NEW YORK (AP) — How did Donald Trump’s eldest sons — who were put in charge of running his company when he became president — react when they learned that a top executive was planning to evade taxes on lavish corporate perks?
They gave him a pay raise at the Trump Organization’s criminal tax fraud trial, according to witnesses Friday.
Allen Weisselberg, the company’s longtime chief financial officer, testified that Eric Trump increased his salary by $200,000 after an internal audit sparked by Trump’s 2016 election found he had increased his salary and bonuses cut the cost of the perks.
The raises brought Weisselberg’s annual salary to $1.14 million, extra money he says he paid for things Trump and the company previously had: apartment rent in Manhattan, Mercedes-Benz cars for him and his wife, tuition his grandchildren and more.
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The company continues to pay Weisselberg $640,000 in salary and $500,000 in vacation pay and punishes him only nominally after his arrest in July 2021, moves him to senior counsel and relocates his office to Trump Tower. Now he’s on paid vacation.
“Well, even after you pleaded guilty to this count, the company took a penny off your pay?” Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger challenged Weisselberg on his third and final day of testimony.
“No,” he said.
“Even with your breach of trust?” She asked.
Weisselberg testified that Eric and Donald Trump Jr., both executive vice presidents of the Trump Organization, knew from the audit that Weisselberg had not reported his residence as taxable income as required by law.
Weisselberg told jurors he stopped making plans after the test and soon asked Eric Trump for a raise.
Weisselberg said Eric Trump, who runs the company’s day-to-day operations, has signed his pay rise and is now ready to approve another $500,000 vacation bonus — while Weisselberg prepares to go to the notorious Rikers Island prison complex in to go New York City.
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.
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Weisselberg, 75, pleaded guilty in August to accepting $1.7 million in unscheduled compensation. 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 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 company-paid perks and that it is liable for Weisselberg’s misconduct because he was a “high 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 difficulty closing deals.
Weisselberg’s testimony on Friday suggests that key Trump Organization executives — members of Trump’s family — condoned his behavior once it was discovered, rather than firing him and alerting authorities. Weisselberg said the program benefited the company because it didn’t have to pay him as much salary.
However, the company’s lawyers argue that the Trumps are deeply loyal, stressing that Weisselberg was “among the most trusted people they knew” and that they continued to stand by him even as he admitted to cheating on them. His lawyers are paid by the company.
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Company attorney Alan Futerfas cross-examined Weisselberg and found that even “at the worst time of your life” Trump did not “kick you to the side of the road.” But, the lawyer asked, “You don’t take that to mean that he approves of what you did, do you?”
“No,” Weisselberg said.
Trump, who announced on Tuesday that he will run for president again in 2024, is unlikely to appear at the trial. But he signaled on Friday that he went along with it, defending Weisselberg and blasting prosecutors in Truth Social posts.
Trump wrote the case “fell apart” after Weisselberg testified Thursday that neither Trump nor Trump’s family were implicated in his tax avoidance scheme.
“Has a long-term manager taxed on the use of a company car or a company apartment or payments (not even tax deducted by us!) for the education of his grandchildren. He gets handcuffs and jail for that?” Trump wrote, describing the situation as “VERY UNFAIR!”
Trump was elected president in November 2016, bringing new scrutiny to his Trump Organization, a privately held entity through which he and his family manage their golf courses, luxury towers and other investments.
Weisselberg said he and another manager, Jeffrey McConney, decided at the time that the company needed to end some of its dubious wage practices. They brought in a Washington attorney who conducted an audit and wrote a memo about her findings.
McConney, the senior vice president and controller, manipulates payslips to lower Weisselberg’s income taxes. He was granted immunity and testified earlier in the trial.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump kids gave ex-CFO a raise after learning about tax evasion