April 1, 2023

  • Mar-a-Lago was part of Trump’s alleged years-long fraud scheme, New York AG Letitia James said.
  • James said Trump claimed Mar-a-Lago was worth $739 million, almost 10 times its actual value of $75 million.
  • James said Trump’s valuation ignores “significant constraints” on his South Florida properties.

Mar-a-Lago has dominated headlines over the past month amid a high-stakes criminal investigation between the Justice Department and former President Donald Trump over government records that were once stored at his South Florida home ‘s dispute.

On Wednesday, the West Palm Beach estate was once again on a separate, newly dangerous front in the former president’s legal battle.

In a wide-ranging lawsuit, the New York attorney general’s office has accused Trump, his three eldest sons and the namesake business of inflating their assets in a years-long fraudulent scheme. Citing the title of Trump’s 1987 memoir and business proposal, Attorney General Letitia James said: “Claiming to have money you don’t have is not the art of the deal; it’s the art of stealing.”

Her office’s 280-page lawsuit identified 23 assets, including Mar-a-Lago.

In the financial statements, James said, Trump’s “blatant disregard for legal restrictions” had a significant impact on his use of Mar-a-Lago. She said Trump’s valuation of his South Florida property was “based on the false premise that it sits on an unrestricted property that could be developed for residential use.”

But James claimed that Trump knew that Mar-a-Lago was subject to “onerous” restrictions, and he personally signed the deed that “strictly restricts” changes to the property. Trump also donated his residential development rights in hopes of getting tax breaks and lowering his property taxes, she said.

The deeds also require Trump to donate more than 23 percent of the value of Mar-a-Lago to the Historic Preservation Trust if Trump sells the property.

Trump once valued Mar-a-Lago at $739 million, according to the lawsuit. In reality, the club has less than $25 million in annual revenue and should be valued at closer to $75 million — about one-tenth of Trump’s valuation, the lawsuit says.


In this aerial view, former U.S. President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago is located in Palm Beach, Florida, on September 14, 2022.

Joe Redel/Getty Images)

James’ lawsuit says Trump’s overvaluation of properties is not limited to his winter restrictions. It expanded to Trump’s golf courses — including clubs in Scotland and Florida, she said.

As a civil action, not a criminal action, James’ case against Trump will not bring justice to the former president or his three eldest adult children (Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka Trump) prison risk. Instead, James is seeking a $250 million fine and a permanent ban on the Trumps from serving as officers or directors of a New York business. The lawsuit from her office also calls for a five-year ban on Trump and his children from participating in any real estate deal — a potentially devastating restriction on the former president’s family business.

James’ lawsuit puts new pressure on one of the many areas of legal danger facing the former president.

In Georgia, Atlanta prosecutors have subpoenaed several Trump allies as part of an investigation into efforts to overturn the state’s 2020 election result. In Washington, D.C., a former Trump White House adviser appeared before a federal grand jury investigating the events surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department got into a tussle with Trump’s lawyers following an August raid on Mar-a-Lago, where federal agents retrieved more than 11,000 government documents, including more than 100 that were marked classified.

A federal judge appointed by Trump granted the former president’s request to have an outside arbitrator — known as a special master — review the records and screen out anyone who might be protected by attorney-client or executive privilege. people. Judge Erin Cannon ordered the Justice Department to temporarily stop reviewing the records as part of a criminal investigation into Trump’s handling and storage of classified documents brought to Mar-a-Lago from the White House.

In its appeal, the Justice Department said the decision would cause “irreparable harm” to the intelligence community’s efforts to protect national security.

On Tuesday, the Justice Department and Trump’s lawyers appeared for the first time before a special guru: Senior Judge and former Chief Justice Raymond Dearie of Brooklyn federal court. During a hearing in Brooklyn, Derie was outraged by Trump’s lawyers refusing to support the former president’s claims that he declassified highly sensitive records found at his South Florida residence.

The criminal laws covered by Trump’s handling of government records — including the Espionage Act — do not require documents to be classified. Still, Trump claimed he declassified the documents.

In the absence of any evidence that Trump has taken steps to declassify the records, Dirie said he would need to comply with the flags that designate the materials as containing national security secrets, including some indicating they include intelligence from human resources and foreign interceptions.

“My view is that you can’t eat cake and eat it at the same time,” Dearie said Tuesday.

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