A judge has ruled that the Trump Organization must turn over documents regarding a Westchester County mansion to the New York attorney general, who is conducting a probe into whether the company inflated asset valuations to obtain tax benefits.
On Tuesday, Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron reversed his previous ruling that communications with an engineer working on the Seven Springs estate were privileged.
‘By Dec. 18, 2020 the Trump Org. must produce all communications with [engineer] Ralph Mastromonaco to the New York Attorney General’s office,’ Engoron ruled, according to Law & Crime.
Seven Springs is one of four Trump Organization properties under investigation by New York Attorney General Letitia James, who is probing whether Eric Trump and various corporate entities artificially inflated property values.
After Donald Trump was elected president in November 2016, he announced that he would not be involved in day-to-day operations of the Trump Organization but would leave the responsibilities to his adult sons, Eric and Donald Trump Jr (with him in 2014)
Seven Springs is one of four Trump Organization properties under investigation by New York Attorney General Letitia James (above)
The other three properties are the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago; the Trump National Golf Club in Los Angeles; and the 40 Wall Street building in Manhattan.
James began investigating potential fraud in Donald Trump’s business dealings in March 2019 after the president’s longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen told Congress that Trump had repeatedly inflated the value of his assets to obtain more favorable terms for loans and insurance coverage.
Tuesday’s ruling forces the Trump Organization to hand over reams of documents related to Mastromonaco, who was retained to develop the Seven Springs estate after the group purchased the estate in 1995 for $7.5 million.
The Trump Organization in 2015 agreed to establish a ‘conservation easement’ on the property to provide a habitat for rare salamanders and bats, assessing the value of that feature at $21.1 million the next year.
A 2011 Trump financial document values the property at $261 million, but local agents estimated the property would trade for around $50 million or less, according to the Wall Street Journal.
After Donald Trump was elected president in November 2016, he announced that he would not be involved in day-to-day operations of the Trump Organization but would leave the responsibilities to his adult sons, Eric and Donald Trump Jr.
A 2011 Trump financial document values the Seven Springs property at $261 million, but local agents estimated the property would trade for around $50 million or less
The mansion itself was built in 1919 by Eugene Meyer, who was publisher of the Washington Post and a chairman of the Federal Reserve
Eric Trump was deposed in October as part of the ongoing civil probe into whether the value of Trump Organization assets were inflated to gain tax benefits.
The inquiry is a civil investigation, which could result in financial penalties but not jail time.
Trump has accused James and New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo, both Democrats, of ‘harassing all of my New York businesses in search of anything at all they can find to make me look as bad as possible.’
The investigation is just one of multiple potential civil and criminal legal issues that Trump will face once he leaves office, all made more threatening because he will lose the legal protections afforded a sitting president.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance has been conducting a criminal investigation of Trump and the family company, the Trump Organization.
The probe originally focused on hush-money payments made before the 2016 election to two women who said they had sexual encounters with Trump, which the president has denied.
Eric Trump, pictured, participated in a deposition remotely in October as part of an ongoing investigation in New York state into the Trump Organizations financial dealings
The Seven Springs mansion has 60 rooms, 15 bedrooms, and two servants wings
But Vance, a Democrat, suggested in recent court filings the probe had broadened and could now focus on bank, tax and insurance fraud, as well as falsification of business records. Trump has called the case politically motivated harassment.
Trump also faces separate defamation lawsuits related to alleged sexual assaults, both of which he denied, brought by two women – E. Jean Carroll, a former Elle magazine writer, and Summer Zervos, a 2005 contestant on ‘The Apprentice.’
Mary Trump, the president’s niece, also has filed a lawsuit accusing him and two family members of fraud and conspiracy to deprive her of her share of the family’s real-estate empire.
Trump also could face a criminal prosecution brought by the U.S. Justice Department for federal income-tax evasion charges. The New York Times recently reported Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes in both 2016 and 2017.
Trump rejected the Times’ findings and it is not clear if he violated the law. Any federal prosecution would be contentious; Joe Biden has been cautious on the issue and questioned the value of such a prosecution, but says he would not interfere with the Justice Department’s judgment.