Trump and his companies are accused in a 221-page civil complaint filed Wednesday of engaging in a years-long scheme to enrich themselves by inflating the values of properties spread across their international real estate empire.
The complaint alleges more than 200 instances of falsified asset valuations against the company, which it described as “intentionally false estimates and blatantly inappropriate methods with the intent and purpose of obtaining favorable financial terms for transactions with Mr. Trump and the insurers.”
“The number of grossly inflated property values is staggering, affecting most if not all real estate holdings in any given year,” New York State Attorney General Letitia James’ office wrote in its complaint. James said the valuations helped boost Trump’s net worth by “billions of dollars.”
What were some “grossly inflated asset values”?
The state claimed that Trump’s own triplex apartment in Manhattan was worth 30,000 square feet based on the claim. But it’s actually 10,996 square feet. The former president reported in his 2015 and 2016 financial statements that the Trump Tower apartment is worth $327 million, based on its 30,000 square feet. Trump Organization CFO Allen Weiselberg admitted to state attorneys general that the price had been inflated to $200 million, “give or take.”
The New York attorney general’s office also questioned the valuation of the former president’s Florida home, Mar-a-Lago. It was valued at $739 million, the state said in its lawsuit, saying the property was unrestricted and could be developed for residential use. However, Trump signed the agreement “giving away his residential development rights, severely restricting changes to the property and limiting the permissible use of the property to a social club.”
The state’s lawsuit notes that Trump entered into an agreement with Palm Beach that states, “that ‘[t]He said the use of the land would be for a private social club’ and ‘[t]he land, as herein described, shall be deemed to be one (1) parcel and no part thereof shall be sold, transferred, devised or assigned except in its entirety, voluntarily or involuntarily, by operation of law or otherwise.'”
Further, according to the attorney general’s office, the golf club’s revenue was under $25 million annually, and the state claims Mar-a-Lago’s true valuation was about 10 times lower, “closer to $75 million.”
The state also claims that the Trump Organization said a dozen rent-stabilized apartments on Trump Park Avenue, also in Manhattan, were listed in corporate documents as worth more than $49.5 million. In fact, the suit says, they were assessed a combined $750,000.
Why are Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump named in the lawsuit?
The complaint alleges that Trump’s three children were “aware of, responsible for, and used” the fraudulent statements of financial condition to benefit the company. It claims they oversaw many of the deals at the heart of the case.
How much compensation (also known as disgorgement) is New York seeking?
James’ office is asking the New York state treasury for $250 million. The complaint describes that figure as an estimate of the company’s benefits from the alleged project.
New York wants to impose any other punishment on Trump and his company?
James’ office is asking a judge to revoke the Trump Organization’s business certificate, effectively barring it from doing business in New York.
His office is seeking to permanently bar Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump from serving as officers or directors of any New York business, including their family companies.
The state is also requesting a five-year ban on Trump and company acquiring real estate in New York or applying for loans from any New York-based company.
Can companies re-incorporate outside of New York?
Asked about it at a news conference Wednesday, James replied that doing so would not affect his office’s case, while New York was the center of the companies’ operations.
“Mr. Trump, the Trump Organization and his family still have to deal with these allegations. They have to respond,” James said. “They have to answer the charges there. If he decides to go to Florida, the reality is, he still has to deal with the great state of New York.”
Can Trump or others go to jail for this?
No, at least not directly from Wednesday’s action. James’ office filed a lawsuit seeking only civil penalties. However, he said in his press conference that the investigation uncovered “criminal conduct,” which his office was referring to federal law enforcement in the Southern District of New York and the Internal Revenue Service.
Trump has responded?
On his social media site, Trump called James a “failed” attorney general and accused him of running a business from New York. “Bye bye,” he wrote.
Alina Habba, one of Donald Trump’s attorneys, said in a statement to CBS News that “today’s filing does not focus on the facts or the law — rather, it focuses solely on advancing the attorney general’s political agenda.”
“It is abundantly clear that the attorney general’s office exceeded its statutory authority by conducting transactions where there was absolutely no wrongdoing,” Habba said. “We are confident that our justice system will not stand for this unchecked abuse of authority, and we look forward to defending our clients against each of the Attorney General’s meritless claims.”
Trump Jr Tweet, “Letitia James doesn’t care about the law. She’s a Dem activist who only cares about politics.” “This is all politics, nothing more,” he added.