Trump’s company used ‘fraudulent or misleading’ appraisals to secure loans and tax benefits, New York AG says

NEW YORK — The New York Attorney General’s office told a court on Tuesday evening that its investigators had uncovered evidence that former President Donald Trump’s company used “fraudulent or misleading” asset valuations to obtain loans and tax benefits.

The court filing says state authorities have yet to decide whether to take legal action in connection with the allegations, but investigators are to interview Trump and his two eldest children as part of the investigation. .

Trump and his lawyers say the investigation is politically motivated.

In court papers, Attorney General Letitia James’ office gave its most detailed account to date of a long-running investigation into allegations that Trump’s company overstated the value of assets to secure bailout terms. favorable loan, or distorted what the land was worth to reduce its tax burden. .

The Trump Organization, she said, had overstated the value of land donations made in New York and California on documents submitted to the IRS to justify several million dollars in tax deductions.

The company misreported the size of Trump’s Manhattan penthouse, saying it was nearly three times its actual size – a difference in value of about $200 million, James’ office said, citing testimony from testimony from longtime Trump finance chief Allen Weisselberg, who was indicted last year. tax fraud as part of a parallel criminal investigation.

James’ office detailed its findings in a lawsuit seeking to force Trump, his daughter Ivanka Trump and son Donald Trump Jr. to comply with subpoenas demanding their testimony.

Investigators, according to court documents, had “developed significant additional evidence indicating that the Trump Organization used fraudulent or deceptive asset appraisals to obtain a multitude of economic benefits, including loans, insurance coverage and tax deductions.

Messages seeking comment were left for the Trumps’ lawyers.

Trump’s legal team sought to block the subpoenas, calling them an “unprecedented and unconstitutional move.” They say James is wrongfully trying to obtain testimony that could be used in the parallel criminal investigation, overseen by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

Trump sued James in federal court last month, seeking to end his investigation. In the lawsuit, his lawyers claimed the attorney general, a Democrat, violated the Republican’s constitutional rights in a “thinly veiled effort to publicly slander Trump and his associates.”

In the past, the Republican ex-president has denounced the James investigation and the Bragg investigation as part of a “witch hunt”.

In a statement on Tuesday evening, James’ office said it had not decided whether or not to pursue legal action, but said the evidence gathered so far shows the investigation should continue without hindrance.

“For more than two years, the Trump Organization has used delay tactics and litigation to try to thwart a legitimate investigation into its financial dealings,” James said. “So far in our investigation, we have uncovered significant evidence to suggest that Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization falsely and fraudulently valued multiple assets and misrepresented those values ​​to financial institutions for economic gain.”

Although James’ civil investigation is separate from the criminal investigation, his office has been involved in both, sending several attorneys to work side-by-side with prosecutors from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

James’ office said under state law it could seek “a wide range of remedies” against companies found guilty of commercial fraud, “including revocation of a license to conduct business.” in the state, the removal of an officer or director from the board of directors. administrators, as well as restitution and disgorgement of ill-gotten gains.

In court documents, James’ office said evidence shows that Trump’s company:

–Listed his Seven Springs estate in upstate New York as worth $291 million, based on the dubious assumption that he could rake in $161 million by building nine luxury homes.

— Added a 15% to 30% “brand premium” to the value of some properties because they bore Trump’s name, despite financial statements explicitly stating that they did not incorporate the value of the Brand.

— Inflated the value of a suburban New York golf club by millions of dollars by counting membership fees that weren’t sold or never paid.

— Valued a Park Avenue condominium tower at $350 million, based on the proceeds it could make from unsold units, even though many of those apartments were likely to sell for less because they were covered by the rent stabilization laws.

– Estimated an apartment rented to Ivanka Trump at $25 million, although she had the option of buying it for $8.5 million.

– Said in documents that his stake in an office building, 40 Wall Street, was worth between $525 million and $602 million, between two and three times the estimate made by appraisers working for lender Capital One.

A judge has already sided with James in an earlier request to question another son of Trump, Trump Organization executive Eric Trump, who eventually sat for a deposition but declined to answer some questions .

Last year, the Manhattan District Attorney filed tax evasion charges against the Trump Organization and Weisselberg, its longtime chief financial officer.

Weisselberg pleaded not guilty to charges alleging he and the company evaded taxes on lucrative employee benefits paid to executives.

Both investigations are at least partly related to allegations made in news reports and by Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, that Trump had a habit of misrepresenting the value of assets.

The revelations about the attorney general’s investigation came the same day that Trump ally Rudy Giuliani and other members of the legal team who had sought to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election were assigned to to appear by a House committee investigating the U.S. Capitol insurrection.

By Michael R. Sisak

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