Jeff McConney could have brought down the Trump Organization. Now he takes the blame.
As the Manhattan District Attorney’s landmark investigation into former President Donald Trump appears to be winding down — and the grand jury empowered to indict Trump reaches its final days this month — it is now clear that an employee senior who could have been a key government witness has instead stuck with Trump, calling an off-the-books, untaxed executive compensation model a personal mistake.
Jeffrey S. McConney, the company’s comptroller and right-hand man to former CFO Allen Weisselberg, was indicted in June 2021. When McConney testified before the grand jury on the eve of this indictment, he taken the blame for all the shenanigans with Weisselberg’s salary, according to court documents the company filed earlier this year.
Investigators say Weisselberg got a plethora of untaxed benefits, like a fancy apartment, a fancy car and expensive tuition for his grandchildren. But McConney, who has been a business accountant for decades, swore he didn’t even know they mattered.
“I didn’t think or know they needed to be reported,” he told the grand jurors. “Until recently, I never thought [the apartment and tuition] had to be income – included in income.
And while investigators argued that Weisselberg’s decision to lower his salary on the books showed it was a tax-dodge scheme, McConney instead rationalized it as simply “a generous gesture to Mr. Trump”.
The Trump Organization and Weisselberg are seizing McConney’s closed-door testimony to claim there could not be a criminal conspiracy. Their reasoning: A conspiracy would require at least two people – Weisselberg and McConney – who knew what they were doing was wrong.
“Mr. McConney repeatedly testified before the grand jury that at the time of the alleged events in question, he did not believe he was doing anything wrong,” wrote Susan R. Necheles, an attorney representing the company.
“And,” she continued, “to the extent that certain purported employee benefits were not declared as taxable income, it was an error on his part. It means that Mr. McConney did not act “willingly”, an essential element of a criminal tax offence.”
Necheles, who made the claims in an effort to dismiss the indictment against the company, did not respond to a request for comment. Neither did McConney.
McConney’s long history with the Trump Organization and his pivotal role in the company’s accounting department put him in an ideal position to eliminate him. But there were clear signs that McConney would not turn against the company that had given him a job for life.
He was the scapegoat before.
As The Daily Beast previously reported, McConney refused to play ball during a confidential interview with investigators from the New York Attorney General. In that testimony, McConney claimed he “probably didn’t know” the company was wrong to use its donor-funded charity to settle a lawsuit.
“Anything and everything that could go wrong…went wrong” when Trump offered $25,000 to re-elect Florida’s Republican attorney general just months before she decided not to investigate his Trump University fraud, then mislabeled it as a legal payment to a nonprofit organization of the same name.
A source familiar with investigators’ experience with McConney told The Daily Beast they found him “less than available.”
The rest of McConney’s extensive testimony before a Manhattan grand jury remains secret, so it’s unclear whether the accountant erred and revealed incriminating information that could be used against Trump, Weisselberg and others. But he remains a central figure in the larger investigation, as recent court documents also revealed that McConney was indeed “unindicted co-conspirator No. 1”, the person who allegedly underreported Weisselberg’s income and helped him dodge taxes.
It’s all the more remarkable, then, that McConney got what amounts to a bargain. Unlike other states or even federal courts, New York has a unique rule called “transactional immunity” that completely protects witnesses. Essentially, a person cannot be charged with any crime that they reveal in their testimony before a grand jury. Thus, McConney is now likely off the hook for any role he played in the Trump Organization’s alleged business crimes. (Although if he lied about anything, the Manhattan District Attorney could prosecute him for perjury.)
Ahead of Weisselberg’s trial scheduled for criminal tax evasion this summer, he and the Trump Organization are trying to get a state judge to dismiss the case and reveal more details about the investigation in the process.
In a similar filing in February, Weisselberg’s attorneys claimed Manhattan prosecutors tried to pressure the chief financial officer to attack Trump to no avail. They referred to a virtual meeting on June 1, 2021. in the final weeks before his indictment, when prosecutors “explained their intention to press charges against Mr. Weisselberg and [made] an argument that his only “way out” was to cooperate with DANY’s investigation of Mr. Trump and his company.
When that didn’t work, prosecutors “threatened to prosecute Mr. Weisselberg’s son as a result of Mr. Weisselberg’s decision not to cooperate.”
The chief financial officer’s son, Barry Weisselberg, is another Trump Organization employee who ran the suspiciously cash-only Wollman Rink in Central Park. Although prosecutors discovered that the young Weisselberg had also received untaxed benefits in the form of a luxury apartment next to the park – an enviable location for almost all New Yorkers – the investigators apparently decided to leave him. release.
Prosecutors made the “eventual decision not to charge her son,” attorney Mary Mulligan wrote in a footnote near the end of the 140-page court filing.