"Built his empire on lies": Trump Org appraiser calls out "inaccurate" statements as Trump watches

Doug Larson rejected a Trump Org exec's claim that he advised him on swollen valuations

By Gabriella Ferrigine

Staff Writer

Published October 18, 2023 10:42AM (EDT)

Former U.S. President Donald Trump sits in a Manhattan courthouse during the trial for his civil fraud case at New York State Supreme Court on October 17, 2023 in New York City. (Andrew Kelly-Pool/Getty Images)
Former U.S. President Donald Trump sits in a Manhattan courthouse during the trial for his civil fraud case at New York State Supreme Court on October 17, 2023 in New York City. (Andrew Kelly-Pool/Getty Images)

Former president Donald Trump ventured back to Manhattan on Tuesday as part of his civil fraud case, which came about after New York Attorney General Letitia James argued that Trump, along with his sons Donald Jr. and Eric and the Trump Organization, had inflated the value of more than a dozen assets by hundreds of millions, subsequently using those phony values to defraud banks and insurers in order to secure more advantageous deals and secure loans.

As he entered the court, Trump chastised the case as “a witch hunt by a radical lunatic attorney general."

"We built a great company — a lot of cash, it’s got a lot of great assets, some of the greatest real estate assets, anywhere in the world,” the ex-president added. 

A key part of Tuesday's trial proceedings came in the form of testimony from a real estate appraiser for the Trump Organization, who harshly criticized the company's "inaccurate and inappropriate" behavior in attributing the faulty numbers to him. 

The New York Daily News reported that former Trump organization executive Jeff McConney, in statements shown in court accounting for Trump's value between 2013 and 2018, said that the appraiser — Cushman & Wakefield executive director Doug Larson — had advised him via phone in the specifics of assigning swollen values to assets such as Trump's Wall Street tower.

Larson vehemently denied that the call took place, however, also rejecting McConney's claim that he had worked "in conjunction" with the former president of any affiliates of the Trump Organization to appraise assets. “It’s inappropriate and inaccurate,” Larson said. “I should have been told, and an appraisal should have been ordered.”

At one point, Mark Ladov, a lawyer for the attorney general's office, cited an instance in which the Trump Organization ignored the numbers Larson crunched, adding a whopping 35 percent to 40 Wall Street in 2016, which Larson had valued at $540 million. In that year's financial statement, the skyscraper was listed by Trump's company at $735.4 million. And in 2013, the Trump Organization tacked on a 3.12% capitalization raise to 1290 Avenue of the Americas, attributing the rise to Larson's input and increasing the building's value to just shy of $1 billion.

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Following Tuesday's events, Attorney General James said that while the former president could “rant and rave” all he wanted, it would not alter the fact that he “built his empire on lies.” 

“Mr. Trump may lie, but numbers don’t lie,” she said. “Mr. Trump’s entire empire is built on nothing but lies. Sinking sand.” 

James has asserted that Trump routinely overstated his net worth to financial institutions by between $812 million to $2.2 billion, depending on the year and the specific applications he filed. She is seeking a penalty of about $250 million. Late last month, New York Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron, in a summary judgment, ruled that Trump had committed fraud in the state for years by misrepresenting his financial status while steadily expanding his real estate. 

Engoron's decision effectively barred Trump and his adult sons from conducting business in New York ever again. The judge also ordered punitive measures, including that some of Trump's business licenses be rescinded — meaning he will lose control of key real estate if upheld following appeal — and ordered that an outside "receiver" must be appointed to supervise the management of those Trump properties. 

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“The next borrower, or the one after that, might default, and if its (financial statements) are false, the lender might unfairly be left holding the bag,” Engoron wrote. “This will distort the lending marketplace and deprive other potential borrowers of the opportunity to obtain loans and create wealth.”

Trump at the hearing also took shots at his former personal attorney and fixer Michael Cohen, saying he "didn’t have the guts” to show face. Cohen has acted as a key witness in 2019, providing pivotal testimony that catalyzed James's investigation.

“If I was afraid of Donald, I wouldn’t have written 2 NYT bestsellers, testified before the Mueller team, seven congressional committees, 23 appearances before the Manhattan DA, and provided information to the NYAG that is the basis of this trial,” Cohen told the Daily News. 

“Looking forward to seeing you in court very soon!” he quipped to his old client. 

By Gabriella Ferrigine

Gabriella Ferrigine is a staff writer at Salon. Originally from the Jersey Shore, she moved to New York City in 2016 to attend Columbia University, where she received her B.A. in English and M.A. in American Studies. Formerly a staff writer at NowThis News, she has an M.A. in Magazine Journalism from NYU and was previously a news fellow at Salon.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Arthur Engoron Brief Donald Trump Doug Larson Jeff Mcconney Letitia James Michael Cohen Politics