ProPublica: Trump Org Paid Bribes to Lower Property Taxes

ProPublica: Trump Org Paid Bribes to Lower Property Taxes March 12, 2020

The Pulitzer-prize winning investigative journalism site ProPublica has a report based on testimony from several former New York City employees and one former Trump Organization employee that the company paid bribes to city employees to lower the assessed values of its properties and lower its property tax bills.

The Trump Organization paid bribes, through middlemen, to New York City tax assessors to lower its property tax bills for several Manhattan buildings in the 1980s and 1990s, according to five former tax assessors and city employees as well as a former Trump Organization employee.

Two of the five city employees said they personally took bribes to lower the assessment on a Trump property; the other three said they had indirect knowledge of the payments.

The city employees were among 18 indicted in 2002 for taking bribes in exchange for lowering the valuations of properties, which in turn reduced the taxes owed for the buildings. All of the 18 eventually pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Manhattan except for one, who died before his case was resolved.

This is potentially big news, but it won’t have any effect on his followers. It may, however, provide the basis for criminal charges, either now or after Trump leaves office. Those criminal charges might be against Trump himself if they can prove that he knew about it and encouraged it, or it may be against others in the Trump organization. One has to wonder if this is one of the issues on which Allen Weisselberg, the Chief Financial Officer for the Trump Org, has been cooperating. He was granted immunity by prosecutors in exchange for his cooperation.

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