The Real Deal New York

A look at the DOJ’s real estate deals

By E.B. Solomont and Will Parker | March 23, 2018 07:30AM

From the March issue: For years, law enforcement has used “asset forfeiture” to punish criminals and compensate their victims. In the years following Sept. 11, forfeitures skyrocketed as prosecutors sought legal remedies to keep terrorism financing out of the United States.

In some of the best-known forfeiture cases, the government liquidated the assets of Ponzi mastermind Bernie Madoff, “kleptocrat” Taiwanese president Chen Shui-bian and hip-hop producer (turned cocaine trafficker) James Rosemond.

See related: Will the feds bungle billions?

With the Park Lane — valued around $1 billion — the stakes are infinitely higher, and the 47-story hotel is just one of two massive properties in the government’s crosshairs. This past July, a federal jury decided that the U.S. government can seize 650 Fifth Avenue, which sits in a prime Midtown location at the edge of Rockefeller Center on 52nd Street.

Prosecutors are also seeking forfeiture of tens of millions of dollars of residential real estate owned by Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager. An indictment against Manafort in connection with the current Russia investigation cites several properties in New York and Florida, including a condo at Trump Tower in Manhattan, a brownstone in Park Slope in Brooklyn and homes in Bridgehampton and Palm Beach Gardens.

But the Department of Justice has had a spotty record when it comes to real estate — including bungled sales and mismanaged properties. And these latest cases are raising questions about whether it’s out of its league.

Here’s a look at the DOJ’s real estate dealings by the numbers: