Donald Trump allegedly scammed the city of New York by paying bribes to the city tax assessors via middlemen. His business was trying to pay lower property tax bills on some of his Manhattan buildings during the 1980s and 1990s. Five former tax assessors, city employees, and a former Trump Organization employ attested.
Two of them said they took bribes themselves to show a lower assessment on the properties. The other three had an indirect understanding of the payments. The city indicted them along with 13 other city employees in 2002. They took over $10 million in bribes over 35 years. In return, that undervalued a minimum of 562 properties.
Frank Valvo, a former city assessor who served a year and a half in prison for his role in the scheme is 88-years-old now, according to The Talking Points Memo:
“I’m guilty of what I did. I’m not going to hide that. I want the truth to come out [about the property owners.]’
Valvo remembered that one of the assessors said:
‘We got Trump! Wow. Holy smokes!’
One such middleman was tax consultant Thomas McArdle. He sent an assessor a list of about 20 properties including one at 40 Wall St. During one meeting:
‘[one assessor] looked in the envelope and asked for more money. The middleman responded by telling him that Donald Trump thought the employee should be making the assessment changes for free.’
In another unrelated deposition in 2007, Trump filed a lawsuit against a journalist Timothy O’Brien. This is how the relevant part of the deposition went:
‘Q. Ever heard the name McCardle (sic)?
A. No. Who is McCardle?
Q. Thomas McCardle.
A. It sounds vaguely familiar, but I don’t remember.
Q. Former New York City tax assessor’s office, then tax consultant?
A. I don’t know the name.
Q. Was caught up in a scandal in the early 2000s regarding tax assessors?
A. I think he is a man that represented many, many real estate people in New York. He represented some of the biggest real estate companies in New York. I don’t know if he represented us or not, but I don’t remember that.
Q. Did you ever make any payments to Mr. McCardle?
A. I don’t even remember ever — I don’t even know that name. I think I read the name because there was some kind of tax scandal going on, and he was involved with various real estate people. I don’t know the name. I don’t know that we ever used him.
Q. Do you recall —
A. He was a consultant of some kind.
A. No, I don’t remember ever having used him. But he was used by many major real estate companies in New York.’
The Trump Organization Chief Legal Officer Alan Garten released a statement:
‘To be clear, at no time did the Trump Organization or any of its employees or principals ever pay anyone for the purpose of unlawfully obtaining a lower tax valuation. This was corroborated by multiple investigations which found no evidence of any wrongdoing by the company or any of its principals. … If anything, the Trump Organization was a victim of the scandal.’
Garten was asked whether these records show the company paid McArdle’s company rather than him personally. He replied:
‘Regarding Trump Plaza, as I said, we have no records of any payments to Mr. McArdle.’
An 85-year-old former assessor came up with the scheme, Albert Schussler. The night before he was going to talk to the prosecutor, he had a fatal stroke. Assistant U.S. attorney and lead prosecutor on the case Sharon McCarthy said:
‘You’d love to follow the rainbow to the very end and get every person along the way who has been committing crimes, but unfortunately it’s not possible. The person who dealt directly with the property owners is Albert Schussler, and he passed away, so we lost the ability to go after anyone else.’
None of the property owners will face prosecution, because the federal and state statutes of limitations for bribery have already expired.
After the indictments were filed, two Trump businesses counter-sued the city of New York. Their claim was that Trump had not paid bribes to make the assessments come in at a lower worth. Therefore, Trump World Tower, which is near the United Nations, was unfairly assessed at a higher value than was necessary.
Trump filed the lawsuit and told The New York Times:
‘It is impossible for any one of those property owners who used Schussler not to have known what was going on.’
Featured image is a screenshot via YouTube.
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