Trump Organization financial chief under investigation for possible tax crimes: reports

Allen Weisselberg, Trump's longtime financial whiz, has reportedly been under criminal investigation for months

By Igor Derysh

Senior News Editor

Published May 20, 2021 7:09PM (EDT)

US President-elect Donald Trump along with his son Donald, Jr., arrive for a press conference at Trump Tower in New York, as Allen Weisselberg (C), chief financial officer of The Trump, looks on January 11, 2017. (TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)
US President-elect Donald Trump along with his son Donald, Jr., arrive for a press conference at Trump Tower in New York, as Allen Weisselberg (C), chief financial officer of The Trump, looks on January 11, 2017. (TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)

The New York attorney general's office has spent months criminally investigating Allen Weisselberg, the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, according to reports from The New York Times, CNN and other outlets.

Attorney General Letitia James' office notified the ex-president's company in January that it had opened a criminal probe into Weisselberg, according to the reports. Investigators are looking at whether Weisselberg paid taxes on fringe benefits from the company, which included cars and tens of thousands of dollars in private school tuition for at least one of his grandchildren.

James had been leading a civil investigation into the Trump Organization for some time, but her office said this week that it had informed the company "we are now actively investigating the Trump Organization in a criminal capacity," joining the Manhattan district attorney's years-long criminal investigation. Two assistant attorneys general from James' office have embedded with Manhattan DA Cy Vance's team.

Vance's investigation has also increasingly focused on Weisselberg in recent months, reportedly in an effort to gain his cooperation as a witness against former President Donald Trump and the company.

Weisselberg has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

Along with the probe into Weisselberg's finances, Vance and James are also looking at whether the Trump Organization inflated the value of its assets when applying for loans while deflating their value in an effort to reduce the associated tax burden. Former Trump Organization vice president Michael Cohen testified to Congress that this was routine practice at the company and has since been interviewed more than a half-dozen times by Vance's office.

Trump lashed out over the reports on Wednesday in a lengthy block of text, claiming it was an "investigation that is in desperate search of a crime." Trump accused the Democratic prosecutors of a politically motivated harassment campaign aimed at destroying his "political fortunes."

Advisers told the Times that Trump has become "agitated" by the ongoing investigations.

The attorney general's investigation into Weisselberg is focused on his individual tax returns, though it could expand to include actions he has taken at the Trump Organization, where he has handled the company's finances for four decades, according to CNN. Weisselberg recently hired prominent tax attorney Bryan Skarlatos, according to the report.

Investigators are reportedly looking at whether the Trump Organization used fringe benefits as compensation to lower their payroll taxes.

The attorney general's interest in Weisselberg stems from a trove of documents that Jennifer Weisselberg, his former daughter-in-law, shared with prosecutors after a referral from state tax authorities, according to ABC News. Jennifer Weisselberg told CNN she has been in contact with James' office since September. Her attorney told the outlet that she has more than two decades of bank records, credit card documents and tax records related to the investigation. Vance's office recently subpoenaed those documents.

Jennifer Weisselberg was married for 14 years to Barry Weisselberg, who managed Trump's skating rinks in Manhattan for 20 years. Barry Weisselberg testified during a 2018 divorce deposition obtained by CNN that his father had largely funded their "lavish lifestyle." Documents in the case show that thousands of dollars in payments for cars, rent, tuition and medical bills from Allen Weisselberg to the couple.

Vance's office earlier this month subpoenaed documents related to more than $500,000 in tuition payments for Allen Weisselberg's grandchildren at Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School, which Trump's son Barron also attended. The checks were signed by either Allen Weisselberg or Trump himself, Jennifer Weisselberg told The Wall Street Journal.

"I know for a fact Donald wrote those checks," she told CNN last month, referring to some of the payments for one of her children.

Her attorney told media outlets that she will continue to cooperate with investigators.

"My knowledge of the documents and my voice connect the flow of money from various banks and from personal finances that bleed directly into the Trump Organization," she told the Washington Post last month.

She also told Air Mail in an interview that her ex-husband's "real job was to be Trump's eye on the cash" at the largely cash-only Wollman Skating Rink in Central Park as well as the Lasker Rink and the Central Park Carousel. Once a week, Barry Weisselberg would collect all of the cash and walk it to his father's office in Trump Tower, she said.

"What does Allen do with it? I don't think all the cash was reported. It was for Trump," she claimed in the interview. "That's why he wanted [Barry] there so bad."

It's unclear whether prosecutors have made headway in their bid to "flip" Allen Weisselberg, though he previously cooperated with the New York attorney general's investigation into Trump's charitable foundation, which resulted in a $2 million penalty and forced it to close down, as well as the federal investigation into hush-money payments that Cohen paid to adult film star Stormy Daniels on Trump's behalf.

"Trump doesn't care about Allen," Jennifer Weisselberg told Air Mail, "but Allen knows every bad thing he ever did."

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's senior news editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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Aggregation Allen Weisselberg Cy Vance Donald Trump Letitia James Michael Cohen Politics Trump Organization