New York State Attorney General Letitia James has asked a court to compel Eric Trump, son of President Donald Trump, and others to testify in an ongoing civil investigation into the Trump Organization’s financial dealings. Dealings regarding four specific Trump properties are identified as being under scrutiny including Seven Springs estate in northern Westchester County, bought by the Trump Organization in 1995.
Among other things, James wants to obtain testimony from Eric Trump who was identified as executive vice president of the Trump Organization. She also is seeking to force the organization to turn over thousands of documents.
James said that despite earlier agreeing to be interviewed in connection with the investigation, he now refuses to appear. She also said her office wants to talk with a land-use attorney who worked with the Trump Organization in connection with the Seven Springs estate.
According to the Trump Organization website, Seven Springs is a 230-acre property on which the mansion was built in 1919 by Eugene Meyer, who was publisher of the Washington Post and a chairman of the Federal Reserve. The property is within the towns of Bedford, New Castle and North Castle.
“Artisans from Italy were hired to make sure the 60 rooms, 15 bedrooms, and two servants wings were opulently designed,” according to the site.
In addition to the 50,000-square-foot mansion, the estate has three pools, carriage houses and is surrounded by nature preserves. “H.J. Heinz of Heinz Ketchup, who was a friend of Meyer’s, built a Tudor-style home on the property, also in 1919. Today, Seven Springs is used as a retreat for the Trump family.”
James said, “Nothing will stop us from following the facts and the law, wherever they may lead. For months, the Trump Organization has made baseless claims in an effort to shield evidence from a lawful investigation into its financial dealings.
“They have stalled, withheld documents and instructed witnesses, including Eric Trump, to refuse to answer questions under oath. That’s why we’ve filed a motion to compel the Trump Organization to comply with our office’s lawful subpoenas for documents and testimony. These questions will be answered and the truth will be uncovered, because no one is above the law.”
In addition to Seven Springs, James is looking at dealings concerning: 40 Wall St., a mixed-use building in Lower Manhattan that the Trump Organization owns an interest; Trump International Hotel and Tower Chicago; and Trump National Golf Club in Los Angeles.
After efforts to develop the Westchester property were unsuccessful, the Trump Organization granted a conservation easement over 158 acres of the property in 2015. James is looking into the valuation that was used in the conservation easement.
According to a document prepared by James’ office, the property was bought in December 1995 for $7.5 million by Seven Springs LLC, which is part of the Trump Organization.
Between approximately 1996 and 2014, Trump made various efforts to develop Seven Springs as a golf course or to subdivide it for residential development. After these efforts failed or otherwise were ended, Trump decided to grant a conservation easement on Seven Springs, and thus apparently take an income tax deduction based on the lost development value of the property. The Trump Organization retained an appraisal firm to provide a value for the easement.
A March 2016 appraisal determined that Seven Springs was worth $56.5 million as of Dec. 1, 2015, before placement of the easement, and further concluded that the easement’s value was $21.1 million. Seven Springs LLC likewise identified the “appraised fair market value” of the conservation easement as $21.1 million on tax forms submitted to the IRS in 2016 reporting the claimed value of donated property for income tax purposes.
James opened an investigation into Donald Trump and the Trump Organization in 2019, after Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, testified before Congress that Trump’s annual financial statements inflated the values of Trump’s assets to obtain favorable terms for loans and insurance coverage, while also deflating the value of other assets to reduce real estate taxes.
James’ office said that the Trump Organization has professed cooperation, but has refused to produce documents on invalid grounds. It further alleged that in recent weeks, Eric Trump has refused to appear entirely to give testimony pursuant to a subpoena, despite his being an important character in certain transactions.
James asked New York County State Supreme Court to order the Trump Organization to furnish witnesses for interviews and to provide documents regarding specific Trump Organization properties and transactions.
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