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Monday, December 09, 2019

Tag: allen weisselberg

New York Attorney General Sues Trump, Adult Children For Massive Fraud

By Karen Freifeld, Jonathan Stempel and Luc Cohen

NEW YORK (Reuters) -- Donald Trump and his adult children were sued for "numerous acts of fraud and misrepresentation" on Wednesday by New York state's attorney general in a civil investigation into the former U.S. president's business practices, court records showed.

The lawsuit, filed in a New York state court in Manhattan, accused the Trump Organization of wrongdoing in preparing Trump's annual statements of financial condition from 2011 to 2021. It also named the Trump Organization, the former president's son Donald Trump Jr,. and his daughter Ivanka Trump as defendants.

Attorney General Letitia James said Trump and the Trump Organization misstated the values of its real estate properties to obtain favorable loans and tax benefits. She said she was referring allegations of criminal wrongdoing to federal prosecutors in Manhattan and the Internal Revenue Service.

"With the help of his children and senior executives at the Trump Organization, Donald Trump falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself and cheat the system," James said in a statement.

The lawsuit marks one of the biggest legal blows for Trump since he left office in January 2021. Trump is considering running again for president in 2024.

James told reporters she is seeking to have the defendants give up all the benefits he obtained from fraud, estimated at $250 million. The lawsuit also seeks to bar Trump and his children from running companies in New York, and to bar the Trump Organization from engaging in real estate transactions. James has been conducting a civil investigation into Trump's business practices for more than three years.

The Republican former president has denied any wrongdoing and described James' probe as a politically motivated witch hunt. James is a Democrat. The Trump Organization has called James' allegations "baseless."

Wednesday's lawsuit followed a contentious investigation in which James accused Trump, his company, and some family members of using delay tactics to ignore subpoenas and avoid testifying.

Trump on August 10 declined to answer questions in a lengthy, closed-door deposition at the office of the attorney general, invoking his constitutional right against self-incrimination more than 400 times.

Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump agreed to sit for depositions only after court decisions required it.

Another of Trump's children, Eric Trump, invoked the right against self-incrimination more than 500 times in a 2020 deposition.

Trump has been beset with legal troubles since leaving the White House.

The FBI conducted a search of his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida on Aug. 8 as part of a criminal investigation into his handling of presidential records including classified material.

Trump also faces a criminal investigation in Georgia over his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.

He has denied wrongdoing in the various probes.

James' civil probe is separate from a criminal tax fraud probe against the Trump Organization by Manhattan's district attorney, Alvin Bragg.

The company is scheduled to stand trial in October, accused of paying off-the-books benefits to employees. Its former longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, has pleaded guilty and will testify against the company.

James is assisting Bragg in his criminal probe.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel, Karen Freifeld and Luc Cohen in New York; editing by Will Dunham and Alistair Bell)

Weisselberg Will Testify Against Trump Companies in Reported Plea Deal

Allen Weisselberg, the ex-Trump Organization CFO who has worked for the former president’s family since 1970, is expected to plead guilty to 15 felonies and “criminally implicate” the real estate empire.

“The Trump Organization’s longtime chief financial officer will admit to conspiring with the Trump Organization and Trump Payroll Corporation in a 15-year tax fraud scheme while head of the company’s finances at a Manhattan Supreme Court hearing on Thursday,” the Daily News reports. “Allen Weisselberg is expected to criminally implicate Trump’s family real estate business when he pleads guilty to criminal tax fraud charges, a source familiar with the matter told The News on Wednesday.”


Weisselberg is also expected to agree to testify against the Trump companies, and agree to a five-month sentence at Rikers Island, the horrific New York City jail that is slated to be shut down by 2026.

Rolling Stone adds that Weiselberg “will say in Manhattan court Thursday that he conspired with several of the ex-president’s companies when he pleads guilty to state tax crimes.”

The New York Times calls the impending plea deal “a serious blow to the company that could imperil its chances in an upcoming trial.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

New York Attorney General Aims To Depose Trump On January 7 In Civil Probe

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

New York Attorney General Letitia James is reportedly angling to depose Donald Trump on Jan. 7 in relation to her office's ongoing civil probe of whether the Trump Organization committed financial fraud, according to The Washington Post.

No one close to the matter was willing to go on record about it—not Trump’s spokespeople, not Trump's attorney, and not James' office—which makes her intentions seem all the more real.

James, who on Thursday unexpectedly dropped out of New York's gubernatorial race, had pledged to target Trump in her bid last year to become the state's top law enforcement officer. Both she and the Manhattan district attorney have been investigating whether Trump's family business illegally manipulated property values to both garner lower taxes and secure favorable financial loans.

Though the attorney general's probe has been civil in nature, her office has also contributed information to the district attorney’s criminal investigation. The New York Times reports that, because the attorney general’s civil investigation is running parallel to the Manhattan district attorney’s criminal probe, Trump could reject a subpoena to sit for the civil deposition on the grounds that it might incriminate him in the criminal case.

“Even if a judge sided with Ms. James, Mr. Trump could invoke his Fifth Amendment right and decline to respond to questions,” writes the Times.

James is weighing whether to sue the Trump Organization and her request for a deposition with Trump suggests she has reached a critical point in the investigation. Last fall, her office successfully forced Trump's son Eric to sit for a deposition after he initially refused to comply. Trump himself also recently sat for a four-and-a-half hour deposition in a totally different matter related to a group of protesters who sued him for alleged assault by his security guards in 2015. As the Post notes, Trump was also deposed numerous times before taking office in relation to civil suits filed against him and/or his company.

New York prosecutors are particularly interested in the Trump Organization's wildly inconsistent valuations of two properties: 1) a California golf club that the business variously valued at $900,000 and $25 million; 2) and a suburban New York property that Trump alternately said was worth $56 million and $291 million, according to the Post.

The Trump Organization and its CEO, Allen Weisselberg, have already been charged with tax fraud in the joint probe by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance and James. That trial could take place next year in the several months preceding the 2022 midterms.

In James' surprise announcement stepping back from the gubernatorial race, she indicated she would run for reelection as attorney general.

“I have come to the conclusion that I must continue my work as attorney general,” James tweeted. "There are a number of important investigations and cases that are underway, and I intend to finish the job.”

New Manhattan Grand Jury Convened To Expand Trump Probe

By Karen Freifeld

NEW YORK (Reuters) -The Manhattan district attorney has convened another grand jury to weigh possible new charges in a case involving the Trump Organization, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters on Thursday.

The second grand jury was expected to examine how former President Donald Trump's company valued its assets, the Washington Post reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.

The legal woes could complicate the company's relationships with banks, and could pose a challenge to Trump's political future as he considers running for another term in 2024. Trump has called the charges politically motivated.

The criminal case stems from a probe by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance in collaboration with New York State Attorney General Letitia James.

An indictment unsealed in July charged the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, with tax fraud arising from a probe into Trump's business and its practices.

That indictment said the company provided perks and benefits such as rent-free apartments and leased cars to Weisselberg and other officials without proper reporting on tax returns.

Both Weisselberg and the company pleaded not guilty. A Republican, Trump himself has not been charged.

The new grand jury was seated after the first grand jury's term expired, said the person familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

A spokesman for the Manhattan District Attorney's office declined to comment.

A lawyer for the Trump Organization did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Mary Mulligan, a lawyer for Weisselberg, declined to comment.

Trump's company operates hotels, golf courses, and resorts around the world. Before entering the White House in January 2017, Trump put it into a trust overseen by his adult sons Donald Jr. and Eric, as well as Weisselberg. The current status of the trust was not immediately clear.

Besides Weisselberg, another Trump Organization executive who has come under a glare is chief operating officer Matthew Calamari.

Calamari's lawyer Nicholas Gravante has not yet been informed whether his client will be charged or subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury, another person familiar with the probe told Reuters on Thursday.

Calamari's son, Matthew Calamari Jr., testified before a grand jury in September in connection with the case and has immunity from possible prosecution, said the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Seven Springs Estate

James' probe was initially civil in nature, but in May her office said it was also investigating the Trump Organization in a criminal capacity and had joined forces with Vance.

While it was not immediately clear what the second grand jury was focusing on, James' civil probe has been examining how the Trump organization assessed the value of Seven Springs, a 212-acre estate in New York City's northern suburbs, and in particular a 2015 agreement not to develop a portion of the property.

The attorney general's office said in a court filing for the probe that an appraiser hired by Trump before the agreement set the property's value at $56.6 million and the easement's value at $21.1 million - the amount Trump claimed as an income tax deduction.

James has said she is also investigating a Los Angeles golf club owned by the Trump Organization, which gave the company a tax deduction for a conservation easement in 2014, as well as buildings the company owns on Wall Street and in Chicago.

She said she opened that investigation after Trump's former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, said that Trump's financial statements were manipulated to obtain better loans or reduce real estate taxes.

Vance, a Democrat, will step down at the end of the year. James, also a Democrat, has said she will run for governor of New York in 2022.

(Reporting by Karen Freifeld; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Noeleen Walder, Alistair Bell and Aurora Ellis)

New Probe Is Focused On Financing Of Trump’s Scottish Golf Resorts

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Lawyers affiliated with a global activism organization are intensifying their push for a "McMafia" legal order against former President Donald Trump.

Under that order, Trump would be required to disclose financial origin of his "all-cash purchases and development of his two Scottish golf resorts," HuffPost reports.

Citing the Trump Organization's legal and financial woes with prosecutors in New York, the lawyers argue that their concerns about the Aberdeenshire and Ayrshire properties have merit.

Last week, Kay Springham, a lawyer for the American-based nonprofit Avaaz, laid out his arguments during a virtual hearing with Scotland's highest civil court.

"It's evident from the matters set out in the petition that there are real and substantial concerns about financial arrangements of the Trump Organization, of which Mr. Trump is the sole or principal owner," Springham argued.

Springham also referenced the charges against Allen Weisselberg, former chief financial officer for the Trump Organization. Prosecutors allege Weisselberg was part of "a 15-year tax scheme to defraud the city, state and federal government by concealing the salaries of top company executives."

In fact, Weisselberg is even accused of hiding certain details about more than $1.7 million of his own income.

Springham is now seeking an extension outside of his three-month deadline to prepare a full case for the court, as he noted that the Scottish Parliament voted against a previous motion that would have required Trump to disclose the sources of his cash.

HuffPost reports Judge Lord Sandison said "that as far as the issues raised by the petition were concerned, they passed the test set out by the law, so he was convinced "there is enough to have a sensible argument."

Political Spending At Trump Properties Plunges Sharply

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica

The number of federal political committees that have spent money in the first half of 2021 at Trump Organization properties has dropped dramatically from the same period two years ago, Federal Election Commission filings show. Those continuing to spend: a smaller circle of loyal supporters of former President Donald Trump and candidates jockeying for his favor in contested Republican primaries.

During the first six months of 2021, 27 federal committees have reported spending $348,000 at Trump Organization properties, with the Republican National Committee accounting for more than half the total. That's a steep decline from the 177 committees that did so during the 2019-2020 election cycle or the 78 committees that spent more than $1.6 million at Mar-a-Lago, the Trump International Hotel in Washington and other company sites in the first half of 2019, filings show.

Of course, that spending came in the run-up to a presidential election in which Trump was the incumbent. The biggest spenders in 2019 were the RNC and Trump's own political committees raising money to support his campaign.

While the RNC is the top spender so far in 2021, many of the other PACs that used Trump properties as venues for fundraising events and other activities appear to have stopped their spending. The National Republican Congressional Committee, the fundraising arm of House Republicans, has not reported spending any money at Trump properties through May of this year after spending $32,532 during the previous election cycle. (National party committees will file reports covering activity in June on July 20, which may show some spending at Trump's facilities.)

Those that have spent money at Trump properties this year represent some of the former president's most fervent loyalists, including Reps. Mo Brooks of Alabama, who is running for an open Senate seat, and Ronny Jackson of Texas, who previously was the White House physician. Overall, 13 of the 23 committees spending this year are connected to current members of the House or Senate.

"Republican candidates are in a delicate moment, I think, because of uncertainty surrounding Trump's future power," said Abby Wood, a professor of law, political science and public policy at the University of Southern California, in an email. "Trump's power in the next election is much less certain than it was from the vantage point of folks spending money (and enriching him) at his properties in 2019."

The drop in political spending comes at a precarious time for the Trump Organization, which in early July was hit with 10 felony charges brought by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., as well as additional charges against Allen Weisselberg, the organization's chief financial officer. Both Weisselberg and the company have pleaded not guilty to the charges, but the impact of the investigation and the fallout of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol appear to have damaged the company's business prospects. The Washington Post described the company as at its "lowest point in decades."

The other spenders include congressional candidates advertising their ties to Trump, such as Lynda Blanchard, who is one of Brooks' opponents for the GOP nomination in the Alabama Senate race, and Josh Mandel, who's running for an open Senate seat in Ohio. Brooks, Blanchard and Mandel have each paid to use Mar-a-Lago, Trump's property in Palm Beach, Florida, while Jackson paid for an event at the Trump hotel in Washington.

"It is my intention to do fundraisers at Mar-a-Lago as often as I can, so long as they help generate positive cash flow for my Senate campaign for America First policies," Brooks said in a statement. "I personally thank President Trump for allowing me to use Mar-a-Lago and hope he will continue to be so generous in the future."

The campaigns of Blanchard, Jackson, and Mandel, along with the RNC and the Trump Organization, did not respond to requests for comment. The RNC has spent more money for events at other locations this year, including $529,000 for a donor event at the Four Seasons Resort in Palm Beach in April.

Mar-a-Lago, a private club that also doubles as the former president's residence, has been the leading recipient of federal political committee spending among Trump properties, bringing in at least $283,000 this year, much of it for hosting an RNC donor retreat in May. In addition to getting the venue and Florida weather, politicians holding events at the club stand a good chance of having Trump make an appearance.

The Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., and the BLT Prime restaurant located there, have seen a significant drop-off in political spending compared to the first half of 2019. Two years ago, the D.C. hotel and restaurant brought in more than $518,000, according to FEC records. This year, without Trump in the White House nearby, the total is less than $15,000.

"Given Trump is no longer president and there is less need to curry favor with him, congressional incumbents and party committees may choose less expensive venues," said Paul Herrnson, a political science professor at the University of Connecticut.