weisselberg had had extensive discussions with the magazine, trying to convince its writers that the penthouse was worth far more than they thought.

The penthouse gambit was one of several tricks state lawyers say was used to exaggerate Trump’s net worth. A judge declared in September that the financial statements were fraudulent, but he has yet to rule on other issues that were the subject of the 2½-month trial where Weisselberg testified.

Weisselberg pleaded guilty in August 2022 to charges he failed to pay taxes on $1.7 million in corporate perks, including a Manhattan apartment, Mercedes-Benz cars for him and his wife, and his grandchildren’s school tuition.

He left New York City’s notorious Rikers Island in April, days after Trump was indicted in his New York hush money criminal case.

Under that plea deal, Weisselberg was required to testify as a prosecution witness when the Trump Organization was put on trial for helping executives evade taxes. He did so carefully, laying out the facts of his own involvement in evading taxes but taking care not to implicate Trump, telling jurors that his boss was unaware of the scheme.

A Trump Organization lawyer, Susan Necheles, told the AP last year that “Weisselberg’s testimony at trial was extremely helpful to the defense and hurt the prosecution.”

During the grand jury investigation last year that led to Trump’s indictment, Bragg’s office raised the possibility of charging Weisselberg with more crimes stemming from his decades managing the Trump Organization’s finances.

Prosecutors suggested that might bring new charges related to his involvement in securing surety bonds and property valuations for the Trump Organization, alleged conduct that is the subject of James’ civil lawsuit.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *