Trump Rang in Birthday by Inflating Golf Club’s Value by $42 Million

Trump Rang in Birthday by Inflating Golf Club’s Value by $42 Million 1

A small town north of New York City is now openly confirming it has received subpoenas for two separate investigations into the Trump National Golf Club Westchester, where the Trump family has aggressively fought to lower its tax bill—while claiming a vastly inflated value elsewhere.

Since 2016, the town has valued the golf club at roughly $15 million. And every year, the Trump family business has tried to knock down the value drastically. And yet, on White House financial disclosures, then-President Donald Trump declared the golf club was worth more than $50 million.

“At least one of them is false,” said John Moscow, a renowned former prosecutor who spent 33 years at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. “This is a relatively clean way to prove these people lie to evade taxes and push the tax burden on honest taxpayers.”

Three different prosecutors’ offices—the state AG, the Manhattan DA, and now the Westchester DA—are all zeroing in on similar accusations. Did Trump fudge real estate values by dropping them to dodge taxes and exaggerate them to land big bank loans?

It’s now clear two of those prosecutors, New York Attorney General Letitia James and Westchester District Attorney Mimi Rocah, are examining the finances of this 18-hole golf course decked with stone bridges and a wide waterfall.

Last week, the Ossining town clerk’s office confirmed to The Daily Beast that it had received both subpoenas but declined to provide copies of the civil demands, citing legal limitations on sharing materials requested by grand juries. The Washington Post and New York Times broke news of the Westchester DA’s investigation in October, citing unnamed sources.

But The Daily Beast has obtained copies of the official complaints that Trump’s company filed against the town in its repeated attempts to pay less in taxes. For example, in 2016, the company challenged the town’s assessed value of $15.1 million, arguing that the real value was actually $7.5 million.

When the operation’s general manager, Brian Lynch, repeated the effort the next year, he signed the papers on June 14, 2017—the very same day Trump signed off on official government disclosures claiming the golf course was actually worth more than $50 million. It was the president’s 71st birthday, his first since taking office.

The president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., signed the papers in 2018, this time arguing the property had somehow dropped in value by a million dollars. He attempted to lower its value to $6.5 million, even as his father signed forms and submitted them to the Office of Government Ethics attesting that the golf business was still worth more than $50 million.

The Trump business held firm on that low-ball number in 2019 and 2020, when Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg signed off on the complaints. But the number stayed high—at least nine times higher—on the president’s disclosure forms.

Each year, the company complained that “the assessed value exceeds the full value of the property,” eventually suing the town in 2020. The company finally got its way this past August, when the town relented and a New York state judge signed off on a settlement that reduced the property’s value by millions of dollars each year.

In total, the town agreed to cut $24.1 million of the golf course’s value over a six-year period, essentially erasing at least two years of tax bills.

The 140-acre golf club—with its winding streams, neatly trimmed forests, and rolling hills—is now to be valued at $9.5 million this year, ruled Supreme Court Judge Bruce E. Tolbert.

Meanwhile, the local public school system, the village of Briarcliff Manor, the town of Ossining, and the county of Westchester are all now on the hook, owing thousands of dollars in refunds to the Trump family.

The Trump Organization did not respond to emailed questions. William E. Sulzer, the attorney who now represents the golf course, declined to comment. The attorney who helped the company file its earliest challenges is unable to communicate due to health complications.

The offices of the New York AG and Westchester DA would not confirm details about the subpoenas.

Melanie Sloan, a government ethics attorney who serves as a senior adviser to the independent watchdog group American Oversight, said this is merely another example of Trump’s tax-dodging strategy that has taken far too long to prosecute.

“This has been an issue since Trump came in. Like with all the golf courses, he likes to value them one way to say he’s richer than he is, then value them another way to lower his taxes,” she said. “The real question is, why has it taken so long?”

While lying to local officials potentially exposes Trump and his family business to New York state corruption laws, inflating the value of his assets on a government disclosure form would also implicate him personally.

“There will be an investigation into what the value really is, and whether they knowingly lied on the value. If he deliberately filed false information with the OGE, that would violate the False Statement Act,” Sloan said.

Several of those at the center of Trump’s empire are now fighting off criminal and civil cases brought by local elected prosecutors. Weisselberg was indicted for criminal tax fraud this past summer in Manhattan and is set to go to trial next year.

And although several news outlets reported recently that Trump Organization Chief Operating Officer Matthew Calamari was no longer at risk of being charged criminally, prosecutors have not yet told his attorney they have ruled him out, his lawyer told The Daily Beast last week. The attorney general for the District of Columbia is also still pursuing a civil case that seeks to prove the three eldest Trump kids—Don Jr., Ivanka, and Eric—illegally used money donated for the presidential inauguration as a self-serving slush fund.

The Trump National Golf Club Westchester is also not the only property in the Hudson Valley north of New York City that has drawn the attention of investigators. The New York AG and Manhattan DA have been examining a similar alleged tax-dodging scheme at a failed golf course project: a 212-acre forested estate that appears to have been inflated in value to maximize a charitable tax write-off.

For all the talk about potential charges, however, former prosecutors are now increasingly asking themselves if these disparate law enforcement efforts will culminate in a takedown of sorts. Such charges would require proving that the Trump Organization, at its heart, has always existed as a tax-dodging, bank-deceiving operation.

“It appears to be one criminal enterprise that has its tentacles all over the place,” said Moscow, who pioneered using New York’s criminal enterprise laws against businesses during his decades at the Manhattan DA.