In complex investigations, prosecutors often seek evidence of wrongdoing by subordinates as a way to pressure them to “flip” and reveal damaging information about their bosses. The pressure by both offices being brought to bear on Weisselberg appears designed to pursue that strategy against Trump, although neither James nor Vance has alleged wrongdoing by Trump, Weisselberg or anyone else.
James’s interest in Weisselberg’s personal finances was described by Jennifer Weisselberg, the CFO’s former daughter-in-law. Jennifer Weisselberg, who was married to Weisselberg’s son Barry from 2004 to 2018, told The Washington Post on Thursday that James’s investigators had taken seven boxes of financial data from her in November, including records of accounts held jointly by Barry and his father.
Jennifer Weisselberg said James’s office also wanted records about two Trump Organization-controlled apartments where she said she and her husband had lived rent-free. Barry Weisselberg was also a Trump employee: He helped manage one of the company’s ice rinks. In situations like this, tax experts say that a free apartment might be considered as income for tax purposes.
“The attorney general is really focused on compensation,” Jennifer Weisselberg said. She said the investigators’ goal seemed to be determining if “Trump Payroll Corp. is avoiding paying employee taxes, state taxes” on free benefits.
Jennifer Weisselberg’s attorney, Duncan Levin, confirmed the inquiry by James’s office.
Attorneys for Allen and Barry Weisselberg both declined to comment for this story. The Trump Organization did not respond to a request for comment Thursday, but has previously cast James’s investigation as politically motivated.
Jennifer Weisselberg and her attorney said their contact at the attorney general’s office has been an official named Gary Fishman, whose title is “special adviser to the criminal justice division.”
Fishman has been involved in criminal prosecutions of alleged fraudsters and embezzlers in the past, according to the attorney general’s website. However, so far, James’s office has said the office is pursuing a civil investigation into the Trump Organization.
James’s office declined to comment on Thursday.
But James’s interest in the Weisselbergs’ personal finances has also grown in recent months. In the past, James’s inquiry seemed focused on a set of the company’s businesses dealings — and questions about whether Trump’s company had exaggerated their values to deceive lenders, or to avoid paying proper taxes on them.
In November, Bloomberg News reported on Jennifer Weisselberg’s divorce, including her allegation that Barry Weisselberg had received free apartments from the Trump Organization.
After that, Jennifer Weisselberg said, the attorney general’s office began asking for records about the finances of her ex-husband and his father. Jennifer Weisselberg has said her divorce from Barry Weisselberg was bitter but that said she had not initiated contact with either set of investigators: “The D.A. called me. The A.G. called me.”