Trump inflated his net worth by $2.2 billion, New York AG says in filing

In an April deposition, Trump called his holdings "the Mona Lisa of properties."

August 30, 2023, 5:01 PM

Former President Donald Trump routinely overstated his net worth -- sometimes by more than $2 billion -- during years when the actual values of his real estate holdings were far less than he claimed, according to a court filing Wednesday by the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James.

The attorney general's office included the numbers in a motion for summary judgement that asks the court to resolve a civil fraud claim before the AG's $250 million civil suit against Trump goes to trial.

The former president, meanwhile, called his real estate portfolio "the Mona Lisa of properties" during an April deposition in the suit, according to a transcript of the deposition that was made public Wednesday.

"We have properties that make money, but you can sell for many, many times because of the quality of the property, like a Turnberry in Scotland," Trump said, according to the transcript. "I could sell that. That's like selling a painting. A painting on a wall that sells for $250 million and doesn't make income. It just sits on a wall, but it sells for numbers."

Unlike his first deposition with James, during which Trump invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination hundreds of times, the former president in the April deposition answered questions for hours about his real estate holdings, which he suggested are worth far more than what appeared on property valuations.

"I have -- literally, I have some of the greatest pieces of property in the world and they sell -- as Mar-a-Lago, some of the things I own in Europe, some of the things I own in New York, even like at Trump Towers, 57th and Fifth, it's the best location," Trump said at the April 13 deposition at the attorney general's office near Wall Street. "I have great assets."

James last year brought a $250 million lawsuit against Trump, his children and his company that accuses them of "grossly" inflating the former president's net worth by billions of dollars and cheating lenders and others with false and misleading financial statements. Trump has insisted he has done nothing wrong and has attacked James, who is Black, as racist.

PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the Faith and Freedom Road to Majority conference at the Washington Hilton on June 24, 2023, in Washington, D.C.
Republican presidential candidate former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the Faith and Freedom Road to Majority conference at the Washington Hilton on June 24, 2023, in Washington, D.C.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images, FILE

The trial is scheduled to begin in October.

In 2014, Trump claimed on his statements of financial condition to be holding $6.7 billion in assets -- but the attorney general's office said in Wednesday's filing that figure overstated Trump's actual net worth that year by more than $2.2 billion.

"Based on the undisputed evidence, no trial is required for the Court to determine that Defendants presented grossly and materially inflated asset values in the SFCs and then used those SFCs repeatedly in business transactions to defraud banks and insurers," the filing said.

The attorney general's filing Wednesday said Trump valued his Florida Mar-a-Lago estate "as if it could be sold as a private single family residence for amounts ranging between $347 million to $739 million." The filing said those figures ignored limitations placed on how the property could be developed.

During that same period, the property was assessed by Palm Beach County as having a market value based on its restricted use as a social club ranging between $18 million to $27.6 million, the filing said.

The attorney general's office also said Trump tacked on an extra 15-30% "brand premium" to the value of many of his golf clubs and inflated the value of unsold condominium units he owned at Trump Park Avenue in New York City. The filing said Trump valued rent stabilized apartments as if they were not rent stabilized, and valued other unsold units in excess of current market value.

Two apartments leased by Trump's daughter, Ivanka Trump, were valued at amounts two to three times the price at which she had the contractual option to purchase the units, the filing said.

Trump's legal team is expected to oppose the motion for summary judgment.

In his April deposition released Wednesday, Trump said that as president, he turned over all but major business decisions to his adult children because he was too busy to run the company and he was concerned about potential conflicts. He said he instructed Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump not to do any new real estate deals -- only run the company's existing properties.

Trump boasted about his golf courses and other properties, and claimed to have $400 million in cash on hand, though he conceded during the deposition his legal bills were adding up.

"My biggest expense is probably legal fees, unfortunately. That's OK. But we have a lot of cash. We have great assets. And we have a very valuable company," Trump said.

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