The longtime CFO pleaded not guilty to grand larceny, which in the state of New York is the unlawful taking of funds or property valued at $50,000 or more and is punishable for up to 15 years in prison.
The former president’s family business also pleaded not guilty to tax-related crimes, which included a scheme to defraud.
“Today is an important marker in the ongoing criminal investigation of the Trump Organization and its CFO, Allen Weisselberg,” New York Attorney General Letita James said following the pleas. “In the indictment, we allege, among other things, financial wrongdoing whereby the Trump Organization engaged in a scheme with Mr. Weisselberg to avoid paying taxes on certain compensation.
“This investigation will continue, and we will follow the facts and the law wherever they may lead,” she added.
Weisselberg surrendered with his attorney Mary Mulligan to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance’s office early Thursday morning.
The district attorney’s office, which has been conducting a three-year-long investigation against Trump’s family business, first announced last week they were considering charges against not only Weisselberg but the Trump Organization.
The charges involve “fringe benefits” awarded by the Trump Organization to the top executive and allege he failed to pay state and federal taxes on roughly $1.7 million of additional compensation.
The Trump Organization and Weisselberg have been accused of devising an “off the books” scheme “orchestrated by the most senior executives.”
The indictment claims that the scheme started in 2005 and persisted through this year.
“In light of the many statements that have already been made about this case, I’d like to clarify for the court briefly what this case is, and is not, about,” Assistant Manhattan District Attorney Carey Dunne said Thursday.
“The chief financial officer himself avoided taxes on $1.7 million of his income, which hardly amounts to an incidental ‘fringe benefit’,” he continued. “And the former CEO signed, himself, many of the illegal compensation checks. To put it bluntly, this was a sweeping and audacious illegal payments scheme.”
The indictment alleges that Weisselberg directed the company to delete records revealing his participation in the scheme.
Trump has maintained that the years-long investigation is politically motivated and a “witch hunt” – a claim Dunne countered Thursday.
“Politics has no role in the grand jury chamber, and I can assure your honor that it played no role here,” the assistant district attorney said. “The charges were considered by an impartial grand jury, and we look forward to this court’s review of the grand jury minutes, which will confirm that impartiality.”
The Trump Organization accused the district attorney’s office of running a politically motivated investigation rather than focusing on security concerns across the city.
“The District Attorney will try to convince the public that these charges are of
great significance,” a spokesman for the organization said in a statement. “However, everyday New Yorkers and Americans know exactly what this is: an inappropriate use of a local prosecutor’s vast and unchecked power to target a political opponent.”
Trump Organization attorney Ron Fischetti called it a “sad day” and claimed the only reason the district attorney pursued the white collar case was because of the former president.
“I have never seen this office bring a case like this and, quite frankly, I am astonished,” Fischetti told Fox News. “The District Attorney is supposed to be apolitical, but everyone knows that the only reason they are proceeding with this case is because it is ‘Trump’.
“As far as we are concerned, this case is over,” he added.