New York Attorney General Says Trump’s Company Misled Banks, Tax Officials
NEW YORK (AP) — The New York attorney general’s office late Tuesday told a court its investigators have uncovered evidence that former President Donald Trump’s company used “fraudulent or misleading” asset valuations to get loans and tax benefits.
The court filing said state authorities haven’t yet decided whether to bring a lawsuit in connection with the allegations, but that investigators need to question Trump and his two eldest children as part of the probe.
The Trump Organization issued a statement Wednesday calling the civil investigation “baseless” and politically motivated.
In the court documents, Attorney General Letitia James’ office gave its most detailed accounting yet of a long-running investigation of allegations that Trump’s company exaggerated the value of assets to get favorable loan terms, or misstated what land was worth to slash its tax burden.
According to Trump Organization, the organization had misrepresented the true value of land donated in New York City and California by using paperwork that was submitted to IRS. This allowed it to justify several millions in tax deductions.
When giving estimates of Trump’s wealth, the company misreported the size of his Manhattan penthouse, saying it was nearly three times its actual size — a difference in value of about $200 million, James’ office said, citing deposition testimony from Trump’s longtime financial chief Allen Weisselberg, who was charged last year with tax fraud in a parallel criminal investigation.
James’ office detailed its findings in a court motion seeking to force Trump, his daughter Ivanka Trump and his son Donald Trump Jr. to comply with subpoenas seeking their testimony.
Investigators, the court papers said, had “developed significant additional evidence indicating that the Trump Organization used fraudulent or misleading asset valuations to obtain a host of economic benefits, including loans, insurance coverage, and tax deductions.”
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 all costs without having seen a shred of evidence and in violation of every conceivable ethical rule,” they wrote. “Three years later she is now faced with the stark reality that she has no case.”
Trump’s legal team has sought to block the subpoenas, calling them “an unprecedented and unconstitutional maneuver.” They say James is improperly attempting to obtain testimony that could be used in the parallel criminal investigation, being overseen by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.
Trump filed suit against James last month in federal court to end her investigation. In the suit, his lawyers claimed the attorney general, a Democrat, had violated the Republican’s constitutional rights in a “thinly-veiled effort to publicly malign Trump and his associates.”
In the past, the Republican ex-president has decried James’ investigation and Bragg’s probe as part of a “witch hunt.”
In a statement late Tuesday, James office said that it hasn’t decided whether to pursue legal action, but said the evidence gathered so far shows the investigation should proceed unimpeded.
“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. “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.”
Although James’ civil investigation is separate from the criminal investigation, her office has been involved in both, dispatching several lawyers to work side-by-side with prosecutors from the Manhattan D.A.’s office.
James’ office said that under state law, it could seek ”a broad range of remedies” against companies found to have committed commercial fraud, “including revoking a license to conduct business within the state, moving to have an officer or director removed from board of directors, and restitution and disgorgement of ill-gotten gains.”
In the court papers, James’ office said evidence shows that Trump’s company:
— Listed his Seven Springs estate north of New York City as being worth $291 million, based on the dubious assumption that it could reap $161 million from building nine luxury homes.
— Added a “brand premium” of 15% to 30% to the value of some properties because they carried the Trump name, despite financial statements explicitly stating they didn’t incorporate brand value.
— Inflated the value of a suburban New York golf club by millions of dollars by counting fees for memberships that weren’t sold or were never paid.
— Valued a Park Avenue condominium tower at $350 million, based on proceeds it could reap from unsold units, even though many of those apartments were likely to sell for less because they were covered by rent stabilization laws.
— Valued an apartment being rented to Ivanka Trump at as high as $25 million, even though she had an option to buy it for $8.5 million.
— Said in documents that its stake in an office building, 40 Wall Street, was worth $525 million to $602 million — between two to three times the estimate reached by appraisers working for the lender Capital One.
James was previously supported by a judge on a request to interview Eric Trump (Trump Organization executive), who eventually agreed to a deposition and declined to answer some of the questions.
Manhattan’s district attorney filed tax fraud allegations against Trump Organization, Weisselberg and its long-serving chief financial officer last year.
Weisselberg has pleaded guilty to the charges that he and his company avoided taxes on fringe benefits for executives.
Both investigations are at least partly related to allegations made in news reports and by Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, that Trump had a history of misrepresenting the value of assets.
The disclosures about the attorney general’s investigation came the same day as Trump ally Rudy Giuliani and other members of the legal team that had sought to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election were subpoenaed by a House committee investigating the U.S. Capitol insurrection.