A New York judge Tuesday ordered the Trump Organization to turn documents related to its sprawling Westchester County estate to the attorney general while it was conducting an investigation into the president and his company for civil fraud.
The Trump organization had tried to protect the documents related to Seven Springs, a 213 acre property, from the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat. Your office is investigating whether Mr. Trump and his company have not properly increased the value of his assets in the financial statements in order to obtain credit and gain economic and tax benefits.
At Seven Springs, the attorney general is reviewing a conservation measure, an arrangement to preserve land in exchange for tax benefits, according to lawyers at Ms. James’ office.
A Trump Organization spokeswoman said the investigation was all about politics. Eric Trump, who heads the company and sat on a filing with Ms. James’ attorneys earlier this fall, previously said on Twitter that the probe’s only focus is on an anti-Trump fishing expedition that it promised during its campaign Has.
On Tuesday, New York State Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron held a hearing on documents involving Ralph Mastromonaco, an engineer who helped the company develop plans for a development project in Seven Springs that never came to fruition. Trump Organization attorneys have argued that communications by Mr. Mastromonaco with the company and Charles Martabano, a land use attorney in Westchester who worked on the potential development, are subject to legal and client law. They argued that Mr Mastromonaco was essentially acting as an interpreter, providing the lawyers with the necessary technical knowledge.
Judge Engoron rejected this argument, saying he needed more details such as affidavits about Mr. Mastromonaco’s work.
“The burden rested [the Trump Organization] to provide the court with sufficient evidence from persons with actual personal knowledge that the communications from Mastromonaco were necessary, and not just helpful, to provide legal advice, ”said Justice Engoron. The Trump organization did not meet that standard, he added.
New York Attorney General Letitia James’s office is investigating whether the Trump Organization has improperly increased the value of assets in financial statements.
brendan mcdermid / Reuters
Ms. James said in a statement that her office would be relocating immediately to ensure the Trump organization complies with the court’s order.
Mr Mastromonaco declined to comment. One of Mr Martabano’s lawyers did not respond to a request for comment. A Trump organization lawyer did not respond to a request for comment on the verdict.
The New York attorney general’s office has also examined financial transactions related to several Trump Organization properties, including the Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles and 40 Wall Street, a skyscraper in Manhattan’s financial district, according to court records.
A subsidiary of the Trump Organization bought Seven Springs, which once belonged to former Federal Reserve Chairman Eugene Meyer, for $ 7.5 million in 1995, according to the attorney general’s office. Over the next two decades, the Trump Organization attempted to develop the property into a golf course and housing estate.
In late 2015, Mr. Trump entered into a legal agreement to provide relief for the property. According to a 2016 estimate, the property was $ 56.5 million and the relief was $ 21.1 million, according to the Attorney General.
Write to Corinne Ramey at Corinne.Ramey@wsj.com
Copyright © 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8