Donald Trump’s real estate empire has engaged in a “staggering” level of fraud and deceptive business practices for more than a decade, during which the former president and his associates “grossly and fraudulently” inflated the value of his properties to obtain tax, loan and insurance incentives while increasing his financial ambitions, according to New York State Attorney Letitia James.
The 222-page civil suit alleges that Trump inflated his net worth to “defraud the banks and people of the great state of New York,” Ms. James told reporters on Sept. 21.
She described the multiple “statements of financial condition” prepared by his former accounting firm for nearly all of Mr Trump’s holdings as “exaggerated, grossly inflated, objectively false and therefore fraudulent and illegal”.
The suit follows a three-year civil investigation into at least 23 of his properties and assets, from his Mar-a-Lago resort home in Florida to his namesake tower in Manhattan and a golf course in Scotland.
Ms. James’ office found that at least 11 of Trump’s annual financial statements included more than 200 false and misleading property valuations.
“The number of grossly inflated property values is staggering, affecting most if not all properties in any given year,” the lawsuit states.
The attorney general is seeking to permanently bar Mr. Trump, as well as his children, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump, from being in any office at any New York firm, and to bar Mr. Trump and his firm from entering into any business with real estate in the state for five years, and to forfeit a quarter of a billion dollars allegedly ill-gotten through his “persistent” fraud.
These are the properties and assets that the attorney general’s office alleges were central to a fraudulent scheme orchestrated by Mr. Trump and his business allies.
Trump Park Avenue
The assets were assessed in Mr. Trump’s financial statements with values ranging from $90.9 million to $350 million from 2011 to 2021, according to the attorney general’s office.
“The reported values of the unsold condo units in the Trump Park Avenue building were significantly higher than the internal estimates used by the Trump Organization for business planning and did not take into account the fact that many of the units are rent-stabilized,” Ms. James’ office said.
In July 2020, the Trump Organization received an appraisal that valued the property at $84.5 million. But the 2020 financial statement valued the property at $135.8 million.
Estimates for Trump’s namesake tower relied on “extraordinary” data and inflated figures that did not match internal safeguards, according to Ms James’ office. In 2015, using the second formula, the property was valued at $170 million more than the previous year’s value, and nearly $250 million more than the next year’s value, and $75 million more than the value obtained in any other year using the formula previously was used.
Three-room apartment in Trump Tower
The former president’s personal triplex apartment in Manhattan is estimated at 30,000 square meters, but is less than 11,000 square feet, according to the attorney general’s office.
In 2015, the apartment was valued at an “absurd” price of $327 million, making it worth $29,738 per square foot, according to Ms. James’ office.
“In the 30-year-old Trump Tower, the record sale at the time was just $16.5 million at less than $4,500 per square foot,” her office said.
40 Wall Street
According to Ms. James’ office, the property was appraised by the bank at $220 million in 2012, “yet in a statement that year and the following year … 40 Wall Street was appraised at $527 million and $530 million — more than double the value they calculated independent, professional appraisers.”
Seven Springs, Westchester County, New York
Mr. Trump bought the 212-acre property in 1995 for $7.5 million, but it has been valued at $291 million over the past decade on claims the property is zoned for nine villas that could sell for more than $161 million. “fiction, completely unsupported” by development history, according to Ms. James’ office.
Niketown, New York
On “multiple occasions” from 2011 to 2019, Mr Trump provided “false and misleading representations” of property values, while valuations from 2013 to 2018 (except 2015) omitted “key variables” including rental costs.
“When rising projected rent costs were factored into Niketown’s 2020 and 2021 valuation, despite increased revenue assumptions, the property’s reported value dropped from the mid-$400 million range to the $225 million to $250 million range,” it said. in Mrs. James’s office.
Trump International Hotel and Tower, Las Vegas, Nevada
Before 2013, financial statements omitted Mr. Trump’s 50 percent stake in the property “because, for tax purposes, Mr. Trump claimed the property had no value,” according to Ms. Jama’s office. Meanwhile, Mr. Trump “repeatedly submitted lower property valuations to the Nevada IRS and higher property valuations on his tax returns.”
Mr. Trump had a minority stake in the business, but his financial statements often included cash held by the entity. “In some years, these restricted funds accounted for nearly one-third of all money reported by Mr. Trump,” according to Ms. James’ office.
The former president’s property in Florida was valued at as much as $739 million, but “in reality, the club generated less than $25 million in annual revenue and should have been valued closer to $75 million.”
Trump’s golf clubs
Ms. James’ office lists several schemes often used to allegedly inflate the value of Trump’s golf clubs.
It allegedly did not list each club, but instead “presented their value as one aggregate item,” according to the lawsuit.
At Trump National Golf Club Westchester in Briarcliff Manor, New York, property valuations depended on expected revenue from inflated membership figures, according to the lawsuit. In 2011, it depended on new members paying nearly $200,000, though most never do. Mr. Trump also “specifically directed” employees to “reduce or eliminate” initiation fees to increase membership, according to Ms. James’ office.
Other schemes allegedly inflated the value of the former president’s clubs in North Carolina, New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia and Virginia, according to the lawsuit.
Mr. Trump bought his Trump National Golf Club Jupiter in Jupiter, Florida, for $5 million, but the property was valued at $62 million less a year later, in 2013 — a 1,100 percent increase, according to the suit.
The Trump Organization “falsely inflated the value” of Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles “by inflating the value of a significant number of potential lots for sale in the areas surrounding the golf course and, beginning in 2013 through 2020, applying an undisclosed 30 percent inflated brand premium golf clubs,” according to Ms. James’ office.
The premium scheme reportedly inflated the value of the golf club by nearly $50 million in a 2013 statement.
The Trump Organization also donated 16 parcels, valued at $25 million that was achieved through “tactics that fraudulently manipulated the appraisal, including ignoring a report prepared by an engineer to estimate the cost of developing the parcel” and disregarding nearly $1 million in bond savings which the company avoided because it did not have to develop affordable housing units there.
Trump International Golf Links Scotland (Aberdeen)
The golf course was valued at $327 million in 2014, based on the Trump Organization’s claim that 2,500 homes could be built on the property, even though the company only received zoning approval to build fewer than 1,500 units, according to the lawsuit. The units proposed by the Trump Organization accounted for 80 percent of the company’s total value.
Trump International Golf Links Scotland (Turnberry)
The course has operated at a loss since opening in 2017, after being purchased in 2014 for $60 million with values between $123 million and $126.8 million in subsequent years, according to the lawsuit, which alleges the Trump Organization relied on “ false and misleading” valuation and should have been valued at a much lower amount.
Trump International Hotel & Tower, Chicago
The property has not been included in Mr. Trump’s financial statements since 2009 because “according to the affidavit, Mr. Trump did not want to take a position that would contradict his assertion to the IRS that the property had become worthless and thus formed the basis of a substantial loss under the federal tax law.”
But in 2012, Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization received a $107 million loan for the building from Deutsche Bank. The loan was increased by $45 million in 2014, and “Mr. Trump’s alleged net worth of $4 billion shown in his statement was used to personally guarantee the initial loan” at a lower, more favorable interest rate, according to Ms. James’ office.
Trump National Doral, Miami, Florida
The loan agreement required for the property obtained through Deutsche Bank required Mr. Trump to “certify the truth and accuracy” of his statements as a condition of the loan.
Trump’s old post office, Washington DC
The Trump Organization took out a $170 million loan from Deutsche Bank to turn the property into a luxury hotel, then sold the property for $375 million in 2022 — resulting in “more than $100 million in net proceeds, resulting from the loan that could have obtained by using his false and misleading statements,” the state attorney’s office said.