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New York AG details new areas of focus in business survey

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New York AG details new areas of focus in business survey

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New York State Attorney General Letitia James this week presented what she described as “significant evidence” of fraudulent activity from a civil investigation into former President Donald Trump and his business. – but the decision to take legal action could take months.

In documents filed with the New York Supreme Court on Tuesday, James’ office detailed some of the evidence uncovered in an ongoing civil investigation into the former president and the Trump Organization in an effort to get a judge to make execute subpoenas against Trump and two of his children, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. All three worked as senior company executives.

But advancing the multi-year investigation may require a lot more evidence.

James said the company was slow to turn over documents implicating Trump, even though he “personally executed documents critical to the issues under investigation.” Among the items the AG wants to examine are “file cabinets from the Trump Organization containing Mr. Trump’s records,” as well as “post-it notes” he used “to communicate with his employees,” it said. Tuesday’s court filing.

The Trump Organization has turned over “more than 930,000 documents” to date and “about a dozen current and former Trump Organization employees” have testified in the investigation, James said, but investigators will need information from all three assets before deciding whether to pursue civil action against the company and others.

“The knowledge and actions of Mr. Trump’s agents and attorneys may be attributed to Mr. Trump himself. But Mr. Trump’s actual knowledge of – and intent to do – the numerous inaccuracies and omissions made by him or on his behalf are essential to resolving” the investigation, James wrote.

NBC News criminal defense attorney and legal analyst Danny Cevallos said the allegations against the Trump Organization could also lead to criminal problems for the company. “Generally, lying to a bank to get a loan can be a crime,” Cevallos said.

James, in a statement on Tuesday, said: “So far in our investigation, we have uncovered significant evidence that suggests that Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization falsely and fraudulently valued multiple assets and misrepresented those values ​​to financial institutions for economic purposes.”

His office added that it “has not yet made a final decision on whether this evidence merits legal action.”

The Trump Organization did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday. Responding to James’ filing earlier this week, a company spokesperson said “the allegations are without merit and will be vigorously defended.”

The state attorney general’s court filing said investigators had previously deposed Trump’s son, Eric Trump, who was also a top company executive, but suggested he was not very helpful . He “invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in response to more than 500 questions in six hours,” the filing said.

Former CFO Allen Weisselberg also took fifth more than 500 times during more than five hours of testimony, James said.

Lawyers for Eric Trump and Weisselberg did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Trump Organization and Weisselberg were charged last year with tax evasion involving improper payments in a joint investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney and James’ office. Both have pleaded not guilty and the investigation is continuing.

In the civilian investigation, James focuses on the former president.

‘The purpose of the subpoena and investigation is the disclosure of Mr. Trump’s financial circumstances,’ James investigators said in a letter to the Trump Organization cited in Tuesday’s court filing. .

The annual statements, which James said Trump personally signed, were used to secure more than $300 million in loans, according to the filing, and “were generally inflated as part of a pattern suggesting that net worth of Mr. Trump was higher than it otherwise would have appeared.”

The statements grossly overvalued some Trump properties, according to James. Trump’s triplex apartment in Trump Tower in Manhattan was valued at $327 million, a figure that was arrived at by multiplying square footage by price per square foot, James said. Trump had claimed the apartment was 30,000 square feet, while building records showed the apartment was 10,000 square feet, according to the court filing.

The valuation was reduced in later filings after Forbes pointed out the size discrepancy. Weisselberg, in his testimony at the GA, “admitted that amounted to an overstatement of ‘give or take’ $200 million,” the filing said.

Cevallos said the apartment valuation is a particular issue for Trump. “The Trump side will argue that some of these things have amorphous value,” but “I don’t know how they circumvent square footage errors in a building,” Cevallos said.

The court filing said one of the justifications the company used for the higher values ​​was the prestige of Trump’s name – even though the documents explicitly noted that while Trump’s name “enhances the value of properties reflected in this statement”, this value “has not been taken into account in the preparation of this financial statement.

It’s unclear how long it will take the judge handling the case, Arthur Engoron, to decide whether to enforce or overturn the subpoenas issued by James’ office.

Trump’s lawyers argue the investigation is politically motivated and have filed a lawsuit to stop the investigation. This Federal Court case is pending. The attorneys also argue that the subpoenas should be dismissed due to the ongoing criminal investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney and the New York State Attorney General.

Dennis Vacco, a former New York attorney general, said he thought James’ case was “somewhat out of step” with the Trumps’ arguments to quash the subpoenas.

“The legal crux of Trump’s motion to dismiss is that the Attorney General is playing fast and loose with his civil authority given that there is an active and ongoing criminal investigation in which the AG has announced that she was involved,” Vacco said.

While James’ filing outlined why the Trumps’ depositions would be important to the investigation, she largely brushed aside arguments that it would violate their due process rights if they were forced to testify on matters under dispute. a criminal investigation.

James’ filing argues that the criminal investigation should not be a point of contention for the Trumps, as they are aware of the investigation. Vacco, however, said the outreach “does not mean they are giving up any of their constitutional rights,” including their rights to due process and against self-incrimination.

While arguing that Fifth Amendment protections cannot be used against a defendant in a criminal case, Vacco said taking the Fifth in a civil case in New York can be used for “adverse inference” against a defendant. witness.

But the larger problem, he said, is that James’s investigators likely have more work to do.

“When you take out all the rhetoric, they say they don’t know yet if they have enough to press charges,” Vacco said.

New York AG details new areas of focus in business survey

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