The Trump Organization fudged financial figures related to the profitability of some of its buildings in a move resulting in allegations of fraud, according to new tax documents obtained by ProPublica. The documents support previous claims that Trump lies to lenders and tax officials, while also suggesting that potential fraud was committed while Trump was in the White House.
In one instance, the Trump Organization reported different occupancy rates for his building at 40 Wall Street depending on the audience. When trying to convince a lender to give him a loan, Trump reported higher figures. When reporting the occupancy to property-tax officials, the number was lower.
Other discrepancies surfaced when comparing the documents submitted to lenders to those submitted for tax purposes. For example, ProPublica says that at 40 Wall Street, “insurance costs in 2017 were listed as $744,521 in tax documents and $457,414 in loan records.”
There are also discrepancies in the numbers reported for the Trump International Hotel and Tower:
Trump’s company told New York City tax officials it made about $822,000 renting space to commercial tenants there in 2017, records show. The company told loan officials it took in $1.67 million that year — more than twice as much. In eight years of data ProPublica examined for the Columbus Circle property, Trump’s company reported gross income to tax authorities that was typically only about 81% of what it reported to the lender.
“This kind of stuff is not okay,” Nancy Wallace, a real-estate and mortgage expert at the University of California, Berkeley, told ProPublica. Other experts consulted in the article note that the discrepancies themselves are not evidence of fraud, but they point in that direction.
Legal expert Renato Mariotti wrote in a Twitter thread that prosecutors need to be able to prove that the numbers were purposefully manipulated in order to secure a fraud conviction. That can come in the form of a “smoking gun,” an email directing someone to commit fraud, perhaps. Less ideally, it can also be proven with a “sheer volume of evidence” and an insider who can “testify that the activity was wrongful,” Mariotti writes.
This is not the first time Trump has been accused of doctoring financial numbers to benefit himself. In February, Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen told Congress that his onetime boss inflated his wealth when it benefited him and deflated it when it helped him save money. One example Cohen gave came when Trump was trying to get Deutsche Bank to lend him the money to buy the Buffalo Bills. To make himself look wealthier, Trump tacked an extra $4 billion onto his net worth. The source? His brand value.