Trump executive nears plea deal with Manhattan prosecutors

A senior executive at Donald J. Trump’s family business, accused of participating in a year-long tax scheme, is set to reach a settlement with Manhattan prosecutors, but will not cooperate with further investigation wide on Mr. Trump, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.

If it becomes final, a plea deal for executive Allen H. Weisselberg would not bring prosecutors any closer to indicting the former president, but would still mark one of his most trusted lieutenants as a criminal. .

On Monday, lawyers and prosecutors for Mr. Weisselberg met with the judge handling the case, according to a court database. The judge scheduled a hearing for Thursday, a possible indication that an agreement has been reached and a plea could then be entered.

While Mr. Weisselberg, 75, faces financial penalties as well as up to 15 years in prison if convicted by a jury, a plea deal would avoid a high-profile trial and spare him a lengthy sentence. Two people with knowledge of the case said Mr. Weisselberg should be sentenced to five months in prison. With the time credited for good behavior, he is likely to serve around 100 days.

Other terms of Mr. Weisselberg’s deal were unclear, including whether he had made additional concessions to prosecutors to receive it. His attorney, Nicholas A. Gravante Jr., confirmed he was in negotiations but declined to discuss specifics. Another attorney for Mr. Weisselberg, Mary E. Mulligan, declined to comment, as did a spokeswoman for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg.

In fits and starts over the past few years, the district attorney’s office has investigated whether Mr. Trump and his company had fraudulently inflated the value of his property to obtain loans and benefits. The investigation, initially led by Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the district attorney at the time, became one of the biggest legal threats Mr. Trump has faced.

The district attorney’s criminal investigation continued after Mr. Weisselberg was charged last summer with participating in a 15-year scheme to receive unofficial benefits at Mr. Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, which was also charged in the case.

The company will not join Mr. Weisselberg in pleading guilty on Thursday, two people with knowledge of the matter said. And Mr. Weisselberg, while admitting his own guilt, should not implicate anyone in the Trump family.

Prosecutors had long hoped they could persuade Mr. Weisselberg to testify against Mr. Trump, given his decades of service to the Trump family and his extensive knowledge of the company and its business practices. But Mr Weisselberg refused to meet with them even as his lawyers negotiated a potential deal, people familiar with the matter said.

Mr. Trump and his company have long argued that Mr. Weisselberg should have lied to implicate Mr. Trump. Yet his decision to plead guilty — and accept a prison sentence — underscores the extent of his loyalty to a family that has employed him for nearly half a century.

A plea deal for Mr. Weisselberg could leave Mr. Trump’s company facing a lawsuit in the tax case alone. A deal would also likely draw renewed attention to the state of the district attorney’s criminal investigation into Mr. Trump and his company’s business practices, an investigation that lost momentum earlier this year and has largely disappeared from public view.

Mr Bragg, a Democrat like Mr Vance, said the investigation was continuing. But its direction and future are unclear. Mr Trump, who has called the investigation a partisan witch hunt, has not himself been accused of wrongdoing.

The plea bargains with Mr. Weisselberg came to light after a New York state judge, Juan Merchan, last week declined to dismiss the criminal case against the Trump Organization and Mr. Weisselberg.

What we consider before using anonymous sources.
How do the sources know the information? What is their motivation for telling us? Have they proven themselves in the past? Can we corroborate the information? Even with those questions answered, the Times uses anonymous sources as a last resort. The journalist and at least one editor know the identity of the source.

The judge’s decision marked the latest legal blow for Mr Trump, whose Florida home was recently raided by the FBI in an unrelated investigation. In another embarrassing episode for a former president who mocked others for refusing to answer questions under oath, he invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination during an interview with the attorney general of New York State last week.

Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, is leading a civilian investigation into some of the same behavior the district attorney is investigating. And some of the attorneys in his office joined the district attorney’s criminal investigation last year.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s investigation took a detour early last year shortly after Mr. Vance won a Supreme Court victory that ended a battle to obtain the tax returns of Mr. Trump and other business documents.

Armed with these records, prosecutors began to focus on the benefits Mr. Weisselberg had received from the company, including several leased Mercedes-Benzes, a rent-free apartment and private school tuition for his grandchildren. . Mr. Weisselberg, prosecutors said when they indicted him last July, did not pay taxes on $1.7 million in benefits and other income.

Before he was charged, prosecutors put significant pressure on Mr. Weisselberg to cooperate with their investigation of Mr. Trump because of his deep understanding of the inner workings of the Trump organization.

But Mr Weisselberg, who was chief financial officer at the time, failed to strike a deal and he was charged. The Trump Organization has since stripped him of his title, although he continues to work at the company and appears ready to stand trial. But Mr. Gravante, who also represented two other Trump Organization employees who were not charged in the case, joined Mr. Weisselberg’s defense team in June and signaled an openness to the conclusion of the case. a deal.

The Trump Organization, where Mr Weisselberg has spent his career rising from junior accountant to chief financial officer, was also charged in the indictment, which described a scheme coordinated by senior company executives to under-declare their income by accepting benefits that were not listed on the tax documents.

Even without Mr. Weisselberg’s cooperation, prosecutors continued to build a case against Mr. Trump, focusing on whether he had falsely inflated the value of his hotels, golf clubs and other assets.

Late last year, Mr. Vance ordered prosecutors to begin presenting evidence on Mr. Trump to a grand jury, laying the groundwork for a possible indictment of the former president.

But Mr. Vance had decided not to run for re-election, and after weeks of meetings over the case, Mr. Bragg developed concerns about the challenge of showing that Mr. Trump intended to breach the law. law, a requirement to prove the charge under consideration.

The two lead prosecutors who had led the investigation, Carey R. Dunne and Mark F. Pomerantz, resigned shortly thereafter. In his resignation letter, which was obtained by The New York Times, Mr. Pomerantz said Mr. Trump was guilty of “numerous criminal violations” and that it was “a gross breach of justice” to not to make accusations and to hold him accountable. .

Comments are closed.