Palm Beach broker testimony defends Trump’s Mar-a-Lago valuation
Lawrence Moens insisted the property value was $1.2 billion
Palm Beach broker Lawrence Moens soaked in the spotlight on Tuesday, testifying at Donald Trump’s civil fraud trial in New York.
Moens and his thoughts on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property took center stage this week as the former president’s case rolled on, Bloomberg reported. Trump’s legal team called upon Moens to defend the valuation of the Palm Beach resort, which New York Attorney General Letitia James alleged fell into a pattern of Trump inflating property values to defraud investors.
Moens’ valuations of the property have jumped over time. At one point earlier this year, Moens claimed Mar-a-Lago was worth $1.5 billion. Then, in a deposition this summer, he claimed the value was between $750 million and $1 billion, largely validating Trump’s own valuation. On Tuesday, he moved the notch up by a couple hundred million dollars, stating the property could be worth as much as $1.2 billion when considering membership fees.
The judge’s ruling before the trial says otherwise. Judge Arthur Engoron ruled that Trump inflated the value of Mar-a-Lago by as much as 2,300 percent. While Trump valued the property between $429 million and $1.5 billion in financial condition statements, a Palm Beach tax assessor put it between $18 million and $37 million.
Moens supported his valuation by saying “kings [and] emperors” would pay a 10-figure price for the property, name-dropping Elon Musk and Bill Gates as qualified buyers. He even invited James down to Florida to check it out for herself.
The testimony Moens provided in the deposition and on the stand has important caveats, though. First, Moens is a long-time member of Mar-a-Lago and sold a property to the former president in the past. On the stand, his relationship with Trump came into full view when he compared the former president to “dreamers” like Thomas Jefferson or Martin Luther King Jr.
Moreover, the judge already determined Moens’ valuation suspect because Mar-a-Lago can only be used as a private club. Prosecutors said Moens was relying on a “fantasy list” of potential buyers. The judge almost blocked Moens’ testimony because of the brokers’ “unsubstantiated” claims.
The end of Trump’s trial may be coming into focus. The former president is expected to take the stand again next week. Ivanka, Donald Jr. and Eric testified during the six-week prosecution.
James accused the Trumps of manipulating statements obtained by bankers and insurers working with the Trump Organization. The Trumps can be fined up to $250 million in the bench trial, as well as lose the ability to conduct business in New York.
— Holden Walter-Warner