NEW YORK, Jan 10 (Reuters) – Alan Weisselberg, a longtime Donald Trump executive who was a star prosecution witness in the criminal trial of the former president’s real estate firm, was charged on Tuesday with helping design Trump’s Trump organized a 15-year tax fraud scheme.
Weisselberg, 75, is expected to be sent to New York’s notorious Rikers Island prison. The former chief financial officer of the Trump Organization pleaded guilty in August, admitting that from 2005 to 2017 he and other top executives received bonuses and perks that saved the company and themselves money.
The sentence was handed down by Judge Juan Merchan of Manhattan, N.Y., who oversaw the trial of the Trump Organization, which was convicted in December on all counts it faced. Although no longer chief financial officer, Weisselberg is still on paid leave from the Trump Organization.
Weisselberg, who was wearing an olive green North Face jacket and blue mask at sentencing, will likely be given a uniform and Velcro sneakers once in prison.
As part of the punishment, Weisselberg also paid about $2 million in taxes, fines and interest, and he could serve up to 100 days in prison and take time off for good behavior.
In a facility known for violence, drugs and corruption, Weisselberg’s jail time may not have been easy. Nineteen prisoners died there last year.
“You’re going to go into a Byzantine black hole,” said Craig Rothfield, a prison consultant who helped Weisselberg prepare for his incarceration.
50 year relationship
Many New York City criminals facing a year or less in prison head to Rikers Island, which is home to more than 5,900 inmates between the city’s Queens and Bronx boroughs.
Rosefield spent more than five weeks at Rikers in 2015 and 2016 as part of an 18-month sentence for defrauding investors and tax authorities at a company he once led. He now runs Inside Outside Ltd, which advises people facing prison. Another client was former Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein, who was twice convicted of rape.
Rothfeld said he wanted Weisselberg to be isolated from the general public, rather than share a dorm with inmates who might not know him but would know his boss, who is running for president in 2024.
“Of course, Mr. Weisselberg’s 50-year relationship with the former president is on all of our minds,” Rothfield said.
A spokesman for the city’s Department of Corrections said the agency’s mission is “to create a safe and supportive environment for everyone in our custody.”
Rikers is scheduled to close in 2027.
Weisselberg testified that Trump signed bonus and tuition checks, among other documents at the heart of prosecutors’ case, but was not involved in the tax fraud scheme. He testified in November that he expected to receive a $500,000 bonus this month and that the company was paying his attorneys.
Trump has not been charged and has denied wrongdoing.
The office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who attended Weisselberg’s sentencing, is still investigating his business practices.
Merchan will also be sentencing the Trump Organization on Friday. The fine is capped at $1.6 million.
Weisselberg remains a defendant in a $250 million civil lawsuit by New York Attorney General Letitia James alleging that Trump and his companies inflated asset values and Trump’s net worth.
Rothfeld said he advised Weisselberg not to go out at Rikers prison because of the risk of violence in the courtyard, or to meddle in conversations between other prisoners.
“Our goal is to be ourselves,” Rothfeld said.
Reporting by Karen Freifeld; Editing by Will Dunham and Richard Chang
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