- Tax prosecution expert Frank Agostino has weighed in on the debate on the Trump Organization prosecution.
- He told CNN charges against CFO Allen Weisselberg were likely a warning to cooperate.
- NY prosecutors in July charged Weisselberg and the Trump Organization with tax crimes.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Frank Agostino, a former tax prosecutor and now a legal analyst, said that recent charges filed against Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg are likely a sign that there is further legal trouble in store for President Donald Trump’s company.
In comments to CNN, Agostino, a former special US attorney prosecuting tax cases, weighed in on the debate over what recent charges against Weisselberg revealed about the case prosecutors were building against the Trump Organisation.
Weisselberg and the Trump Organization were charged on July 1 with using valuable fringe benefits — including apartment leases for his son and school tuition for his grandchildren — a way of dodging tax, according to the indictment.
Weisselberg has pleaded not guilty, while Trump claims that the benefits are not illegal and the prosecution, lead by Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance, is politically motivated.
“Prosecutors are not showing their entire hand yet. This is obviously designed to convince Weisselberg they have enough to put him in jail, and it’s going to get worse, and he should really think about cooperating,” said Agostino.
“I think (Vance) sent a message that this is an exit ramp for Weisselberg that he should have taken already and, if he doesn’t, everything he knows and loves in this world is fair game.”
“And I think he’s sending a message to the Trump Organization: Your people should come in and talk with us earlier rather than later if you want a business that you can leave to your children. It’s traditional, old-school hardball, which is what New York does almost better than anybody.”
Prosecutors have reportedly pressured Weisselberg to cooperate with their probe, whose wealth of knowledge about the Trump Organization’s financial affairs is considered key by prosecutors. A decades-long servant of the Trump family businesses, Weisselberg has so far resisted that pressure, according to reports.
There has been an enormous amount of speculation about the strategy prosecutors are pursuing in their investigation of Trump’s business.
Some analysts have argued that there are likely no further charges in store for the company because there is no reason for them to delay filing more serious charges if they had evidence to sustain them.
But others, including Trump’s former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen, say the Weisselberg charges are a “shot across the bows” to encourage cooperation.
The investigation could have serious implications for Trump’s future political fortunes, miring the former president in scandal and the threat of prison if he decides to launch a new bid for the presidency in 2024.