Sunday, February 18, 2024

Why New York judge concluded that Trump's valuation of Mar-a-Lago was 'fraudulent'. (Antonio Fins, Palm Beach Post, February 16, 2024)

Judge Arthur Engoron's law and logic are irrefragable.  Real estate developer DONALD JOHN TRUMP is a fraudfeasor.  From Palm Beach Post:

Why New York judge concluded that Trump's valuation of Mar-a-Lago was 'fraudulent'

Judge Arthur Engoron's conclusion were included in a 92-page order in which he ordered the former president to pay a staggering $354.8 million in disgorgement of ill-gotten profits.

A New York judge has ruled that Donald Trump offered a "fraudulent" valuation of his famed Palm Beach club and residence for the balance of a decade.

"Accordingly, there can be no mistake that Donald Trump's valuation of Mar-a-Lago from 2011-2021 was fraudulent," Judge Arthur Engoron wrote in an order issued Friday, Feb. 16.

"Today we proved that no one is above the law. No matter how rich, powerful or politically connected you are everyone must play by the same rules," New York Attorney General Letitia James said. "We have a responsibility to protect the integrity of the marketplace and for years Donald Trump engaged in deceptive business practices and tremendous fraud."

Speaking at Mar-a-Lago on Friday evening, Trump blasted the decision and said he would appeal. He again claimed that the Mar-a-Lago valuation of $18 million was off by 50 to 100 times that amount.

"I just want to say this. You built a great country. There was no fraud," Trump said angrily, adding he paid more than $300 million in taxes. "The banks all got their money, 100%. They love Trump. They testified that Trump is a great, great customer, one of our best customers. They testified beautifully. And the judge knows that."

No indication ruling in New York will change how PBC officials assess or tax Mar-a-Lago

Engoron's conclusions were included in a 92-page order in which he ordered the former president to pay a staggering $354.8 million in disgorgement of ill-gotten profits. The judge also ordered Trump's sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, to pay just over $4 million each.

The judge's findings in the civil business fraud case focused on key Trump properties, including his former Washington, D.C., hotel. Trump's other Florida holdings, including his Jupiter golf club and high-profile Doral, also came under scrutiny.

The dispute over how the Trumps valued Mar-a-Lago and there other Florida possessions only factored into Engoron's decision on how much of what he called their ill-gotten profits the former president and his sons would have to return. There is no indication the decision in the New York case will have any bearing on the properties' assessments or taxes levied by local authorities.

But the judge agreed with New York Attorney General who argued in a filing last year that: "From 2011-2021, defendants valued Mar-a-Lago based on the false premise that the property could be sold as a private residence when years earlier Trump conveyed his rights to develop Mar-a-Lago for any usage other than commercial usage as a club."

Why New York judge ruled that Mar-a-Lago valuations were 'fraudulent'

President Donald Trump speaks to the media after making a Christmas eve video conference call to members of the armed forces from Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, FL on Tuesday December 24, 2019. [RICHARD GRAULICH/]

Trump's Mar-a-Lago home and private club, dubbed the Southern White House during his 2016-2020 presidency, drew significant attention and debate during a year's worth of legal proceedings.

Engoron pointed out that in 1995 Trump, then a real estate mogul, "gave up the right to use Mar-a-Lago for any purpose other than as a social club" by agreeing to a "Deed of Conservation and Preservation."

Seven years later, the order noted Trump also "granted a conservation easement to the National Trust for Historic Preservation." Engeron wrote that the agreement placed limits on further alterations to the property, including being able to subdivide the land for "any purpose," among them building single-family homes. That agreement also restricted the interior renovations that could be necessary to boost its value in a future sale.

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Trump agreed to the restrictions, the judge wrote, in order to "significantly lower property taxes on Mar-a-Lago."

When preparing the valuations on Mar-a-Lago, however, the "premise" was that the compound "could be sold as a private residence to an individual," even "as a single-family residence," regardless of "the deeded prohibitions against such use in perpetuity."

Trump rails at judgment, has claimed Mar-a-Lago worth as much as $1B

Trump called the judgment "ridiculous" and tantamount to "weaponization against a political opponent" in an election year.

"It's a ridiculous order. Listen, a fine of $355 million for doing a perfect job," Trump said. "For having paid back a loan with no defaults, no problem."

Trump has said that his valuations were "conservative." During the legal battles, he said the Mar-a-Lago property was worth as much as $1 billion.

That prompted U.S. House Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Democrat whose district covers parts of Palm Beach County, in which Mar-a-Lago is located, to call for a major increase in Mar-a-Lago's property taxes.

In a letter to Palm Beach County's property appraiser, Moskowitz wrote: "Will you be amending the property value in line with the Trump family's belief that the property is worth well over a billion dollars?"

During the proceedings, James also taunted the former president in a filing in which she called Trump "a self-proclaimed expert on real estate" who believes he "knows his properties better than anyone."

Antonio Fins is a politics and business editor at The Palm Beach Post, part of the USA TODAY Florida Network. You can reach him at afins@pbpost.comHelp support our journalism. Subscribe today.

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