Prosecutors in New York investigating Donald Trump and the Trump Organization reportedly have a new focus: the firm’s wide-ranging property valuations.
The Manhattan district attorney and New York attorney general are among those investigating massive disparities in property valuations, the Washington Post reported. According to public records and people familiar with the probes, at least four properties are reportedly being eyed by prosecutors, including three in New York.
New York Attorney General Letitia James is considering filing a lawsuit, according to the Post. Meanwhile, the Manhattan DA’s office has convened a grand jury, which could weigh criminal charges.
One of the most noticeable disparities came at 40 Wall Street, a Financial District office building. In 2012, the Trump Organization provided a valuation of $527 million to potential lenders. Months later, it told property tax officials it was valued at only $16.7 million, the Post reported.
Trump’s golf club in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, has marked valuations varying from $900,000 to $25 million, while those of his Seven Springs estate varied from $56 million to $291 million. Trump’s golf course in Briarcliff Manor also had reported valuations ranging from $1.4 million to more than $50 million.
All of the valuations came years before Trump was elected president in 2016.
As of last month, Westchester County District Attorney Mimi Rocah was leading a criminal investigation into the local Trump National golf club. Rocah appears to be looking at possible property value manipulation at the course, subpoenaing records from the course and Ossining, which is responsible for the club’s property taxes.
In July, longtime Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg was indicted on charges of felony tax fraud; Trump himself was not accused of wrongdoing in that case.
“This is way, way beyond anything that’s believable,” University of San Diego professor of real estate finance Norm Miller told the Post. “I’ve never seen anything with a gap that extreme.”
Still, prosecutors would need to show intent in order to prove a crime, as real estate valuations are highly subjective. It is a felony in New York to falsify business records or file false documents with the government.
[WaPo] — Holden Walter-Warner