At the heart of the Trump Organization probe in New York is the accusation that the president grossly inflated assets to banks and on loan documents in an effort to inflate his wealth.
According to supplemental information for the petition filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James, "other testimony and documents have been withheld under assertions of privilege, including assertions on behalf of Mr. Trump himself: for instance, Sheri Dillon, a respondent in OAG’s motion that began this proceeding, was Mr. Trump’s personal tax counsel."
A company called Cushman & Wakefield, Inc. did appraisals of the Trump property, Seven Springs, which is the massive mansion in Westchester County, New York. Trump bought it along with 213 acres in 1995 for $7.5 million, which was $2.25 million under the list price, the Associated Press reported in March 2021.
"In July 2014, the law firm Vinson & Elkins LLP (by an attorney, Sheri Dillon), had engaged Cushman to 'provide consulting services related to an analysis of the estimated value of a potential conservation easement on all or part of the Seven Springs Estate,'" the court documents continue. "Ex. 339 at C&W_0016742. Vinson & Elkins acted 'in its capacity as legal counsel for Seven Springs, LLC, the owner of the Seven Springs Estate.'"
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According to the filings, there were emails and phone calls between a senior and junior appraiser, but it was requested that nothing be put into writing. So, while the junior appraiser was working on an email, she never sent it, instead leaving it in her drafts, which was then discovered by investigators.
"The Cushman appraisers acceded to Ms. Dillon’s request. As Mr. Barnes, the senior appraiser, wrote to the junior appraiser, 'Bedford conversations with engineer, broker, or attorney should be phone calls, not email whenever possible. You and I can email no problem,'" she said according to exhibits. "The junior appraiser chafed under this instruction, writing to a Morgan Lewis associate who insisted on a phone call to discuss 'factual changes' that, 'If it is indeed just a few factual changes, wouldn’t it be easier to just write them down and I can take care of it over the weekend? I understand the reluctance to put anything in writing, but since it’s something factual, it would not be seen as anything controversial or influencing us one way or the other.' As she explained in an email that she drafted—but never sent—to the senior appraiser, 'I am only resistant to this because it seems like they are hiding something and want to push me to ask about stuff that you were reluctant to change . . . .'"
The main case is examining the ways Seven Springs was used after several failed attempts to redevelop it. In an attempt to cut the taxes, Trump gave an easement of the property to a conservation land trust to protect 158 acres of meadows and forest. He scored a $21 million tax cut for it.
"The amount was based on a professional appraisal that valued the full Seven Springs property at $56.5 million as of Dec. 1, 2015," said the AP. But the local government assessors valued the entire estate at just $20 million. At the same time, Trump said on his personal financial disclosure form that the property was worth between $25 million and $50 million," the AP investigation found.
So, if the easement was intentionally inflated the question becomes, who did it and was it to benefit Trump and by how much.
NYAG is coming for Trump organization and Trump family https://ag.ny.gov/sites/default/files/supplemental-verified-petition-2022-01-18.pdf\u00a0\u2026pic.twitter.com/wd3BpLx9QM— Bennett Tomlin (@Bennett Tomlin) 1642570794
At another point in the court documents it recalled, "Ms. Dillon and Mr. Curry had a conference call with Mr. Trump to discuss the valuation of the lots. On the call, Mr. Trump claimed that the 16 lots should be valued higher than previously sold lots in the Trump Golf LA project because they were in a 'more prestigious' zip code and could thus command a 'zip code’ premium.' Mr. Curry asked Ms. Dillon to confirm whether the lots were in a different zip code. Trump Organization in-house counsel concluded they were not." The documents provided the statement from the counsel.
The case is already causing a stir Wednesday morning as Eric Trump was found to have spent a six-hour deposition pleading the Fifth over 500 times.
You can read the full paperwork here.
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