“There may have been two or three [allegations] which I was not aware of, but I was for the rest of it,” he told CNN in an interview after the lawsuit was uncovered, adding that the allegations contributed to the “complete destruction” of the image of Trump as an expert businessman.
Trump reportedly overestimated the value his name added to Trump National Golf Club, Jupiter in Florida, on so-called financial disclosure statements submitted to banks and tax authorities. The statements said there was no brand bonus, but nevertheless claimed that his image increased property values by 30% in 2013 and 2014, and 15% from 2015 to 2020, according to James.
Trump also claimed his own triplex apartment in Trump Tower as 30,000 square feet when it was actually a hair under 11,000, resulting in a 2015 valuation of $327 million in total or 29 $738 per square foot, according to the attorney general.
In a statement, Trump’s attorney Alina Habba repeated the former president’s claim that the case is politically motivated.
“Today’s brief is neither fact- or law-driven — rather, it is solely focused on advancing the attorney general’s policy agenda,” Habba said. “It is abundantly clear that the Attorney General’s Office has exceeded its statutory authority by interfering in transactions where absolutely no wrongdoing has taken place. We are confident that our legal system will not tolerate this unchecked abuse of power, and we look forward to defending our client against each of the Attorney General’s baseless claims.
For those who knew Trump when he was a player in the real estate world in New York decades ago, however, the sprawling fraud alleged in the lawsuit came as no surprise.
“The guy is completely untrustworthy. Everyone knew you couldn’t take their word for it. That’s why he hasn’t built anything for years,” a top real estate executive, who spoke only on condition of anonymity, said in an interview.
The person said it was common knowledge among developers that Trump easily engaged in shady business practices and described much of his real estate portfolio as a marketing and branding scheme.
“He’s a master of hyperbole and has been exaggerating his role and importance for decades,” said another developer who would speak only on condition of anonymity.
If successful, James’ lawsuit would bar Trump from all commercial real estate transactions for five years, which could spell the end of what remains of his real estate empire.
The AG says Trump priced his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida at $739 million – when it was actually worth a tenth – based on the “false premise” that he could be used for residential purposes, even if he had signed deeds excluding this possibility.
The lawsuit also details how Trump allegedly obtained a loan in 2015 from Ladder Capital Finance based on allegedly inflated valuations of real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield of 40 Wall Street, an office tower in Lower Manhattan for which the Trump Organization owns. a land lease. Cushman, who declined to comment for the article, valued it at $540 million through a series of “unreasonable adjustments”, James alleged.
But Trump nonetheless claimed the property was worth $735.4 million on a financial statement submitted in support of the 2015 loan application, according to the AG’s office. Three years earlier he reportedly valued the property at $527 million, despite a bank-ordered appraisal it was worth just $220 million, James says.
At Trump Tower, the 58-story skyscraper on Fifth Avenue that also houses the headquarters of the Trump Organization, the company said it consulted “outside professionals” to arrive at valuations in annual financial statements between 2011 and 2019. But the suit says there is ‘no evidence’ such a third-party valuation took place and alleges the company carried out a ‘coordinated series of actions’ to artificially inflate the estimated price. of the building.
James says Trump further misrepresented his net worth by repeatedly counting funds he did not control, such as money held by Vornado Partnership Interests, in which he had a minority stake.
Trump’s tax returns also failed to mention his 50% stake in a joint venture in a Las Vegas hotel-condo tower, James alleged. In 2015, his organization submitted an appraisal of nearly $25 million for the Trump International Hotel and Tower to challenge the taxes Nevada was charging it. Yet that same year, his company reported the property was worth $107 million — “a value the Trump Organization achieved using fraudulent methods,” according to legal papers James released.
At several Trump Organization golf courses — from Briarcliff Manor, New York, to Colts Neck, New Jersey, to Mooresville, North Carolina — the company has inflated the value of unsold memberships to further boost valuations.
“The fraud scheme used by Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization was staggering,” James said at a press conference announcing his highly anticipated trial.
Olivia Olander contributed to this report.