• Thu. Dec 1st, 2022

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New York AG Targets Real Estate Firm That Helped Trump – The Daily Beast

New York’s attorney general is seeking additional evidence from real estate company Cushman & Wakefield for its alleged role in helping former President Donald Trump inflate property values.

On Friday, Attorney General Letitia James asked a state judge to enforce two subpoenas for evidence her investigators have not yet received from the company. The documents they seek are part of her office’s probe against the Trump Organization, which allegedly faked business records to engage in bank fraud and tax fraud.

Investigators want to scrutinize the relationship between the Trump Organization and Cushman & Wakefield to see if the real estate firm was actively or just tacitly involved in an alleged scheme to fiddle with property values. The AG’s office also wants to explore how the real estate company appraised other developments versus howTrump projects were handled.

Specifically, the attorney general’s lawyers are examining Cushman & Wakefield’s role in the valuations and financing of Trump’s neo-Gothic skyscraper at 40 Wall Street in Manhattan, as well as his forested Bruce-Wayne-like Seven Springs estate north of the city, and the Pacific Ocean waterfront Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles.

According to a court filing on Friday, the real estate company complied with two subpoenas for information back in 2019. But the firm has not turned over evidence after getting a subpoena in September last year—or one it received this past February.

Cushman & Wakefield’s willingness to play ball on suspicious valuations for those properties was featured in the AG’s stunning court filing in January, when it described “significant evidence” of fraud.

For example, documents obtained by investigators show that a team of appraisers at Cushman & Wakefield assessed the Trump Organization’s share of the Wall Street tower at $200 million in 2010, then bumped it up to $220 million in 2012. When the Trump Organization tried to rework its bank loan with Capital One on more favorable terms by claiming that the value of its stake doubled just three years later to $550 million in 2015, Capital One refused to make a deal. But according to investigators, the Trump Organization’s then-chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg simply turned to his son, Jack Weisselberg, a director at the financial firm Ladder Capital. Ladder soon used thesame team at Cushman & Wakefield, according to investigators.

Material gathered by the AG’s office also shows that Trump’s second son, Eric, hired the real estate firm in June 2015 to appraise the Seven Springs estate. The firm determined that the property was worth $56.5 million shortly before Trump gave away development rights on a huge chunk of that land. The move allowed Trump to take a $21 million tax break.

“The [Office of the Attorney General] has identified evidence that the March 2016 appraisal itself relied on questionable assumptions indicating misrepresentations and significant omissions—such that even the $56.5 million valuation in that appraisal was improperly inflated,” New York government lawyers wrote in court papers in January.

Neither Cushman & Wakefield nor its attorneys immediately responded to a request for comment.

The real estate company cut ties with the Trump Organization in the days after the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection, just as Trump was facing impeachment for directing a MAGA crowd to march on the U.S. Capitol building.

The AG’s filing on Friday is part of the office’s broader attempt to force companies and people to turn over additional evidence in what could be the final stages of its years-long investigation. Just a day earlier, James’ attorneys asked the judge to force Trump himself to shell out $10,000 a day as a penalty for refusing to hand over certain documents.

New York State Judge Arthur F. Engoron has already indicated that he will consider those penalties at a court hearing later this month.

The Trump Organization and its former CFO, Weisselberg, have already been indicted for tax fraud in a parallel criminal investigation being run by the Manhattan District Attorney. However, that investigation is losing key prosecutors and appears to be unraveling.