Former Trump Organization CFO Pleads Guilty to Perjury

Tom Ozimek
By Tom Ozimek
March 4, 2024Politics
Former Trump Organization CFO Pleads Guilty to Perjury
Former Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg enters the courtroom in Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City on March 4, 2024. (Curtis Means/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Former Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg on Monday pleaded guilty to perjury in connection with testimony he gave at former President Donald Trump’s civil fraud trial in New York.

Mr. Weisselberg signed the plea deal in open court on March 4, pleading guilty to two counts of perjury related to testimony he gave during a 2020 deposition in reference to the size of President Trump’s triplex apartment.

Under the terms of the deal, he will pay $1.1 million, is barred from serving in the financial control function of any New York business, and will serve five months in jail.

The case centered on allegations that the former president and his company, The Trump Organization, defrauded banks, insurers, and others by allegedly overvaluing his assets and exaggerating his net worth in documents used in deals and to secure loans.

The triplex featured prominently during the trial, with prosecutors focusing on the square footage of the penthouse, which was the subject of a Forbes article that pointed out President Trump had quoted roughly three times the square footage than floor plans indicate. The same tripled figure appeared on Statements of Financial Condition (SFC) that were referred to repeatedly during the trial.

President Trump repeatedly argued that his statements included a disclaimer that asked banks to carry out their own analyses and due diligence when reviewing loan applications.

In court, Mr. Weisselberg said that differences between the SFC figures and other appraisals were negligible and not something he thought needed to be reviewed by external accountants.

During a deposition with the attorney general’s office on or around July 17, 2020, Mr. Weisselberg was asked whether he had advised any financial institutions that the 2015 SFC contained an “error” in the form of the tripled square footage of the penthouse.

“Well, we didn’t find out about the error until after the Forbes article came out,” Mr. Weisselberg replied.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg accused Mr. Weisselberg of lying when he made this statement, arguing that he knew the triplex was 10,996 square feet and not 30,000 square feet prior to the publication of the May 2017 Forbes article, leading to the first perjury charge.

The second perjury charge came when Mr. Weisselberg was asked if he was ever present when President Trump described the size of the triplex.

Mr. Weisselberg replied “no,” but Mr. Bragg argued that this was false, and the truth was that Mr. Weisselberg was present when “Mr. Trump stated to a Forbes reporter that the size of his triplex was 33,000 square feet.”

“It was material to the OAG’s investigation whether Mr. Trump had mentioned in the presence of the defendant that the size of the triplex was greater than 10,996 square feet,” Mr. Bragg wrote in court documents.

New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron issued a ruling in the case on Feb. 16, ordering President Trump and Trump Organization executives to pay $355 million in damages (over $450 million including interest), and barring the former president from doing business in New York state for three years.

The judge also put the Trump Organization under the supervision of an independent monitor for at least three years and ordered the company to hire an independent compliance director to ensure it follows financial reporting rules.

President Trump, who has denied wrongdoing and called the case a politically motivated attempt to thwart his 2024 comeback bid, has appealed the ruling.

Triplex In Focus

During pretrial testimony, President Trump said that people who did business with him were cautioned not to rely on the SFCs and carry out their own analyses, describing some of the numbers as “guesstimates.”

Some people who testified at President Trump’s trial made clear that this rationale wasn’t unreasonable.

For example, David Williams, a Deutsche Bank executive who worked on at least one of three loans the bank gave to President Trump, testified on Nov. 28 that it isn’t unusual for a bank to cut a client’s stated asset value—even by half—and still approve a loan, just like it did with the former president.

Mr. Williams also told the court that it’s standard practice for Deutsche Bank to subject a client’s asset value to an adjustment, saying differences between a client and the bank about a client’s asset values aren’t a disqualifying factor when considering granting loans because “it’s just a difference of opinion.”

Deutsche Bank viewed clients’ reports of their net worth as “subjective or subject to estimates” and took its own view of such financial statements, Mr. Williams added.

Prosecutors rejected this reasoning, as did Judge Engoron, who repeatedly repudiated the testimony of expert witnesses to arrive at his ruling.

For instance, in a background document from the New York Attorney General’s office, prosecutors said that the valuation of the triplex was “absurd” and was calculated using “objectively false numbers.”

“For example, the apartment was valued as being 30,000 square feet when it was actually 10,996 square feet. As a result, in 2015, the apartment was valued at $327 million in total, or $29,738 per square foot,” they wrote.

“That price was absurd given the fact that at that point only one apartment in New York City had ever sold for even $100 million, at a price per square foot of less than $10,000, and that sale was in a newly built, ultra-tall tower. In the 30 year-old Trump Tower, the record sale at that time was a mere $16.5 million at a price of less than $4,500 per square foot,” they added.

In November 2023, state attorneys asked President Trump questions about the valuation of his properties listed in various SFCs.

State attorneys asked whether the triplex value was estimated “too high” in a valuation of $327 million.

President Trump said he couldn’t tell because the SFCs don’t break down how the valuation was reached.

He said he thought the number placed on his penthouse triplex was too high, but not by much when you account for the fact that he had rooftop access.

President Trump also said he thought perhaps the 10,000-plus square foot number was tripled, because his staff assumed it was the square footage of one floor, and they hadn’t subtracted the elevator space from it.

From The Epoch Times

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