Former US President Donald Trump’s company misrepresented the value of its multimillion-dollar assets to obtain loans, insurance and tax breaks, according to documents filed by the New York attorney general.
Key Points: The Trump Organization called the investigation “baseless” and politically motivated. She is accused of exaggerating the value of land donations for tax deductions.
Attorney General Letitia James said her investigators had uncovered evidence Mr Trump’s company had used ‘fraudulent or misleading’ appraisals of his golf clubs, skyscrapers and other property to obtain loans and tax benefits .
In a filing on Tuesday evening, lawyers for Ms James told a judge they had not decided whether to take legal action in relation to the allegations, but that investigators should be allowed to question Mr Trump and her two eldest children under oath as part of the civil investigation.
The Trump Organization released a statement on Wednesday calling the investigation “baseless” and politically motivated.
The court documents contain the attorney general’s most detailed account to date of a long-running investigation into allegations that Mr. Trump’s company exaggerated the value of its assets to impress lenders or misrepresented the value of land to reduce its tax burden.
The Trump Organization, Ms James’ office said, overstated the value of land donations made in New York and California on documents submitted to the IRS to justify several million dollars in tax deductions.
Mr Trump’s company added a “brand premium” to the value of certain properties because they bore Trump’s name. (AP: Mary Altaffer)
In giving estimates of Mr Trump’s wealth, the firm misstated the size of his Manhattan penthouse, saying it was almost three times its actual size, a difference in value of about $200 million , Ms. James’ office said, citing deposition testimony from Mr. Trump’s longtime finance chief. Allen Weisselberg, charged last year with tax evasion in a parallel criminal investigation.
Ms James’ office detailed its findings in a legal motion seeking to force Mr Trump, his daughter Ivanka Trump and son Donald Trump Jr to comply with subpoenas demanding their testimony.
Investigators, according to court documents, had “developed significant additional evidence indicating that the Trump Organization used fraudulent or deceptive asset appraisals to obtain a multitude of economic benefits, including loans, insurance coverage and tax deductions.
“Political retribution” Mr. Trump has laid the groundwork for a possible campaign to return to the presidency in 2024. (AP: Ben Gray)
In its statement, the Trump Organization said “the only one misleading the public is Letitia James.”
“She defrauded New Yorkers by basing her entire candidacy on a promise to get Trump at any cost without seeing a shred of evidence and in violation of every imaginable ethical rule,” they wrote.
“Three years later, she is now faced with the harsh reality that she has no case.”
Donald Trump Jr said on Twitter that the investigation was “nothing more than political retribution by him on behalf of the entire Democratic Party. It should be expunged!”
The disclosure came as Mr Trump continued to lay the groundwork for a possible campaign to return to the presidency in 2024.
He held his first rally of the new year last weekend in Arizona, where he slammed ‘monsters who use law enforcement for political retaliation at the local, state and federal levels’ and released a video anti-James that highlighted his past anti-Trump statements.
Mr Trump’s legal team has sought to block subpoenas and last month asked a federal court to end Ms James’ investigation. This trial is ongoing.
Her lawyers said Ms James was wrongly trying to obtain testimony in her civil investigation that could be used in a parallel criminal investigation overseen by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.
New York Attorney General Letitia James said evidence showed the Trump Organization routinely misrepresented the value of its properties and golf clubs in its financial statements. (AP: Richard Drew)
In a statement on Tuesday evening, Ms James’ office said the evidence gathered so far showed her investigation must continue unhindered.
“For more than two years, the Trump Organization has used delaying tactics and litigation to try to thwart a legitimate investigation into its financial dealings,” Ms. James said.
“So far in our investigation, we have uncovered significant evidence to suggest that Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization falsely and fraudulently valued multiple assets and misrepresented those values at financial institutions for economic gain.”
Although Ms. James’ investigation was separate from the criminal investigation, her office was involved in both, sending several attorneys to work side-by-side with prosecutors from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
Ms James’ office said under state law it could seek “a wide range of remedies” against companies found guilty of commercial fraud, including the revocation of licenses to do business in the state, the dismissal of company executives or the restitution and “restitution of ill-gotten gains”.
Inflated Asset Values The Trump Organization has overstated the value of properties, including the Seven Springs estate. (AP: John Minchillo)
In court documents, James’ office said evidence shows that Mr. Trump’s company:
Listed his Seven Springs estate in upstate New York as worth $291 million, based on a dubious assumption that he could rake in $161 million from the construction of nine luxury homes Added a “bonus of brand” by 15-30% to the value of some properties because they bore Trump’s name, despite financial statements explicitly stating they did not incorporate brand value Inflated the value of a golf club New York suburban neighborhood of millions of dollars including membership fees that weren’t sold or never paid Park Avenue condominium tower estimate at $350 million, based on the proceeds he could squeeze from unsold units, even though many of those apartments were likely to sell for less because they were covered by rent stabilization laws Rated an apartment rented to Ivanka Trump at $25 million, even though she had an option to buy it for $8.5 million Said in documents that her stake in an office building, 40 Wall Street, was worth $525 million to $602 million two to three times the estimate made by appraisers working for the Capital One lender
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