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Manhattan prosecutor puts pressure on longtime CFO in Trump’s investigation

Cyrus R. Vance Jr. (D), Manhattan’s attorney general, has not formally charged anyone with wrongdoing, including Trump, Weisselberg or the latter’s family. But the focus on Weisselberg underscores the depth and ambition of Vance’s investigation, a criminal investigation more widely known than any Trump company has ever faced.

Vance’s focus on Weisselberg includes two issues of his older children, a tactic that could be an effort to increase the pressure on the older Weisselberg. One of Weisselberg̵

7;s sons also works for the Trump organization, where he runs the company’s ice rinks in the company’s Central Park. Weisselberg’s other son works for a Trump lending company.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has seized former President Donald Trump’s tax returns, officials said on February 25. (Reuters)

Vance recently received millions of pages from Trump’s tax and financial records. Now he seems to be focused on their human equivalent: a man who paid Trump’s bills and maintained his books from the 1980s.

Weisselberg has been CFO since 2000 and said he handles almost all of the company’s financial transactions. He once described himself in a deposit as “Trump’s eyes and ears.” . . from an economic point of view. “

“Allen is in charge of everything,” said a former Trump official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, as well as several people familiar with the investigation.

Vance declined to comment on the report. That’s what Trump and Mary Mulligan, Weisselberg’s lawyer, did.

Typically, witness overturning efforts consist of two parts: First, prosecutors work to build evidence that the witness may have. own legal obligations. They then try to persuade the witness to save himself by including a higher level.

The man familiar with the case said investigators were trying to “cast a wide net.” . . I try to shake the tree a little. “

In this case, prosecutors carefully examined Weisselberg’s work to help assess the value of Trump’s buildings as the company sought to obtain loans or reduce property taxes, people familiar with the investigation said. They also asked about a luxury apartment owned by Trump, in which Weiselberg’s son Barry has lived for several years. The exact nature of Vance’s interest in the apartment is unknown, but if Barry Weisselberg, who runs Trump’s ice rinks, gets the apartment without rent, it could be seen as an added benefit to his job and taxed on income.

Two people who know about the district attorney’s investigation said the team also analyzed the finances of the cash slide where Barry Weisselberg works.

Meanwhile, investigators have asked detailed questions about Alan Weisselberg’s financial history and his feelings for Trump, say insiders.

“All the real estate he had.” Every house, every car, every bonus. The way his way of life goes. Is he frugal? Is he generous? “One of the people said, listing investigators’ questions about Alan Weisselberg. “What is his relationship with Donald?” . . . How loyal is each person to each other? “

A person familiar with Trump’s thinking said company executives were confident that their property valuation practices were in line with industry standards for New York. The man also said he has widespread confidence in Weisselberg loyalty.

Trump now faces two large-scale studies of his financial practices: a Vance investigation and a separate civil investigation by New York Attorney Leticia James (D).

The district attorney the criminal investigation began in 2018 and initially focused on silent payments made by Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen just before the 2016 election to women who claimed to have an affair with Trump.

Since then, however, his investigation has expanded to cover a wide range of Trump’s pre-presidency financial activities. Vance has called for records from a variety of sources, according to documents and officials: Trump’s insurance brokers, his lenders, New York tax authorities, and even planning and zoning records from a small town that includes a Trump-owned mansion.

Trump called both inquiries politically motivated. After the Supreme Court last month allowed Vance to receive his taxes, the former president called the investigation a “fishing expedition.”

Those familiar with Vance’s investigation say it has gained new urgency following the recent hiring of Mark F. Pomerantz, a lawyer who is pursuing the son of Gambino family boss John Gotti on a special mission.

Vance participated in recent interviews conducted in practice because of the coronavirus pandemic, but let Pomerantz lead the interrogation, people familiar with the matter said.

In these sessions, Pomerantz focused on Weisselberg, asking broad questions about the accountant, in an apparent effort to build a broader profile of Trump’s longtime employee. The recent focus on Weisselberg was first reported by the New York Times.

“Have you ever met his wife?” A witness was recently asked, according to someone familiar with the investigation. “Have you ever been to his house?”

Investigators also asked about the apartment in the Trump Parc East building in Central Park South, where Barry Weiselberg lived for several years. Jennifer Weisselberg, Barry Weisselberg’s ex-wife, told Bloomberg News last year that the couple lived there for free. She said she believed at the time that the apartment was a wedding gift from Donald and Melania Trump. This week, a spokesman for Jennifer Weisselberg declined further comment.

City property records show that the unit belonged to a Trump-owned entity, Trump CPS LLC. The company later sold the device in 2014 for $ 2.8 million.

IRS rules say that if an employer provides an apartment without rent, it should usually be considered part of the employee’s compensation and be subject to income tax. There are exceptions, but they are aimed at people such as maids living in the building and building supervisors who live where they work and are constantly on call. It is not known how Barry Weiselberg or the Trump organization treated the apartment for tax purposes.

A person familiar with the investigation said prosecutors had examined parts of Barry Weisselberg’s tax returns.

Trump did not answer questions about the apartment. Barry Weisselberg did not respond to a request for comment; his brother, Jack Weisselberg, told The Washington Post he declined to comment on either.

Investigators also asked witnesses about loans granted to Trump by Ladder Capital Finance, Jack Weisselberg’s employer, according to people familiar with the matter. As part of this process, lenders typically ask about the financial condition of buildings, including the level of employment and total rent paid. from tenants.

Ladder Capital has lent Trump more than $ 270 million related to four buildings in Manhattan. The loan documents were signed by other Ladder Capital executives, not Jack Weisselberg.

Neither Ladder Capital nor Trump has answered questions about whether Jack Weisselberg played a role in obtaining the loans.

It is not clear what testimony, if any, Alan Weisselberg provided to Vance’s office.

In the past, however, Weisselberg has testified about government investigations into Trump’s financial deals.

In 2017, Weisselberg spoke with investigators to investigate the New York Attorney General about Trump’s charity, the Donald J. Foundation. Trump. He told them that the charity’s board had never met, that the charity had “no policy” for determining whether its expenses follow non-profit laws, and that the charity had been co-opted by Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. violation of the ban on mixing charities and politics.

The attorney general later used Weisselberg’s testimony against Trump in a lawsuit that ended with a New York judge ordering Trump to pay a $ 2 million fine.

Weisselberg also accepted a deal from federal prosecutors focused on Cohen’s silent payments, in which Weisselberg testified for others in exchange for immunity for himself. Prosecutors were interested in reimbursing Cohen for Trump’s silent money payments.

Cohen later pleaded guilty to two offenses related to these payments. He was sentenced to prison, but was released last year due to fears of a coronavirus pandemic.

On Twitter this week, Cohen seems to be enjoying the idea that Weisselberg is facing new control after giving him so much control.

“Remember that Alan Weisselberg received (federal) immunity from SDNY for providing information and testifying against me for the @StormyDaniels payment,” he wrote on Tuesday, adding the hashtag “#KarmaBoomerang.”

Alice Crites contributed to this report.

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