Former Trump Org. CFO, sentenced to 5 months in jail
(CNN) -- Allen Weisselberg, former President Donald Trump's long-time chief financial officer, was sentenced by a New York judge to five months in jail for his role in a decade-long tax fraud scheme after testifying as the state's witness against the Trump Organization.
Following the court hearing, Weisselberg, 75, is expected to report to Rikers Island, the notorious New York City jail, to begin serving his sentence immediately.
He pleaded guilty last August to 15 felonies in a deal with prosecutors. As part of the deal, he was required to testify truthfully at the trial of the Trump Organization, pay $2 million in back taxes, interest and penalties, and waive any right to appeal.
Weisselberg admitted he should have paid taxes on off-the-books compensation, totaling roughly $200,000 in one year, which included a luxury Manhattan apartment overlooking the Hudson River, two Mercedes Benz car leases, parking, utilities, furniture and private school tuition for his grandchildren.
Judge Juan Merchan on Tuesday said had he not already promised a five-month sentence to Weisselberg, he would have issued a stiffer sentence "much greater" than five months after listening to evidence at trial.
Without a deal, Weisselberg faced a sentence as long as five to 15 years in prison. With credit given for good behavior, one-third of Weisselberg's sentence could be knocked off, meaning he could end up serving about 100 days behind bars.
Merchan found Weisselberg's fabrication of a fraudulent $6,000 payroll check cut to his wife so she could become eligible for Social Security benefits to be the most "offensive" of the crimes the judge said were driven by the Trump Org. executive's greed.
Merchan said he felt he had to share this view in response to Weisselberg's lawyer who requested an even lesser sentence to his client given his age and other factors.
The long-time Trump Org. executive fulfilled the conditions of his plea agreement, a prosecutor for the Manhattan District Attorney's Office told the court before Merchan issued the sentence. Prosecutors said that Weisselberg testified truthfully against two Trump companies convicted in connection to the tax fraud scheme in December, prosecutor Susan Hoffinger said.
Weisselberg also paid off the remaining balance of just over $1 million in back taxes and penalties last week he owed to tax authorities, Hoffinger confirmed. He paid more than $2 million in total.
Weisselberg's attorney Nicholas Gravante said Tuesday "is obviously a difficult day for him, but it is a day for which he has been preparing for many months, since he entered his plea last August."
"Mr. Weisselberg came to court today ready to begin his sentence, and he is grateful that it has now begun," Gravante said. "He deeply regrets the lapse in judgment that resulted in his conviction, and he regrets it most because of the pain it has caused his loving wife, his sons and wonderful grandchildren."
New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg said that the plea and sentence shows that, "in Manhattan, you have to play by the rules no matter who you are or who you work for."
"Now, he and two Trump companies have been convicted of felonies and Weisselberg will serve a jail sentence for his crimes," Bragg added.
More to come?
The sentencing caps one long-running investigation -- but it comes as the Manhattan district attorney's office continues to investigate the Trump Organization. Prosecutors are conducting a wide-ranging investigation involving the accuracy of the companies' financial statements, and in recent months its focus has returned to the company's involvement in hush-money payments made to silence adult film star Stormy Daniels from going public with an affair with Trump just before the 2016 election, people familiar with the matter said. Trump has denied the affair.
Weisselberg's legal woes are not over. He is also a defendant in a $250 million civil lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James, who has alleged Trump, his three eldest children, Weisselberg and others defrauded lenders, insurers and tax authorities by inflating the value of multiple Trump Organization properties for more than a decade. Trump has denied wrongdoing and said the lawsuit is politically motivated.
In his testimony at the Trump Organization's tax fraud trial late last year, Weisselberg said he conspired with others at the company and described conversations he had with Trump, sons Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., but told the jury when questioned by Trump attorneys that he did not scheme or conspire with anybody in the Trump family.
Last month, after a few hours of deliberations, two Trump Organization entities were convicted on multiple charges of tax fraud and falsifying business records. Lawyers for the entities said they will appeal.
A source close to the situation said as of Tuesday, Weisselberg is no longer an employee of the Trump Org., describing it as an amicable separation with a severance.
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