Trump Org. CFO set to plead guilty in New York tax case

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump’s longtime finance chief is expected to plead guilty as early as Thursday in a case of tax evasion It’s the only criminal prosecution to stem from a lengthy investigation into the former president’s company, three people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press.

Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg was due to stand trial in October over allegations he made over $1.7 million in informal compensation from the company, including rent, car payments and school fees.

Prosecutors from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and Weisselberg’s attorneys met with the judge assigned to the case, Juan Manuel Merchan, on Monday, according to court records. The judge then scheduled a hearing in the case for Thursday at 9 a.m., but did not say why.

The people who spoke to the AP did so on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the case. They said the purpose of Thursday’s hearing was for Weisselberg to plead guilty, but warned that plea deals sometimes fall apart before they are finalized in court.

Weisselberg’s attorney, Nicholas Gravante Jr., told the New York Times on Monday that Weisselberg was engaged in plea negotiations to resolve the case, but did not specify the terms of a possible plea agreement. Reached by the AP, Gravante declined to comment.

The Times, citing two people with knowledge of the case, said Weisselberg should be sentenced to five months in prison, which would make him eligible for release after about 100 days. The deal would not require Weisselberg to testify or cooperate in any way with an ongoing criminal investigation into Trump’s business practices.

Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, is also charged in the case but does not appear to be involved in the plea deal talks. Weisselberg and the Trump Organization have pleaded not guilty.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office declined to comment. A message seeking comment was left with an attorney for the Trump Organization.

News of Weisselberg’s plea negotiations came days after the judge denied requests from his attorneys and the Trump Organization to dismiss the case. The judge dropped a criminal tax evasion charge against the company citing the statute of limitations, but more than a dozen other charges remain.

In seeking the dismissal of the case, Weisselberg’s attorneys argued that prosecutors in the Democratic-run District Attorney’s Office were punishing him for not providing prejudicial information against the former president.

The judge rejected that argument, saying the evidence presented to the grand jury was legally sufficient to support the charges.

Weisselberg, who turned 75 on Monday, is the only Trump leader charged in the years-long criminal investigation opened by former Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who went to the Supreme Court to securing Trump’s tax records. Vance’s successor, Alvin Bragg, is now overseeing the investigation. Several other Trump executives have been granted immunity to testify before a grand jury in the case.

Prosecutors alleged that Weisselberg and the Trump Organization conspired to provide unofficial compensation to senior executives, including Weisselberg, for 15 years. Weisselberg alone was charged with defrauding the federal government, state, and city out of more than $900,000 in unpaid taxes and unearned tax refunds.

The most serious charge against Weisselberg, grand larceny, carried a potential sentence of five to 15 years in prison. Tax evasion charges against the company carry a fine of double the amount of unpaid taxes, or $250,000, whichever is greater.

Trump was not charged in the criminal investigation, but prosecutors noted that he signed some of the checks at the center of the case. Trump, who called the New York investigations a “political witch hunt,” said his company’s actions were common practice in the real estate industry and not a crime.

Last week, Trump sat for deposition in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ parallel civil investigation into allegations that Trump’s company misled lenders and tax authorities about the value of loans. assets. Trump invoked his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination more than 400 times.

In the months following Weisselberg’s arrest, the criminal investigation appeared to be progressing toward a possible indictment of Trump himself, but the investigation slowed, a grand jury was disbanded and a top prosecutor left after the Bragg took office in January – though he insists it’s ongoing.

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Follow Michael Sisak on Twitter at twitter.com/mikesisak. Send confidential advice by visiting https://www.ap.org/tips/.

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