How Allen Weisselberg, who started as Fred Trump’s accountant and moved to control all the business empire’s finances (including $35,000 in hush money paid via Michael Cohen), could bring the former president down
- Investigators have focused on Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, 73, as they probe company perks
- He built a reputation as a quiet, loyal figure content to operate in the background during years of service
- He rose from keeping Fred Trump’s books to becoming the most senior non-family member in the company
- Reports suggest he will be charged on Thursday, becoming first executive indicted during the three-year investigation in New York
- So far he has shown no signs of ‘flipping,’ reporting for work at Trump Tower as usual on Tuesday
Allen Weisselberg cut an awkward figure as a guest judge on his boss’s reality television show.
It was a rare public appearance for a senior Trump Organization executive more used to signing checks in the background than discussing pet massages with Donald Trump in the second season of The Apprentice, when two teams were tasked with running dog grooming businesses.
‘That was your 15 minutes of fame,’ said his old college friend Marty Weinbaum an accountant in Florida, according to a 2016 profile in the Wall Street Journal.
Neither of them realized that 17 years after the TV appearance Weisselberg would emerge as the key to a three-year investigation of the Trump Organization and its executives.
The Trump Organization’s chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg (left) appeared in episode seven of the second season of The Apprentice. On Thursday he is expected to become the first executive charged in the New York District Attorney’s long-running investigation into the company and could hold the key to whether the former president himself will face charges
Prosecutors are believed to have been probing company perks in an effort to ‘flip’ Weisselberg into giving evidence against his boss. But on Tuesday, the 73-year-old was spotted in his Mercedes driving to work at Trump Tower as usual
Weisselberg started at the family business in 1973 looking after the books for Trump’s father Fred. ’He plays an integral part in the Trump Organization’s growth and continued financial success,’ said Ivanka Trump in 2016
Prosecutors have been spent months investigating whether Weisselberg and other employees illegally avoided paying taxes on company perks, including everything from private school tuition to cars and apartments.
Their strategy appeared to be to ‘flip’ Weisselberg, turning him into a witness against his boss, the former president.
Cars, apartments at school tuition: The perks at the center of New York prosecutors’ investigation of the Trump Organization
Charges against the Trump Organization and one of its most senior executives are expected on Thursday.
The Manhattan district attorney has spent months investigating whether chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg avoided paying taxes on company perks.
Some of the details are believed to have emerged from documents saved by his daughter-in-law Jennifer Weisselberg after an acrimonious divorce from his son Barry.
The perks reportedly include:
- Some $500,000 paid to Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School for two of Weisselberg’s grandchildren
- An apartment in an Upper East Side townhouse, used by Weisselberg’s son and daughter-in-law during their divorce
- A rent-free apartment in the Trump property at 100 Central Park South, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, where they lived before that
- Prosecutors are also scrutinizing whether taxes were properly paid on cars leased through the Trump Organization
- Other members have staff have said they were given tickets to the U.S. Open at Flushing Meadow each year
But this week he was spotted climbing into his car and driving to company HQ at Trump Tower, suggesting he remained the loyal employee he has been for decades.
That career began in 1973 when the recent graduate of Pace University began doing the books for Trump’s father Fred.
As he rose through the ranks to become one of Trump’s most trusted lieutenants his life gradually became more entwined with the Trump Organization, living in one of his boss’s properties and finding a job for his son within the company.
His list of roles illustrates how Trump put him at the center of key initiatives or parachuted him into troubled ventures.
In 2000, he was named chief financial officer and vice president of Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts in Atlantic City, New Jersey, after an accounting scandal.
And he was put on the board of the Miss Universe Organization, one of Trump’s pet projects.
Insiders described him as essential to the running of the company.
‘He plays an integral part in the Trump Organization’s growth and continued financial success,’ said Ivanka Trump in a statement for a Wall Street Journal profile before the 2016 election.
‘He is deeply passionate, fiercely loyal and has stood alongside my father and our family for over [three] decades.’
A year earlier, he offered a revealing insight as he was quizzed by a lawyer representing students who claimed they were defrauded by Trump University, who described him as ‘Mr. Trump’s eyes and ears for his investments.’
He replied: “Am I his eyes and ears? From an economic standpoint.’
So close did he become that when trump stepped aside to become president he entrusted Weisselberg with running the company alongside his sons.
Much of his life by then had already become entwined with the Trump Organization.
He and his wife moved in a Trump-branded property after raising their family.
And his son Barry has worked for the Trump Organization for the past 21 years as manager of Central Park’s Wollman ice-skating rink.
His comfortable role in the shadows – with the exception of that Apprentice cameo – came to an end in February 2019 when he was publicly named during a hearing on hush money payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels, who claimed to have had an affair with Trump.
When Trump stepped aside from his company to become president, he entrusted his chief financial officer with running the Trump Organization alongside his sons
Former President Donald Trump was seen at his New York Trump Tower building on Tuesday afternoon, amid reports that prosecutors in New York were preparing potential charges against executives or the Trump Organization
Allen Weisselberg’s wife Hillary leaves their New York home and walks to a nearby market. She made no comment when asked about how she feels that her husband is likely to be indicted.
As he gave evidence about the arrangements, Michael Cohen, Trump’s fix it man, told Congress that he did not work alone in arranging the payments.
Instead he claimed Weisselberg had helped devise a strategy to mask payments to Cohen as he was reimbursed for the pay-off.
‘Allen Weisselberg made the decision that it should be paid over the 12 months so that it would look like a retainer,’ he said.
He offered a copy of a $35,000 check, signed by Weisselberg and Donald Trump Jr. as evidence.
As company chief financial officer and the signatures on checks – Trump confidant Corey Lewandowski said he ‘knows of every dime that leaves the building’ it in a book he coauthored ‘Let Trump Be Trump’ – he would be an important witness under any circumstances.
But it was his son’s acrimonious divorce that ultimately put him in the crosshairs of investigators.
In April, they took possession of documents from the apartment of Jennifer Weisselberg, his former daughter-in-law.
She had previously described how she kept boxes of financial records from her divorce. And witnesses on that April day said she wheeled a valet cart with boxes and a laptop computer to to a black Jeep with tinted windows waiting outside her apartment.
They are believed to include information about apartments and tuition paid for by the Trump Organization for the couple’s two children, as investigators probe whether the perks were properly declared for tax purposes.
‘For me, when the government calls you, it’s your civic duty and there’s nothing wrong with telling the truth. It wasn’t really a choice; they called me,’ she told CNN.
‘I’m happy to be as honest and transparent and just be forthcoming because I don’t have anything to hide.’
Who’s who in New York criminal probes into Trump: His longtime CFO, the ‘quiet money man’ and two Democrat AGs
New York state has opened a criminal investigation into former US president Donald Trump (pictured November 2020)
A Democratic prosecutor nearing the end of his term, a loyal lieutenant of the Trump family and a lawyer determined to sink his former boss: AFP details some of the players in New York’s criminal probe into Donald Trump.
The 66-year-old Democrat has been Manhattan District Attorney since 2010. He was the first to launch a criminal investigation into the Republican ex-president.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance (pictured May 2020) has doggedly pursued Donald Trump, winning a years-long battle to obtain his tax records and deploying significant human and financial resources to the politically sensitive investigation
Vance, whose father was US Secretary of State under President Jimmy Carter, has sometimes been accused of a reluctance to prosecute the rich and powerful.
He delayed filing charges against disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein before securing a landmark conviction last year.
Vance has doggedly pursued Trump, though, first by winning a years-long battle to obtain his tax records and secondly by deploying significant human and financial resources to the politically sensitive investigation.
He has announced that he will not run for a fourth term when his current one expires in December, and many observers expect him to go out with a bang by filing what would be the first indictment against a former US president.
The Democrat became the first Black woman to become New York state attorney general in 2018.
Since then, the 62-year-old has forged a reputation as a combative and independent prosecutor, filing countless civil actions against large companies, particularly tech giants, and the National Rifle Association (NRA).
In addition to Donald Trump, Letitia James (pictured August 2020) is also investigating New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, over sexual harassment allegations and his response to the coronavirus pandemic
When Trump was in the White House, James launched dozens of civil actions against his government.
She is also investigating New York’s powerful Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, over sexual harassment allegations and his response to the coronavirus pandemic.
James has been cited as a possible successor to Cuomo, particularly if her investigation forces him to resign.
Allen Weisselberg: Trump Organization CFO
The 73-year-old is the Trump Organization’s long-serving chief financial officer and one of the family’s most loyal servants.
He began as an accountant for Trump’s father’s company before joining the Trump Organization as financial controller in the 1980s when Donald established himself as a Manhattan real estate mogul.
Allen Weisselberg, pictured standing behind former president Donald Trump and his son Donald Jr. in January 2017, has served as the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization since the 1980s
Weisselberg has been around for all of Trump’s entrepreneurial adventures, including when his Atlantic City casinos went bust.
According to Barbara Res, a former executive vice president at the Trump Organization, Weisselberg ‘thought Trump was a god,’ she told the Daily News.
Investigators believe Weisselberg knows all of the Trump family secrets and have been putting pressure on him for months to cooperate with their investigation.
Observers are closely watching whether Weisselberg will turn against his former boss.
Jennifer Weisselberg: Ex-daughter in law of Allen Weisselberg
Earlier this year, investigators from the Manhattan District Attorney’s office were seen carrying boxes of documents and laptops from Weisselberg’s Manhattan apartment.
She was married to Allen Weisselberg’s son Barry from 2004 to 2018.
In an interview with DailyMail.com in June, she said the former president was a ‘sweet’ and ‘generous’ man who helped pay for her children’s private schooling out of kindness and goodwill, rather than to dodge taxes.
If there was any unlawful activity within the Trump Organization it would be thanks to her former in-laws who still work for the company, she added.
Up until 2018, the mother-of-two was married to Barry Weisselberg, who manages Trump’s Central Park ice rinks, and her father-in-law was Allen Weisselberg, who became the chief financial officer when Trump became president.
‘Allen orchestrated the finances, and Donald is just sort of naïve,’ Jennifer said.
‘It’s provable that his trusted CFO is putting [Trump] and his children in a bad legal position.’
She is also set to testify to the grand jury.
Earlier this year, investigators from the Manhattan District Attorney’s office were seen carrying boxes of documents and laptops from Weisselberg’s Manhattan apartment. She was married ton Allen Weisselberg’s son Barry (right) from 2004 to 2018
Jeff McConney: Trump Organization Senior Vice President
McConney was known as the man in the Trump Organization who would hand over key documents to Trump and CFO Allen Weisselberg before meetings and would be responsible for cutting checks for big payments.
He was the first high-profile member of Trump’s business empire known to have testified in front of the New York Grand Jury deciding whether to indict Trump.
Trump’s fixer Michael Cohen told The Daily Beast: ‘Think of The Trump Organization as a small, one-teller bank.
‘Donald [Trump] would be the president. Allen [Weisselberg] would be the branch manager. Jeff [McConney] would be the teller. Every single transaction was booked through McConney.
Concerns for prosecutors is that McConney is seen as a Trump loyalist and, as The Daily Beast reported, someone who hates left-wing politics.
Trump’s ex-personal lawyer was sentenced to three years in prison in 2018 for tax evasion and violating campaign finance laws relating to Trump’s 2016 vote win.
Cohen was one of Trump’s closest henchmen for a decade, once proudly boasting that he was prepared to ‘take a bullet’ for the real estate mogul-turned-president.
Michael Cohen, pictured March 2021, openly rejoices in former boss Donald Trump’s legal troubles on Twitter and through his podcast
He turned against his former boss, though, deciding to collaborate with federal investigators in Manhattan.
During a Congressional hearing in February 2019, Cohen alleged — among other things — that Trump regularly undervalued or overvalued his assets, both with banks and insurance companies.
Cohen openly rejoices in Trump’s legal troubles on Twitter and through his podcast ‘Mea Culpa.’