Trump probe investigating whether he lied about value of upstate New York estate to score tax breaks
A large Georgian mansion in New York has become part of the probe into former President Donald Trump and the finances of his family.
According to an Associated Press report, both the criminal probe by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. and the civil investigation by New York Attorney General Letitia James will look into whether Trump raised the value of the property to score tax perks.
"Both investigations focus on whether Trump manipulated the property's value to reap greater tax benefits from an environmental conservation arrangement he made at the end of 2015, while running for president," said the AP.
Trump bought the property, known as Seven Springs, in 1995 for $7.5 million. As he was leaving office in 2021, judges granted subpoenas for finances from Trump that would cover the property.
While reports of Trump's scandals tend to focus more on payoffs for his affairs or attempts to overthrow an election on a call with Georgia officials, he's also facing some white-collar investigations.
"In 2006, while pushing a plan to build luxury homes on the property, Trump floated the idea that he and his family were going to move into the mansion, but that never happened," the AP recalled.
Trump wanted to turn it into a championship golf course for exclusive clients with high membership fees. He abandoned the idea when residents of the community complained that lawn chemicals would go into Byram Lake, which locals use as a water source.
Trump then tried to turn the property into 46 high-end single-family homes in 2004. "Super-high-end," Trump described at the time. "The likes of which has never been seen on the East Coast."
That never happened either.
In 2009, Trump famously bragged that he "made a lot of money" by renting the property to Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi to use it while he was in New York for a United Nations visit. "Local officials halted work on the tent and Gaddafi never stayed there," the report explained.
The next plan Trump had was to try and keep the property while cutting the taxes. He gave an easement to a conservation land trust to protect 158 acres of meadows and forest. He scored a $21 million tax cut for it.
"The amount was based on a professional appraisal that valued the full Seven Springs property at $56.5 million as of Dec. 1, 2015," said the AP. But the local government assessors valued the entire estate at just $20 million. At the same time, Trump said on his personal financial disclosure form that the property was worth between $25 million and $50 million.
"If the value of the easement was improperly inflated, who obtained the benefit from that improper inflation and in what amounts?" said Michael Colangelo, who serves as a lawyer for the attorney general's office. "It goes without saying that the attorney general needs to see the records that would reflect the value of that deduction, as it flowed up to intermediate entities, and ultimately to Mr. Trump, personally."
Attorney General James has also subpoenaed zoning and planning records for the property from 2019 and the AP reported that a town clerk said Vance was given "boxes and boxes of documents" in response to his subpoenas.
Trump called the investigations a "Witch Hunt."
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