Manhattan DA probes Trump Organization for valuation of properties

Manhattan DA is investigating the Trump Organization-owned 40 Wall Street for changing its valuation from $527 million to just $16.7 million a few months later

  • Investigators are reportedly probing swings in valuations of properties owned by the Trump Organization 
  • In 2012 it valued 40 Wall Street at $527 million, according to the Washington Post, but months later said it was worth only $16.7 million
  • The scrutiny follows the indictment this summer of the company and its chief financial officer on charges of running a scheme to evade taxes
  • The Trump Organization and Allen Weisselberg deny any wrongdoing 
  • And the company said it amounted to a ‘political witch hunt’ 

The Manhattan district attorney is investigating how the Trump Organization gave widely differing valuations for a number of its properties, it emerged on Monday.

Prosecutors appear to be examining whether the company broke the law by giving low values in tax assessments, while using high ones to generate tax breaks or bolster loan applications, according to the Washington Post. 

In particular they are looking at 40 Wall Street, which in June 2012 was described by the Trump Organization as worth $527 million in a list of assets – making it among the most valuable in New York.

But months later the company told tax officials it was worth only $16.7 million, according to city records. 

The scrutiny follows the indictment this summer of the company and its chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, who have been charged with a scheme to evade taxes. 

Weisselberg and the company deny wrongdoing and are contesting the charges.

The company says the investigation is a witch hunt and a waste of resources while New York is coping with surging crime.  

In recent weeks, it was reported that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance has convened a new special grand jury to hear evidence against the company.

In recent weeks, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance (r) convened a new special grand jury to continue hearing evidence against former President Donald Trump’s company

The Trump Building at 40 Wall Street, Manhattan, was valued at $527 million and $16.7 million within months, according to the Washington Post.

The 72-story 40 Wall Street was among Trump’s proudest acquisitions when he signed the lease in 1995. He has given conflicting accounts of how much it cost him 

Along with New York Attorney General Letitia James, it has been investigating whether Trump valued his holdings one way when seeking loans and a different way when preparing taxes – allegations raised by Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen in congressional testimony.

‘It was my experience that Mr. Trump inflated his total assets when it served his purposes, such as trying to be listed amongst the wealthiest people in Forbes, and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes,’ Cohen said in 2019.  

The New York Times also reported last month that Westchester District Attorney Mimi Rocah had launched a probe into whether the Trump Organization misled officials to secure tax cuts for a golf course. 

Among other properties reportedly under investigation are the former president’s California golf club – allegedly valued at $900,000 or $25 million depending on the audience – and an estate in suburban New York, valued at $56 million through to $291 million, according to the Washington Post. 

‘This is way, way beyond anything that’s believable,’ Norm Miller, professor of real estate finance at the University of San Diego, told the newspaper. ‘I’ve never seen anything with a gap that extreme.’ 

However, proving a crime has been committed will more involve more than simply showing the valuations were incorrect.

In 2019, Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen claimed Trump inflated his assets when he wanted to make the Forbes rich list but deflated them to reduce tax liabilities. On Monday he was released from home confinement after serving a three-year sentence for tax evasion and campaign finance violations

A spokesperson for the Trump Organization said the investigation was a political witch hunt. 

‘New York is being overrun by violence, children are being been shot in Times Square, homelessness is through the roof yet the only focus of the New York DA and AG is to “get” Trump,’ said the spokesperson.

‘This nonsense has been going on for four years.

‘Similar to the Russia scam, millions of taxpayer dollars have and continue to be wasted, all while New York burns. These investigators made it a campaign promise to get Trump – it is disgusting and a travesty to our legal system.’

The 72-story skyscraper at 40 Wall Street was among Trump’s proudest acquisitions, but Reuters last month reported that problem that pre-dated the pandemic were getting worse.

After the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, tenants began exploring whether they could abandon their leases.

And occupancy was 84% in March 2021, well below the average of about 89% for that downtown New York office market, according to Mike Brotschol, managing director of KBRA Analytics LLC. 

The rents Trump has been able to charge are lower, too – between $38 and $42 per square foot in a market where the average runs closer to $50, he said.

The property’s financials have tumbled into risky territory, the reports say.

Trump took out a $160 million loan in 2015 to refinance 40 Wall Street – personally guaranteeing $26 million. Last year, the building was placed on an industry watchlist for commercial mortgage-backed securities at risk of defaulting, according to reports by KBRA and Trepp, which also monitors real-estate loans.

Who’s who in New York criminal probes into Trump: His longtime CFO, the ‘quiet money man’ and two Democrat AGs

New York state has opened a criminal investigation into former US president Donald Trump (pictured November 2020)

A Democratic prosecutor nearing the end of his term, a loyal lieutenant of the Trump family and a lawyer determined to sink his former boss: AFP details some of the players in New York’s criminal probe into Donald Trump.

Cyrus Vance

The 67-year-old Democrat has been Manhattan District Attorney since 2010. He was the first to launch a criminal investigation into the Republican ex-president.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance (pictured May 2020) has doggedly pursued Donald Trump, winning a years-long battle to obtain his tax records and deploying significant human and financial resources to the politically sensitive investigation

Vance, whose father was US Secretary of State under President Jimmy Carter, has sometimes been accused of a reluctance to prosecute the rich and powerful.

He delayed filing charges against disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein before securing a landmark conviction last year.

Vance has doggedly pursued Trump, though, first by winning a years-long battle to obtain his tax records and secondly by deploying significant human and financial resources to the politically sensitive investigation.

He has announced that he will not run for a fourth term when his current one expires in December, and many observers expect him to go out with a bang by filing what would be the first indictment against a former US president.

Letitia James

The Democrat became the first Black woman to become New York state attorney general in 2018.

Since then, the 63-year-old has forged a reputation as a combative and independent prosecutor, filing countless civil actions against large companies, particularly tech giants, and the National Rifle Association (NRA).

In addition to Donald Trump, Letitia James (pictured August 2020) is also investigating New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, over sexual harassment allegations and his response to the coronavirus pandemic

When Trump was in the White House, James launched dozens of civil actions against his government.

She is also investigating New York’s powerful Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, over sexual harassment allegations and his response to the coronavirus pandemic.

James has been cited as a possible successor to Cuomo.

Allen Weisselberg: Trump Organization CFO

The 73-year-old is the Trump Organization’s long-serving chief financial officer and one of the family’s most loyal servants.

He began as an accountant for Trump’s father’s company before joining the Trump Organization as financial controller in the 1980s when Donald established himself as a Manhattan real estate mogul.

Allen Weisselberg, pictured standing behind former president Donald Trump and his son Donald Jr. in January 2017, has served as the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization since the 1980s

Weisselberg has been around for all of Trump’s entrepreneurial adventures, including when his Atlantic City casinos went bust.

According to Barbara Res, a former executive vice president at the Trump Organization, Weisselberg ‘thought Trump was a god,’ she told the Daily News.

Investigators believe Weisselberg knows all of the Trump family secrets and have been putting pressure on him for months to cooperate with their investigation.

Observers are closely watching whether Weisselberg will turn against his former boss. 

Jennifer Weisselberg: Ex-daughter in law of Allen Weisselberg

Earlier this year, investigators from the Manhattan District Attorney’s office were seen carrying boxes of documents and laptops from Weisselberg’s Manhattan apartment. 

She was married ton Allen Weisselberg’s son Barry from 2004 to 2018.

In an interview with in June, she said the former president is a ‘sweet’ and ‘generous’ man who helped pay for her children’s private schooling out of kindness and good-will, rather than to dodge taxes. 

If there was any unlawful activity within the Trump Organization it would be thanks to her former in-laws who still work for the company, she told in an exclusive interview.

Up until 2018, the mother-of-two was married to Barry Weisselberg, who manages Trump’s Central Park ice rinks, and her father-in-law was Allen Weisselberg, who became the chief financial officer when Trump became president.  

‘Allen orchestrated the finances, and Donald is just sort of naïve,’ Jennifer said.

‘It’s provable that his trusted CFO is putting [Trump] and his children in a bad legal position.’ 

 She is also set to testify to the grand jury.

Earlier this year, investigators from the Manhattan District Attorney’s office were seen carrying boxes of documents and laptops from Weisselberg’s Manhattan apartment. She was married ton Allen Weisselberg’s son Barry (right) from 2004 to 2018

Jeff McConney: Trump Organization Senior Vice President

McConney was known as the man in the Trump Organization who would hand over key documents to Trump and CFO Allen Weisselberg before meetings and would be responsible for cutting checks for big payments.

He was the first high-profile member of Trump’s business empire known to have testified in front of the New York Grand Jury deciding whether to indict Trump.

Trump’s fixer Michael Cohen told The Daily Beast:  ‘Think of The Trump Organization as a small, one-teller bank.

‘Donald [Trump] would be the president. Allen [Weisselberg] would be the branch manager. Jeff [McConney] would be the teller. Every single transaction was booked through McConney. 

Concerns for prosecutors is that McConney is seen as a Trump loyalist and, as The Daily Beast reported, someone who hates left-wing politics. 

Michael Cohen

Trump’s ex-personal lawyer was sentenced to three years in prison in 2018 for tax evasion and violating campaign finance laws relating to Trump’s 2016 vote win.

Cohen was one of Trump’s closest henchmen for a decade, once proudly boasting that he was prepared to ‘take a bullet’ for the real estate mogul-turned-president.

Michael Cohen, pictured March 2021, openly rejoices in former boss Donald Trump’s legal troubles on Twitter and through his podcast

He turned against his former boss, though, deciding to collaborate with federal investigators in Manhattan.

During a Congressional hearing in February 2019, Cohen alleged — among other things — that Trump regularly undervalued or overvalued his assets, both with banks and insurance companies.

Cohen openly rejoices in Trump’s legal troubles on Twitter and through his podcast ‘Mea Culpa.’

Source: AFP

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