Trump Personally Implicated in Potential Valuation Fraud: New York AG - Rolling Stone
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New Evidence Shows Trump ‘Personally Implicated’ In Potential Fraud, Including Lying About the Size of His Manhattan Apartment

New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a motion to compel testimony from the former president and his children that included a series of bombshell allegations

New York Attorney General Letitia James speaks during a rally in support of living wages for home care workers in New York, Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)New York Attorney General Letitia James speaks during a rally in support of living wages for home care workers in New York, Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

New York Attorney General Letitia James speaks during a rally in support of living wages for home care workers in New York, on Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021.

Seth Wenig/AP

The office of New York State Attorney General Letitia James filed a motion to compel testimony and obtain documents from former President Trump and two of his children that included a series of major new fraud allegations. In the motion, which was filed on Tuesday evening, James’ office claimed President Trump’s namesake real estate company, the Trump Organization, made “misrepresentations to financial institutions” including the IRS on a series of major properties. The alleged false claims — which included lying about the size of Trump’s personal triplex apartment in Trump Tower — were used to obtain favorable tax rates and loans. 

For more than two years, the Trump Organization has used delay tactics and litigation in an attempt to thwart a legitimate investigation into its financial dealings,” James said in a statement announcing the motion. “Thus far in our investigation, we have uncovered significant evidence that suggests Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization falsely and fraudulently valued multiple assets and misrepresented those values to financial institutions for economic benefit.”

Attorneys representing the Trump Organization did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

The motion came as a result of the efforts by Trump, his daughter Ivanka, and his son Don Jr. to avoid a deposition in James’ wide-ranging probe into potential fraud at the Trump Organization. James’ office subpoenaed Trump last month seeking a deposition as part of the ongoing civil investigation, which is focused on potential fraud related to the valuation of various properties in the Trump Organization’s portfolio. Don Jr. and Ivanka were subpoenaed earlier this month. 

When Trump was subpoenaed, Ronald Fischetti, a lawyer who has represented the former president in investigations related to his business in New York, indicated he would fight the request on the grounds that the deposition could be unfairly used against Trump in the Manhattan district attorney’s investigation into the organization. James’ office, which has limited criminal authority without obtaining a referral from another agency, is operating in parallel with the district attorney’s criminal probe. Lawyers for the family used that argument to quash all three of the subpoenas. 

James’ investigation is examining whether the Trump Organization committed fraud by presenting inflated property valuations to impress lenders and secure insurance while minimizing the values for tax purposes. According to the motion filed on Tuesday, the Trump Organization “also submitted fraudulent or misleading valuations to the Internal Revenue Service.” The probe was opened in 2019 after Trump’s longtime former attorney Michael Cohen testified before Congress and claimed the organization routinely manipulated property valuations. Cohen also provided documents that he said Trump used to obtain loans. 

In a press release announcing the latest motion, James’ office noted they have “not yet reached a final decision regarding whether this evidence merits legal action.” However, a source familiar with the investigation who was granted anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter said the likelihood she would eventually pursue legal action is “pretty high.”

The evidence presented by James could also serve as a roadmap for other prosecutors who are looking at Trump’s business dealings. A spokesperson for the Manhattan district attorney’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the status of their investigation. In addition to the D.A., federal prosecutors have reportedly taken an interest in the property valuation issues.

“The key thing here is this new information demonstrates that Trump and his family are personally implicated in this fraud,” the source familiar with the investigation said. 

The attorney general has accused Trump, his family, and company of stonewalling throughout her investigation. Her lawsuit against the organization, which was filed in August 2020, accused the company of stalling and instructing witnesses — including the president’s son, Eric Trump — not to cooperate. Eric, who helped lead the Trump Organization while his father was in the White House, ultimately answered questions from James’ investigators during a video deposition in October 2020. Don Jr. and Eric did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment. 

In the 2020 lawsuit, James’ office indicated the investigation was focused on the Trump National Golf Club in Los Angeles, Trump International Hotel and Tower Chicago, the 40 Wall Street office tower in Manhattan, and Seven Springs, a sprawling, approximately 200-acre estate in New York’s suburban Westchester County that was purchased by the Trump Organization in 1995. At the time of the lawsuit, there was some reporting that the attorney general was interested in other properties, including Trump Tower. The motion filed by James’ office on Tuesday identified several other assets that may have been involved in alleged financial improprieties, including Trump’s triplex in Trump Tower, his golf course in Scotland, and the value of his personal brand. According to the statement released by James’ office, the value of Trump’s apartment was, at one point, overstated by about $200 million based on false calculations of its size.

“​​The valuations of Mr. Trump’s triplex apartment in Trump Tower since at least 2012 were based on the assertion that the triplex apartment was 30,000 square feet in size,” the statement said. “However, the actual size of Mr. Trump’s triplex apartment was 10,996 square feet, and documents confirming that fact were signed by Mr. Trump himself in 2012.”

The court documents filed by James’ office argued James has legal grounds to subpoena Trump and his children. They described instances where the former president, Ivanka, and Don Jr. were personally involved in the valuation of certain properties.

A memorandum of law supporting the motion to compel documents and testimony noted that the Trump Organization’s annual “statements of financial condition” proclaimed: “Donald J. Trump is responsible for the preparation and fair presentation of the financial statement.” The document also cited an instance where Trump allegedly wrote to a bank and touted the prospects for his Trump National Doral resort in Miami while including an additional statement about his personal “brand value.”

“Hopefully, you will be impressed!” Trump wrote.

According to James’ office, Ivanka was also personally aware of the situation at one of the properties in question, Trump Park Avenue. The memorandum said the former president’s daughter “occupied an apartment at Trump Park Avenue for which she obtained apparently extraordinarily favorable terms,” including “a monthly rental rate that was a mere fraction per square foot of what other penthouse tenants paid in the building.” Ivanka’s apartment deal also allegedly included “an option to purchase the unit” for less than half its stated value.

The memorandum also said that Don Jr. signed off on some of his father’s annual “Statements of Financial Condition.” On some of these certifications, Don Jr. claimed he was signing off as his father’s “attorney in fact”

Documents supporting James’ motion also described some of the methods Trump and his company allegedly used to misrepresent their financial status. The attorney general’s team claimed valuations incorporated questionable assets like “unsold memberships” at golf clubs and “non-existent homes” at developments.

James’ team also argued Trump has not provided documents responsive to the subpoena. While the memorandum noted Trump “famously does not use email or a computer,” it said there were voluminous records from the former president. According to testimony from Trump Organization general counsel Alan Garten, Trump “regularly generated handwritten documents” and “there were file cabinets … containing Mr. Trump’s files.” Garten, who did not respond to a request for comment, also said Trump “used Post-It Notes to communicate with employees.”

“This game must end. Mr. Trump should be ordered to produce all responsive documents in his possession, custody, or control, including those within the possession of the Trump Organization,” the memorandum said.

Throughout the probe, Trump allies and attorneys have argued James is attacking Trump for political purposes. James, who is a veteran Democratic politician, was elected as New York’s attorney general in 2018 after promising to aggressively take on then-President Trump. She announced a campaign for governor following the scandal-fueled resignation of Andrew Cuomo last year. In December, however, James dropped out of that race, citing “a number of important investigations and cases that are underway.” In addition to the Trump probe, James’ office is investigating the National Rifle Association and major technology companies. 

In her statement announcing the motion on Tuesday, James said the investigation was based on “specific evidence that suggests Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization falsely and fraudulently valued multiple assets and misrepresented those values to financial institutions for economic benefit.

“The Trumps must comply with our lawful subpoenas for documents and testimony because no one in this country can pick and choose if and how the law applies to them,” James said. “We will not be deterred in our efforts to continue this investigation and ensure that no one is above the law.”


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