Exclusive: New York tax agency cited to appear in Trump criminal investigation

(Reuters) – The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has subpoenaed a New York property tax agency in connection with a criminal investigation into Donald Trump’s company, the agency confirmed on Friday, suggesting that the Prosecutors are examining the former president’s efforts to cut his commercial real estate. taxes for possible evidence of fraud.

FILE PHOTO: The entrance to Trump Tower is pictured amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S. January 20, 2021. REUTERS/ Carlo Allegri

The subpoena issued to the New York City Tax Commission is the latest indication that Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. is reviewing the values ​​Trump assigned to certain commercial properties in tax returns and documents loan.

In addition to information already subpoenaed by creditors, the tax agency documents would help investigators determine whether Trump’s company inflated the value of its properties to secure favorable loan terms while deflating those values ​​to reduce the tax invoices of these same properties.

New York City Tax Commission Chair Frances Henn confirmed the subpoena in response to a request from Reuters.

The subpoena would likely require the agency to provide detailed statements of income and expenses the Trump Organization allegedly filed as part of an effort to lower tax assessments on some of its commercial properties, according to people familiar with the matter. the operations of the commission. Trump’s holdings include Trump Tower and Trump Plaza.

Those filings would typically include appraisals submitted by the company to challenge the market values ​​assigned to Trump’s property by city tax assessors, they added.

Subpoenas have also been issued to at least two creditors who helped fund Trump’s real estate holdings, Deutsche Bank AG and Ladder Capital Finance LLC, Reuters previously reported.

Vance’s office declined to comment on the tax board’s subpoena. Deutsche Bank also declined to comment. Ladder Capital did not respond to a request for comment. A Trump representative and an attorney for the Trump Organization also did not respond to requests for comment.

Vance did not comment specifically on the subject of his investigation, but noted in court documents that his office was exploring “possibly extensive and prolonged criminal conduct” within the Trump Organization, including possible tampering with records as well. as insurance and tax fraud.

Vance’s investigation is the only known criminal investigation into Trump’s real estate activities. New York State Attorney General Letitia James is leading a separate civil investigation into whether Trump’s company misreported property values ​​to secure loans and gain economic and tax benefits.

The tax commission is New York City’s forum for deciding appeals of tax assessments established by the city’s Department of Finance, which handles property tax bills and collections. A spokeswoman for the New York mayor’s office said the department had not been subpoenaed.

Tax assessments are based on the market value of a property, as determined by the department, so challenges require detailed documentation to show that the assigned value is not accurate, including income data and occupation.

If Trump’s company claimed a significantly lower value for a property in its tax returns than in the documents it submitted to creditors, the discrepancy could help support a fraud charge, according to Daniel J. Horwitz, a white-collar defense attorney who previously prosecuted complex and tax evasion cases for more than eight years at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

If there is a “material difference” between the land values ​​claimed in the tax returns and the values ​​claimed in the loan documents, he added, “that’s pretty compelling.”

Editing by Cynthia Osterman

Esther L. Steinbach