Evidence presented at Donald Trump’s civil business fraud trial revealed that 30 years ago, he signed a document disclosing the actual size of his New York penthouse. However, his financial statements later listed a significantly larger size for the property.
During the fraud lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James against Trump and his Trump Organization, Allen Weisselberg, the former finance chief of Trump’s company, presented evidence in the form of an email attachment. Trump maintains his innocence and denies any involvement in illegal activities.
The attachment was a 1994 document, signed by Trump, that pegged his Trump Tower triplex at 10,996 square feet — not the 30,000 square feet later claimed for years on financial statements that were given to banks, insurers and others to make deals and secure loans.
Weisselberg, who previously held the position of chief financial officer at the Trump Organization, stated that he remembered receiving the email but did not recall the attachment. He clarified that the attachments contained documents that were already present in the company’s offices. However, he mentioned that he did not give much importance to the size of the apartment mentioned in the email, as its value was only a small portion of Trump’s overall wealth.
“I never even considered the apartment. It was insignificant to me,” Weisselberg stated, employing a Latin phrase that signifies being too trivial to be concerned about.
When considering a net worth of $5 billion in relation to a $6 billion, it was not a matter of great significance to me.
A little bit of ‘marketing’
Weisselberg later mentioned that he used a similar approach when faced with a different value for Trump’s Seven Springs property near New York City. The appraised value was $230 million US lower than what was stated in his financial documents. When asked if he would have informed the accounting firm about this difference, Weisselberg answered negatively.
However, he admitted to signing papers confirming that the financial statements provided to banks to fulfill loan prerequisites were accurate and faithfully represented Trump’s financial state.
Weisselberg repeatedly said he couldn’t remember whether he discussed the financial statements with Trump while they were being finalized. He said he reviewed drafts “from a 30,000-foot level” but paid special attention to something “very important” to Trump: the descriptions of his properties.
Weisselberg mentioned that the text served as a promotional material for banks to learn about our properties, their excellent maintenance, and their high quality. He also mentioned that Trump paid close attention to the wording used in these descriptions.
Weisselberg testified that he could suggest using a different word like “magnificent” instead of “beautiful.”
Trump not in court
Trump, who attended the first three days of the non-jury trial last week in Manhattan, did not return to court to see his former chief financial officer testify. An appeals court on Friday rejected Trump’s bid to halt the trial while he fights a pretrial ruling that could strip him of Trump Tower and other properties.
Weisselberg, 76, has laid low since leaving a New York City jail six months ago after serving 100 days for dodging taxes on $1.7 million US in job perks, including a Manhattan apartment, luxury cars for him and his wife and his grandchildren’s school tuition.
“In the past few months, I have undoubtedly experienced significant challenges, as I’m sure many are aware, given the extensive documentation and public knowledge,” he stated during a deposition conducted in May for the civil lawsuit.
He stated that he was experiencing difficulty in sleeping, began consulting with a therapist, and was using a generic version of Valium in an attempt to “adjust myself back into society.”
Weisselberg has refrained from providing interviews or making public statements since his release from jail.
Trump, in his deposition in April, said of his former lieutenant: “He was with me for a long time. He was liked. He was respected. Now, he’s gone through hell and back. What’s happened to him is very sad.”
Last month, Judge Arthur Engoron made a pretrial decision stating that Trump and other defendants, including Weisselberg, engaged in fraudulent activities for several years. This involved inflating the value of Trump’s assets and net worth on his financial documents.
Engoron has decided to punish by instructing a court-appointed receiver to assume control over certain Trump companies, raising uncertainty about the fate of Trump Tower and other prominent properties. However, an appeals court has temporarily halted the enforcement of this ruling.