Did Trump Unwittingly Rent Land to Gaddafi?
Bedford, N.Y., officials confirm Libyan dictator pitched tent in ritzy suburb.
Sept. 22, 2009— -- Donald Trump may have inadvertently rented property in a ritzy New York suburb to loathed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who has spent weeks trying to find a place to pitch his trademark tent while in town for the United Nations General Assembly meeting.
Doors all over the metropolitan area have been slammed in the face of the Libyan dictator, but Trump says he rented part of a large property he owns in Westchester County to a group of Middle Easterners who may be associated with Gaddafi.
"We have business partners and associates all over the world. The property was leased on a short-term basis to Middle Eastern partners who may or may not have a relationship to Mr. Gaddafi. We are looking into the matter now," Trump Organization spokeswoman Rhonna Graff said in a statement.
An ABC News helicopter filmed a large tent on the 113-acre Seven Springs estate, replete with rugs and patterned wall hangings. The Trump Organization owns the property, which straddles the adjacent towns of Bedford, New Castle and North Castle, and which is slated to be subdivided into multimillion-dollar homes.
Local officials, law enforcement and the Secret Service confirmed that Gaddafi was renting property in Bedford, but did not know if the dictator, who is making his first visit to the United States since he seized power in 1969, was actually planning on staying in the town.
Bedford town attorney Joel Sachs said a stop order was issued on erecting the tent just after 5 p.m., because it is illegal to build a temporary residence without a permit. He called the tent an "illegal structure."
He said, however, that he was not picking on Gaddafi, just enforcing the law.
It has been reported that Gaddafi might stay in Manhattan, near the United Nations at the home of the Libyan ambassador on 48th Street.
Ahmed Gebreel, a spokesman for the Libyan mission said Monday, "It will be up to [Gaddafi] where he wants to stay. Nothing has been decided yet."
Calls to the Libyan mission today for confirmation that the large brown tent seen at Seven Springs belonged to Gaddafi were not answered.
"We deal with what's happening right now. Right now nothing is happening. There's no entourage, nothing. We're working with the Secret Service," Bedford Police Department Sgt. Tom Diebold told ABC News. "Other than calls from the press, we haven't heard anything from neighbors."
Gaddafi has not found a warm welcome. His request to erect his tent in Manhattan's Central Park was turned down. Efforts to set up camp in Englewood, N.J., were also fought by the mayor until the Libyans abandoned efforts to win legal approval for the tent.
The eccentric leader, who Ronald Reagan once branded the "mad dog" of the Middle East, arrived in the United States Tuesday but it was unclear if he was going to stay in Bedford.
"A tent has been pitched," a source said, referring to the famous Bedouin tent Gaddafi usually stays in during foreign visits. On past trips he's pitched it in central Paris and in a park in Rome.