Trump’s taxes in hand, Manhattan DA investigation heats up

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NEW YORK (AP) – With former President Donald Trump’s tax returns finally in hand, a team of New York prosecutors led by a newly-hired former mafia breaker is sending out new subpoenas and meeting with key witnesses, reviewing Trump’s statements. business practices down to the last detail.

Amid the whirlwind of activity, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office is scheduled to meet again on Friday with longtime former Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen, according to a person familiar with the investigation.

This would be the eighth time he has spoken to investigators working for District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., dating to Cohen’s time in federal prison for tax evasion and campaign finance violations.

The person familiar with the investigation was not authorized to speak publicly about the interview and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

In a recent interview with Cohen, investigators asked about Trump’s Seven Springs estate as part of an investigation into whether the value of the 213-acre Westchester County property had been unduly inflated to reduce his taxes.

Investigators asked Cohen about who was involved in the estate valuation and the benefits of its valuation, including an income tax deduction of $ 21 million.

Cohen was released at home last year amid coronavirus fears, and his recent meetings were conducted by video conference.

Vance’s office declined to comment, as did Cohen’s attorney, Lanny Davis. A message requesting comment has been sent to the Trump Organization.

Vance announced last week that he would be stepping down at the end of the year and not running again, but in a note to staff he stressed the investigation will not stop.

“The work continues,” Vance wrote, echoing his short statement after the United States Supreme Court ruled last month that he may have Trump’s tax records.

Vance recently hired former mafia prosecutor Mark Pomerantz – who, as federal prosecutor, oversaw the prosecution of Gambino crime chief John Gotti – as a special deputy prosecutor to help with the wide-ranging investigation into the crimes. Trump’s finances.

The investigation, according to court documents, includes a review of whether Trump or his companies lied about the value of assets to obtain favorable loan terms and tax benefits. The district attorney is also reviewing secret cash payments made to women on Trump’s behalf.

After a lengthy legal battle, his office is now in possession of eight years of Trump’s tax records, including final and draft versions of tax returns, source documents with raw financial data, and other financial records held by his. accounting firm.

Vance’s focus on Seven Springs involves an environmental conservation deal that Trump struck in exchange for a tax deduction in late 2015, following unsuccessful attempts to turn the property into a golf course and in luxury homes.

Trump granted an easement to a conservation land trust to preserve 158 acres (60 hectares) and received an income tax deduction of $ 21 million, equal to the value of the land retained, according to the records. The amount was based on a professional appraisal which valued the entire Seven Springs property at $ 56.5 million as of December 1, 2015.

This was a much higher amount than the assessment by local government appraisers, who said the entire estate was worth $ 20 million. Trump bought the property, including a lavish Georgian-style mansion once owned by the family of newspaper publisher Katharine Graham, for $ 7.5 million in 1995.

As a sign of growing prosecutors’ interest in Seven Springs, Vance’s office has sent new subpoenas in recent weeks to local governments in the towns where the property spans – Bedford, North Castle and New Castle – following a first series of subpoenas issued in mid-December.

Vance’s office also subpoenaed documents from people who worked on property development projects for Trump, including an engineer who said his duties were to present plans to the local planning board.

Engineer Ralph Mastromonaco said on Wednesday he received Vance’s summons in mid-February and promptly handed over requested documents, including records of his work on the property and correspondence with the organization. Trump.

Mastromonaco was subpoenaed for similar documents in December 2019 by New York Attorney General Letitia James, who is also investigating whether Trump and his company unduly inflated the value of his assets in annual financial statements to ensure loans and get tax benefits.

“I really don’t know anything about this whole mess,” Mastromonaco said Wednesday.

Vance investigators also peppered Cohen with questions about Allen Weisselberg’s role as CFO of the Trump Organization.

Weisselberg’s lawyer Mary Mulligan declined to comment on Wednesday.

But it has emerged in recent days that her former stepdaughter, Jen Weisselberg, is cooperating with Vance and James’ investigations, according to her lawyer.

“She will continue to cooperate fully with the various law enforcement agencies that investigate her ex-husband’s family and the very powerful interests they represent,” her lawyer, Duncan Levin, said in a statement to AP. “Jennifer refuses to be silenced any longer by those who conspire to prevent her from sharing what she has learned over the past 25 years.”

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On Twitter, follow Jim Mustian on twitter.com/jimmustian and Michael Sisak at twitter.com/mikesisak

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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