Manhattan prosecutors advance investigation into Trump’s Seven Springs property


Manhattan prosecutors are stepping up their investigation into Donald Trump’s dealings, targeting a Westchester County, New York estate that the former president tried unsuccessfully to develop, according to people familiar with the matter.

In recent weeks, according to people, the Manhattan district attorney’s office has issued new subpoenas and requested recordings of local government meetings related to the Trump Organization’s failed attempt to create a luxury subdivision in Seven Springs, a property of 213 acres that the former president purchased for $ 7.5 million in 1995.

Trump has valued the property at up to $ 291 million in financial statements that the New York attorney general’s office, which is also investigating Seven Springs, said was turned over to financial institutions. Inflating assets to help secure loans or other financial benefits can be a state crime, legal experts said.

The Seven Springs scrutiny is part of a broader criminal investigation into Trump, his company and his officials that also includes financial deals on properties like Trump’s flagship tower in Manhattan, The Wall Street Journal previously reported. Outside of New York, prosecutors are also examining a loan for the Trump International Hotel and Tower Chicago, said people familiar with the matter, which CNN previously reported.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance has said in court documents that it is investigating possible tax, insurance and banking fraud. Investigators now have Trump’s tax returns and other financial records after an 18-month court fight, allowing prosecutors to compare Trump’s return with the lenders to his returns to tax authorities.

In recent weeks, prosecutors sent subpoenas to land use attorney Charles Martabano and engineer Ralph Mastromonaco, both of whom were involved in planning the Trump Organization’s proposal for Seven Springs, the people said.

Mastromonaco confirmed that he had received a subpoena and said he had turned over materials to the district attorney’s office, including communications with others involved in the project.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance


Photo:

Peter Foley / Bloomberg News

The district attorney’s office also requested recordings of the planning board meetings in Bedford, New York, one of three cities where the Seven Springs property is located, people familiar with the matter said. Messrs. Mastromonaco and Martabano appeared before the meeting with Trump’s son, Eric Trump, in 2012 and 2013, according to the minutes of the meeting.

Attorneys for Trump and the Trump Organization did not respond to requests for comment. Last month, after the US Supreme Court denied Trump’s efforts to prevent Vance, a Democrat, from obtaining his tax returns, Trump, in a written statement, called the investigation a “continuation of the biggest hunt of political witches in the history of our Country ”.

Prosecutors’ interest in the local planning process could be related to the property’s valuation and whether it was incorrectly inflated in financial documents, lawyers said. Trump valued the property at $ 291 million in 2012, according to what he called his “financial statement,” a collection of financial information compiled but not audited by his accountants. Trump valued the property between $ 25 million and $ 50 million in financial disclosure documents filed when he was president.

Local tax appraisal lists list the property’s market value at approximately $ 19 million.

The new subpoenas add to the picture of what is known about Mr. Vance’s investigation. Prosecutors have sent subpoenas to some of Trump’s lenders and to a long-time insurance broker.

The district attorney’s office hired Mark Pomerantz, a former federal prosecutor now licensed by Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, to work on the investigation, according to people familiar with the matter. A Vance spokesman said Pomerantz was sworn in last month as a special assistant district attorney.

The office has also hired FTI Consulting Inc.

to do forensic accounting work on the case, people familiar with the matter said. An FTI spokesperson declined to comment.

Manhattan prosecutors’ interest in Seven Springs dates back to at least December, when they sent a different batch of subpoenas to the three cities, the Journal reported. The subpoenas asked Bedford, North Castle and New Castle officials to provide information on tax assessments, city communications and planning board minutes, local officials said.

Villages have since turned over the materials, local officials said.

The information requested by prosecutors focuses on a year-long effort to obtain the necessary local approvals to build a luxury home subdivision after Trump’s original plan to build a golf course in Seven Springs fell through earlier in the year. 2000s. The subdivision effort dates back to at least 2004 and continued through 2013, according to planning and zoning board documents.

By 2015, the Trump Organization had scrapped development plans, opting instead to place 158 acres of land in a conservation easement, or land that an owner agreed not to develop.

The final appraisal, sent to Trump in 2016, values ​​the property at $ 56.5 million and the portion of the conservation easement at $ 21.1 million. Seven Springs LLC, which is part of the Trump Organization, claimed a $ 21.1 million tax deduction for the easement in tax year 2015, an attorney for the attorney general’s office said in court.

New York Attorney General Letitia James, who opened a civil fraud investigation against Trump and his company in 2019, has said her office is investigating the conservation easement at Seven Springs. The Trump Organization has branded the investigation of Ms. James, a Democrat, on political grounds.

Write to Corinne Ramey at [email protected]

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