By: Scott Sutton , Michelle Quesada
PALM BEACH, Fla. — Two of Donald Trump's properties in Palm Beach County were named in a new 222-page lawsuit against the former president, his organization and his three eldest children.
The lawsuit alleges that Trump inflated his net worth by billions of dollars, lying about the value of multiple properties including golf courses, hotels and his homes at Mar-a-Lago and Trump Tower.
New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, dubbed it: "The art of the steal."
"The complaint demonstrates that Donald Trump falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself, to cheat the system, thereby cheating all of us," James said on Wednesday during a press conference.
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Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate on Palm Beach is named 53 times in the complaint, while his golf club in Jupiter was named 11 times.
The lawsuit said Mar-a-Lago was valued as high as $739 million, which was "based on the false premise that it was unrestricted property and could be developed and sold for residential use, even though Mr. Trump himself signed deeds donating his residential development rights and sharply restricting changes to the property."
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James said Mar-a-Lago generated annual revenues of less than $25 million and should have been valued at closer to $75 million.
The suit said that the property was too expensive to be used and preserved as a private residence and needed to be converted to a club and preserved "at the expense of a limited group of members, most of whom will be Palm Beach residents."
"Despite restricting the property's usage to club usage, and securing lower property tax valuations based on that restricted usage, the Trump Organization on Mr. Trump's Statements did not value Mar-a-Lago as the operating business it was restricted to be — a social club — based on its financial performance," according to the complaint.
Mar-a-Lago was purchased by Trump in 1985 and has had several restrictions since its designation as a National Historic Landmark in 1980. It opened as a private club in 1994.
"Mr. Trump's Statements of Financial Condition from 2011 through 2021 purport to value Mar-a-Lago as if it were an unrestricted home to be "sold to an individual," rather than the heavily encumbered historical landmark restricted to club usage that it was," the lawsuit said. "This premise, repeated in the valuations year after year from 2011 through 2021, is false and misleading in light of the legal restrictions of which the Trump Organization and Mr. Trump himself were aware — binding the property owner to continued club usage, and to undertake expensive preservation efforts, absent approval of the National Trust for Historic Preservation overriding such obligations."
James alleged that Trump used the property's private club designation and deeds with the National Trust for tax deductions, but she also claims he overinflated the value of the property almost 10-fold to increase his personal net worth to attract favorable loan agreements.
In addition, the lawsuit said that the Trump Organization inflated Mar-a-Lago's reported value by falsely reducing the acreage of properties compared to Mar-a-Lago.
"Reducing the acreage of the properties it compared to Mar-a-Lago drove the price-per-acre variable higher, and thus the reported value of Mar-a-Lago higher," according to the lawsuit.
The 2016 Mar-a-Lago valuation relied upon a price-per-acre figure that was 120% greater than the prior year's figure, James claimed. The suit said this was partially based on a purportedly "comparable" property that the Trump Organization described as selling for $49.9 million on 1.61 acres.
"The Trump Organization similarly falsified the price-per-acreage figure used for the 2019 and 2020 valuations involving a property at 1295 S. Ocean Boulevard that was part of a transaction involving 4.7178 acres of oceanfront and lakefront land that sold for a total of $104.99 million (approximately $22 million per acre)," the lawsuit said. "Despite Mar-a-Lago consisting of lakefront, interior, and some oceanfront land, the Trump Organization segmented the more valuable 2.61-acre oceanfront component of that $104.99 million sale to generate an inflated $30 million price-per-acre figure."
The lawsuit said Trump and his organization "cherrypicked sales" to use as "comparables" from available data.
In addition, the suit claimed that the Trump Organization also added tens of millions of dollars worth of club-related construction and other club-related property to the Mar-a-Lago value.
The Palm Beach County property appraiser said she has not been contacted by the New York attorney general's office. The property values for Mar-a-Lago alleged in Wednesday's lawsuit were privately appraised.
The former president posted on his social media platform, Truth Social, that James should direct her attention to fighting violent crime in New York, calling her a "failed A.G."
The Trump Organization released the following statement regarding the lawsuit:
"Today's filing represents the culmination of nearly three years of persistent, targeted, unethical political harassment by the New York State Attorney General, Letitia James.
While the job of the Attorney General is to protect the interests of the public, today's filing, for the first time in the history of the Attorney General's office, seeks to protect the interests of large, sophisticated Wall Street banks.See AlsoFuneral Services | Obituaries Pearl River | Williams Funeral HomeSamsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G | 三星電子 香港Baby’s Digestive System – When and How it DevelopsTop 10 Free and Open Source Document Management Systems
However, not only was no bank harmed—actually, they profited handsomely — to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars in interest and fees — and never once took issue with any of the loans in question – all of which are either current or have been paid off (in many cases early).
All the while New York continues to decline, with rising violent crime rates the likes of which have not been seen in decades. In New York City alone, overall crime is up by an alarming 30% from last year – highlighted by a 40.6% increase in grand larceny, a 37.2% increase in robbery and a 25.6% rise in burglary.
Despite this disturbing trend, Attorney General James has decidedly put her own political ambitions ahead of the safety of New Yorkers, by choosing to undermine her oath and turn a blind eye to her ethical obligations by making the primary focus of her tenure as attorney general going after President Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization.
What an abhorrent abuse of power, waste of valuable resources and tens of millions of taxpayer dollars. As we all know, today's filing has nothing to with the facts or the law.
Instead, it is about politics, pure and simple. Indeed, targeting Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization is exactly what Attorney General James said she would do while running for office. Promising to "definitely sue him" and be "a real pain in the ass," she recklessly exclaimed that "the days of Donald Trump are coming to an end."
Of course, at the time she made these and other statements, Letitia James had not even been elected, had no knowledge of the facts and had not a shred of evidence to support her contentions.
Three years later, with election day less than 50 days away, Attorney General James, who is down in the polls, is at it again — filing this lawsuit at the eleventh hour in a desperate attempt to pander to voters.
An attorney general is supposed to be fair, impartial and unbiased — not weaponize their office to pursue a political vendetta or target their political opponents.
Today's filing by Attorney General James sets a dangerous precedent — not just in New York, but for our entire nation. The good people of New York should be disgusted."
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