President Donald Trump and his children repeatedly misled investors and worked with brokers tied to the Russian mafia while running the Trump Organization, an investigation by ProPublica and WNYC alleges.
The investigation found that Trump's company worked with "accused money launderers, alleged funders of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, and a felon who slashed someone in the face with a broken margarita glass" while using “deceptive practices” to mislead their investors.
The Trump Organization previously denied ties to the shady figures and insisted that putting the Trump name on a building was a marketing and licensing move. Trump, the company said, had nothing to do with the development of the buildings.
But the investigation found that Trump and his children repeatedly touted false information to trick investors into backing these projects.
“These statements weren’t just the legendary Trump hype; they misled potential buyers about the viability of the developments,” ProPublica reported.
In one instance, Trump put Ivanka in a leading role in the Trump Ocean Club in Panama City. In a 2008 interview, Ivanka bragged, “It’s a 1,000-unit building, we’ve sold over 90 percent of it,” she said, adding that they were selling at a “500 percent premium to anything the luxury market has ever experienced prior to our entry.”
That was untrue. Just months later, Moody's reported that only 79 percent of the units were sold and at a much lower cost than she claimed – a 130 percent premium, not 500 percent. They were sold by a broker tied to the Russian mafia.
She later hid the fact that the Trump Ocean Club, which opened a year behind schedule and way above cost estimates, had its bonds dropped. The Trump Ocean Club soon went bankrupt, and the name was removed from the property.
Ivanka similarly claimed to reporters in 2008 that Trump's SoHo tower had sold 60 percent of its units. A court filing shows that the actual number was 15 percent. In another instance, Ivanka claimed that Trump's Toronto property was “virtually sold out.” In reality, less than 25 percent of the units had been sold. Both the SoHo and Toronto projects ultimately went bankrupt and dropped the Trump name.
The SoHo project landed Ivanka and her brother, Donald Trump Jr., in hot water with authorities. The two were investigated by the NYPD for defrauding Trump SoHo investors by lying about the number of units that had been sold.
In 2012, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance met with Marc Kasowitz, an attorney for the Trumps who previously donated $25,000 to Vance's campaign. When Vance declined to prosecute the Trump children, he received an additional $32,000 donation. The New York Daily News reported this week that the FBI is now looking into whether Vance accepted bribes in return for closing investigations.
Not only did the Trumps walk away unscathed despite violating the law, they managed to make money on their colossal failures.
“The Trumps often made money even when projects failed. And when they tanked, the Trumps simply ignored their prior claims of close involvement, denied any responsibility and walked away,” ProPublica reported, explaining that in the Panama City project, despite “the project’s bankruptcy, a 50 percent default rate and his company’s expulsion from managing the hotel, Donald Trump walked away with between $30 million and $55 million.”
The Trump Organization did not respond to a comment for the report, but Trump previously replied to a bombshell New York Times report that he committed tax fraud by dismissing it as old news. Given that the report details real estate ventures from years ago, Trump is likely to use a similar line to respond to these damning revelations. But ProPublica notes that this exact strategy has continued while Trump is in the White House.
“The Trump Organization, which pledged not to launch new projects during the Trump presidency, is aggressively pursuing existing ones, including in the Dominican Republic, Indonesia and India,” the outlet reported.