New York AG: Trump 'Personally Implicated' in Fraudulent Property Valuations, Including on the Size of His Manhattan Apartment

The office of New York State Attorney General Letitia James filed a motion to compel testimony and obtain documents from former President Trump and 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 and two of his children to avoid a deposition in James’ wide-ranging investigation 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. Two of Trump’s children, 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 the deposition could be unfairly used against the former president in the Manhattan district attorney’s investigation into the organization. James’ office, which has limited criminal authority without obtaining a referral from another agency, has been working with the district attorney’s criminal probe. Lawyers for the family used that argument to quash all three of the subpoenas. 

James’ investigation is focused on 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 to support his claims. 

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 present a roadmap for other prosecutors who are looking at Trump’s business dealings. In addition to the Manhattan district attorney, 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, 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, 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.”

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 scandalous resignation of Andrew Cuomo last year, however, in December, 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, 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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