The office of New York attorney general Letitia James this week filed its most detailed allegations in its investigation into whether Donald Trump’s family business has inflated property values for financial gain.
Investigators said in the court papers filed late Tuesday they have “uncovered significant evidence” that suggests the company used “fraudulent or misleading asset valuations” to lenders, insurers and the IRS to secure favorable loans, tax benefits and insurance coverage.
The filing said investigators haven’t decided whether or not to bring a lawsuit over the evidence, but James asked the court to compel Donald J. Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., and Ivanka Trump to testify.
Six of Trump’s properties were named in the documents as cases of the company’s fraudulent valuations: the Seven Springs estate, Trump Tower triplex, Park Avenue building, 40 Wall Street skyscraper and golf courses in Westchester and Scotland.
James’ office alleged when Trump looked to refinance 40 Wall Street in 2015, his statement of financial condition estimated a $735 million valuation of the property, but one lender valued it at only $257 million.
In 2014, Trump valued his golf club in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, at $435 million. James claimed the valuation was inflated by Trump Organization’s assumption it could build 2,500 luxury homes there, despite that it was only approved to build fewer than 1,500 “holiday apartments.”
Investigators also accused the Trump Organization of inflating the size of Trump’s penthouse residence in Trump Tower by nearly triple, from 10,996 square feet to 30,000 square feet. The alleged inflation led to a $327 million valuation of the apartment, which longtime Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg told investigators was a $200 million inflation, “give or take.”
A spokesperson for the Trump Organization hit back at the filing in a statement dismissing the allegations as “baseless” and promising the accusations would “be vigorously defended.”
“The only one misleading the public is Letitia James,” the spokesperson said in part. “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.”
A lawsuit filed in federal court last month on behalf of Trump and his family business aimed to end the civil inquiry and her involvement in a similar criminal investigation.
Trump Organization Executive Vice President Eric Trump responded by doubling down on the company’s allegation that James is motivated by a political bias.
In a tweet, Trump called the investigation “window dressing for your abuse of office and ethical misconduct (which we are prosecuting you for),” adding that the probe is a “PR move to revive a political career after your gubernatorial disaster.”
[NYT] — Holden Walter-Warner