NEW YORK — New York Attorney General Letitia James is conducting a broad inquiry into the Trump Organization’s financial dealings that includes an investigation into whether President Donald Trump and his son Eric Trump improperly inflated the value of a 230-acre family retreat in Westchester County, court filings revealed Monday.
Papers filed in Manhattan Supreme Court indicate James’ office has not yet determined whether Trump, his family or company broke any laws. The civil investigation centers on allegations Trump’s company committed fraud by attempting to minimize real estate taxes, including on his Seven Springs property in Bedford.
The Trump Organization received a $21.1 million tax deduction on the property with a 50,000-square-foot mansion in 2015. Eric Trump is president of the corporate entity that owns Seven Springs and was “intimately involved” in efforts to develop the site, according to the attorney general’s office.
The attorney general opened the probe in March 2019 following Michael Cohen’s testimony to Congress, filings state. Other Trump properties including 40 Wall St., Trump International Hotel and Tower Chicago and the Trump National Golf Club in Los Angeles are part of the investigation, according to papers. The attorney general’s office said it sought court intervention after months of stonewalling by Eric Trump and the company.
“(The Office of Attorney General) is currently investigating whether the Trump Organization and Donald J. Trump (Mr. Trump) improperly inflated the value of Mr. Trump’s assets on annual financial statements in order to secure loans and obtain economic and tax benefits. One particular focus of this inquiry, as relevant here, is whether the Trump Organization and its agents improperly inflated, or caused to be improperly inflated, the value of the Seven Springs Estate,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew Colangelo wrote.
Trump purchased the Seven Springs estate in 1995 for $7.5 million and attempted to develop it as a golf course and residential development. When those efforts failed, he scored a tax break by pledging not to build on nearly 75% of the property. The Seven Springs mansion boasts 60 rooms, 15 bedrooms, and two servant wings. The Trump Organization’s website describes it as a family retreat, though Trump has preferred visiting Mar-a-Lago in Florida and his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, during his presidency.
“This is simply a discovery dispute over documents and the like. As the motion papers clearly state, the NYAG has made no determination that anything was improper or that any action is forthcoming. We will respond to this motion as appropriate,” Trump Organization attorney Alan Garten said.
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance is locked in a separate legal battle with Trump over the president’s personal tax returns in connection with an investigation of hush-money payments made to women during the 2016 presidential campaign.
James is asking a judge to force Eric Trump and the company to comply with seven subpoenas. The attorney general named Eric Trump because he has refused to testify under oath, she said. The suit also names Trump attorneys who James says are making overly broad claims of attorney-client privilege.
“Nothing will stop us from following the facts and the law, wherever they may lead. For months, the Trump Organization has made baseless claims in an effort to shield evidence from a lawful investigation into its financial dealings,” James said in a press release. “They have stalled, withheld documents, and instructed witnesses, including Eric Trump, to refuse to answer questions under oath. That’s why we’ve filed a motion to compel the Trump Organization to comply with our office’s lawful subpoenas for documents and testimony. These questions will be answered and the truth will be uncovered, because no one is above the law.”
Cohen told Congress that Trump routinely inflated his value when seeking loans or trying to secure a spot on the Forbes lists of the richest people. Meanwhile, Trump minimized his worth to avoid real estate taxes, according to Cohen.
Details of the attorney general’s investigation were filed under seal.
“(The Office of Attorney General) has kept this investigation confidential to avoid prejudice to the investigation and to avoid undue reputational harm to witnesses and the subjects of the investigation,” Assistant Attorney General Austin Thompson wrote.
“OAG has obtained information in this investigation from numerous individuals and entities whose identities it has sought to keep confidential. Premature public disclosure of their identities or the evidence they have provided could impair OAG’s ability to seek further testimony and documents from those and other witnesses and entities.”
The filing came on the first day of the Republican National Convention.
James forced Trump to dissolve his Trump Foundation charity last year after the attorney general alleged he illegally used it as an arm of his political campaign.