By STEVE BITTENBENDER
THE CENTRAL SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) – A New York judge on Monday ordered Donald Trump to pay $10,000 a day for each day he fails to turn over records to state Attorney General Letitia James after he found the former U.S. president in contempt.
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron issued his ruling after hearing arguments in his courtroom earlier in the day. Earlier this month, Ms. James’ office filed a motion seeking Mr. Trump to be held in contempt of court after he failed to provide documents the state subpoenaed by a March 31 deadline.
In that motion, Ms. James requested a $10,000 per day fine for each day Mr. Trump refuses to hand over documents the court ruled the state was entitled to review.
Lawyers for Mr. Trump argued they could not find the records the attorney general’s office demanded.
As he made his ruling Monday, according to media reports, Judge Engoron said he took his job as a judge as seriously as he knew Mr. Trump took the businesses he runs.
“Today, justice prevailed,” Ms. James said in a statement after the ruling. “For years, Donald Trump has tried to evade the law and stop our lawful investigation into him and his company’s financial dealings. Today’s ruling makes clear: No one is above the law.”
Ms. James requested the documents as part of an investigation her office is conducting into certain financial dealings within the Trump Organization, the family’s conglomerate that contains hundreds of businesses such as hotels and golf courses.
Specifically, the state wanted information regarding appraisals completed by real estate firm Cushman and Wakefield on three Trump Organization properties: the Seven Springs Estate in Westchester County, Trump National Golf Club in Los Angeles and 40 Wall Street.
The state is investigating whether the Trump Organization played with property values to secure favorable terms for tax rates, loans and insurance policies.
For example, according to information Ms. James’ office provided the court in January, Cushman and Wakefield appraised 40 Wall Street three times for Capital One Bank between 2010 and 2012.
In all three, the property to which the Trump Organization holds leasing rights was valued between $200 million and $220 million. Despite that, the attorney general’s office said Mr. Trump listed the property’s value between $601.8 million and $524.7 million between 2010 and 2013.
Capital One declined to restructure a loan for the property in 2015 when Mr. Trump declared a value of $550 million compared to Capital One’s $257 million. After that rejection, authorities say Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg contacted Ladder Capital Finance, where Mr. Weisselberg’s son served as a director.
Ladder Capital had Cushman and Wakefield conduct an appraisal that year on 40 Wall Street. This time, the firm valued the property as $540 million.
“Evidence obtained by OAG suggests that the Cushman and Wakefield valuation in the 2015 appraisal did not reflect a good-faith assessment of value,” the attorney general’s January court filing stated. “The appraisal appears to have used demonstrably incorrect facts and aggressive assumptions to arrive at this much higher value.”