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Indicted Trump Organization executive may have defended his Mercedes perks in custody, court documents show

Allen Weisselberg leaves court in Manhattan on July 1. (John Taggart for The Washington Post)

NEW YORK — Indicted Trump Organization executive Allen Weisselberg may have offered an unprompted early defense to investigators on the day he was charged in a 15-year tax avoidance scheme involving unreported perks such as free cars and high-end apartments for executives at former president Donald Trump's company, according to court documents.

“In sum and substance, defendant Allen Weisselberg stated that the commute to work from Long Island was difficult,” said a defendant statement disclosure from district attorney investigators Anthony DiCaprio and Ethan Zubkoff that was filed in New York Supreme Court after Weisselberg’s arrest.

There was no additional context for his apparent words about grueling rush-hour travel in New York City, a remark cited in a publicly filed disclosure from prosecutors, a mandatory notice given to defense attorneys after an arrest.

Prosecutors allege a 15-year tax fraud scheme as the Trump Organization and CFO Allen Weisselberg are arraigned on multiple criminal charges

The Post’s David Fahrenthold explained what we knew on July 1, 2021, about the charges against the Trump Organization and its CFO, Allen Weisselberg. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: John Taggart/The Washington Post)

Weisselberg previously kept his legal address at a small home in the Long Island town of Wantagh, N.Y., until he sold it in 2013. But prosecutors allege he actually lived in a Manhattan apartment paid for by the Trump Organization and avoided several years of New York City taxes by concealing his status as a city resident.

He made the comments as he sat for arrest processing with investigators on July 1, hours before he pleaded not guilty to charges including scheme to defraud and grand larceny. The day of his surrender, he also told the arresting investigators that he has lived in his Upper West Side apartment since 2005.

The commute from his Riverside Boulevard home is less than two miles — and he was recently seen on multiple weekdays driving a Mercedes to Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue, the headquarters of Trump Organization, where Trump himself has been spending time in recent weeks.

The Trump Organization allegedly footed the bill for the Weisselberg family’s luxury vehicles for many years in lieu of paying him a higher salary, allowing him to claim significantly lower income than he was actually bringing in. The company “paid the annual lease expenses on two Mercedes-Benz automobiles for Weisselberg and his wife” from 2005 to 2017, according to the indictment.

It is unclear whether Weisselberg was trying to say that he commuted — at least at some point — to Manhattan from the suburbs, necessitating a vehicle.

Trump Organization removes indicted top finance officer Allen Weisselberg from leadership roles at dozens of subsidiaries

Defenders of the Trump Organization and Weisselberg, including Trump, have said that the case is politically motivated. Eric Trump, one of the former president’s sons who is also a Trump Organization executive, said in a Fox News appearance the day of Weisselberg’s arraignment that “everybody has” a corporate car.

But prosecutors say that the company’s longtime chief financial officer personally benefited from the Trump Organization’s long-running scam, getting indirect compensation worth more than $1.7 million. He avoided paying about $900,000 to the local and federal governments in doing so, said an indictment recently filed by the Manhattan district attorney and the New York attorney general.

Weisselberg’s comment about his commute is likely to have been made without prompting by investigators because he was in custody and had legal representation. It would have been illegal for law enforcement to interrogate Weisselberg in that scenario.

When an arrest is being processed, fingerprints are taken and investigators collect biographical information. Questioning was probably strictly related to the booking process and would not have touched on anything related to the substance of the charges.

Weisselberg’s words could be used as evidence at a future trial.

An attorney for Weisselberg did not respond to requests for comment, and a spokesman for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. declined to comment.

Weisselberg, who is said to have been in the know on all of the Trump Organization’s financial transactions for decades, has declined to cooperate with prosecutors, who believe he could be key in building a case against the former president, people familiar with the case have said.

In recent weeks, the Trump Organization has removed Weisselberg from leadership roles at dozens of subsidiaries, although a person familiar with the company said Weisselberg is still employed at the company “and is going to remain at the company.”