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dated: 2022-11-18 22:32:12 .
NEW YORK (AP) — How did Donald Trump’s eldest sons — who were in charge of running his company when he became president — react when they learned that one of its top executives was planning to evade taxes on lavish corporate perks?
He was given a raise in his criminal tax fraud trial for the Trump Organization, according to witnesses on Friday.
Allen Weisselberg, the company’s longtime chief financial officer, testified that Eric Trump raised his salary by $200,000 after an internal audit prompted by Trump’s 2016 election found that he increased his salary and bonuses to reduce benefit costs.
The pay raises brought Weisselberg’s annual salary to $1.14 million, extra money he said paid for things Trump and company had previously: rent on a Manhattan apartment, Mercedes-Benz cars for him and his wife, college tuition for his grandchildren and much more.
The company continues to pay Weisselberg a salary of $640,000 and $500,000 in vacation pay, and after his arrest in July 2021 only nominally fines him, moves him to senior counsel and moves his office to Trump Tower. He is now on paid vacation.
“Well, even after you pleaded guilty to this count, did the company take a single penny of your wages?” Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger challenged Weisselberg on the third and final day of testimony.
“No,” he said.
“Even with your breach of trust?” she asked.
Weisselberg tested that Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., both executive vice presidents of the Trump Organization, knew from an audit that Weisselberg did not report his residence as taxable income as required by law.
Weisselberg told jurors that he ended his program after the trial and shortly thereafter asked Eric Trump for a raise, telling him that “since the practice is no longer going well, I will need additional income to cover these costs.” “.
Weisselberg said Eric Trump, who runs the company’s day-to-day operations, has signed off on a raise and is now on the verge of approving his latest $500,000 vacation bonus — as Weisselberg prepares to go to New York’s notorious Rikers Island prison to go complex.
Other executives accused of tax evasion also kept their jobs and salaries, Weisselberg said. They include his son, former Central Park rink manager Barry Weisselberg, and the company’s chief operating officer, Matthew Calamari Sr.
Weisselberg, 75, pleaded guilty in August to accepting a $1.7 million windfall. His plea agreement requires him to testify for the prosecution in exchange for a five-month prison sentence. Weisselberg, who faced up to 15 years in prison, said he had previously turned down an offer of one to three years in prison.
Manhattan prosecutors allege that the Trump Organization helped top executives avoid taxes on benefits paid by the company and is responsible for Weisselberg’s misconduct because he was a “senior management agent” acting on their behalf.
The tax fraud case is the only lawsuit to emerge from the Manhattan District Attorney’s three-year investigation into Trump and his business practices. If convicted, the company could be fined more than $1 million and face difficulties in doing business.
Weisselberg’s testimony Friday suggested that key Trump Organization executives — members of the Trump family — condoned his behavior after it was discovered, rather than firing him and reporting him to authorities. Weisselberg said the program benefited the company because it didn’t have to pay him as much salary.
But the company’s lawyers say the Trumps are deeply loyal, noting that Weisselberg was “among the most trusted people they knew” and that they continue to stand by him despite his admission that he betrayed them. His lawyers are paid by the company.
Company attorney Alan Futerfas questioned Weisselberg during cross-examination, noting that Trump “didn’t kick you to the curb” even “at the worst time of your life.” But the lawyer asked, “You don’t realize that means he approves of what you did, do you?”
“No,” Weisselberg said.
Trump, who announced Tuesday that he will run for president again in 2024, is unlikely to appear at the trial. But he reported on Friday that he agreed, defending Weisselberg and criticizing the prosecutors in posts on his social media platform, Truth.
Trump wrote that the case “fell apart” after Weisselberg tested Thursday that neither Trump nor the Trump family were involved in his tax avoidance scheme.
“Has a long-time manager taxed the use of a company car or business apartment or allowances (we don’t even deduct taxes!) for the education of his grandchildren. Will he get handcuffs and prison for that?” Trump wrote, describing the situation as “VERY UNFAIR!”
Trump was elected president in November 2016, prompting scrutiny of his Trump Organization, the private entity through which he and his family manage their golf courses, luxury towers and other investments.
Weisselberg said he and another company executive, Jeffrey McConney, decided around that time that the company needed to end some of its questionable pay practices and financial arrangements. They brought in a lawyer from Washington who conducted an audit and wrote a memo on her findings.
McConney, the senior vice president and controller, helped Weisselberg manipulate payroll to lower his income tax bill. He was granted immunity and was tested earlier in the trial.
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Michael R. Sisak, The Associated Press
Former CFO Says Trump’s Kids Raised Their Wages After Learning About The Plan
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