Trump fraud trial judge says there's 'no mistake' the former president's Mar-a-Lago price-tag was 'fraudulent'

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  • In his single largest net-worth whopper, Trump told a bank in 2018 that Mar-a-Lago was worth $739M.

  • He told the tax man it was worth a fraction of that and now claims it's worth north of $1 billion.

  • Trump's civil-fraud-trial judge called Trump's Mar-a-Lago valuation "fraudulent" in Friday's verdict.

Judge Arthur Engoron wanted to set the record straight, once and for all: Donald Trump has been blowing smoke about how much his beloved Mar-a-Lago is worth.

In a blistering verdict in the former president's massive civil fraud trial Friday, the Manhattan-based New York Supreme Court judge took a shot at Trump's previous claims that his Palm Beach, Florida, estate and private club was worth more than $1 billion.

Engoron's 92-page verdict notes that in 1995 Trump signed a "Deed of Conservation and Preservation" in which he gave up the right to use Mar-a-Lago for any purpose other than as a social club.

A 2002 deed that Trump signed, Engoron wrote in the verdict, gave away, "in perpetuity," the right to use Mar-a-Lago as a single-family residence. In exchange for executing the deed, Trump "paid significantly lower property taxes on Mar-a-Lago," Engoron said.

"There is no legal gray area surrounding the permanent nature of the deed restrictions," Engoron wrote. "Accordingly, there can be no mistake that Donald Trump's valuation of Mar-a-Lago from 2011- 2021 was fraudulent."

Trump, the judge wrote, "insisted that he believed Mar-a-Lago is worth 'between a billion and a billion five' today, which would require not only valuing it as a private residence, which the deed prohibits, but as more than the most expensive private residence listed in the country by approximately 400%."

Donald Trump wears a tuxedo at a New Year's Eve party he hosted at his Mar-a-Lago resort.
Donald Trump hosts a New Year's Eve party at his Mar-a-Lago resort.REUTERS/Marco Bello

On the witness stand in November, mid-way through his three-month civil fraud trial, Trump obsessed over the valuation of Mar-a-Lago.

The Palm Beach estate served as his "winter White House." It remains not only Trump's primary residence but a pricey, well-trafficked social club — a combination that stung him when FBI agents found he'd stashed boxes of classified documents there on moving back from DC, leading to pending criminal charges.

Under oath, Trump griped that Mar-a-Lago was worth at least $1 billion and called the judge a "fraud" for not agreeing to that valuation.

"The fraud is on the court when you rule that Mar-a-Lago is worth $18 million," Trump said on the witness stand in November. "I could give you a quarter of a tennis court that's worth more than that."

Trump and his supporters have falsely claimed Engoron valued the property at $18 million in his summary judgment ruling ahead of the trial.

In fact, Engoron's earlier decision cited a Palm Beach county tax appraisal, which found Mar-a-Lago to be worth between $18 million and $27 million. Because the estate is zoned as a social club, it carries business expenses that make it less valuable on paper than it would be if it were only a private residence.

"I specifically said in the summary-judgment decision, I'm not valuating properties," Engoron said on October 2, the first day of the trial. "Please, press, stop saying I'm valuing it at $18 million. There was a tax assessment in that range."

New York Attorney General Letitia James sued Trump over allegations that the Republican presidential frontrunner provided false valuations for tax, loan, and insurance purposes.

To secure and maintain his loans, the Trump Organization prepared statements of financial condition — documents that show Trump's assets, liabilities, and bottom line. Between 2011 and 2021, those documents stated that Mar-a-Lago was worth between about $350 million and $740 million.

James has countered that the club generated annual revenues of less than $25 million and that Trump should have told banks it was worth closer to $75 million.

In the trial, Trump switched back to claiming Mar-a-Lago was worth much more. A Palm Beach-based real estate agent who testified as an expert witness for Trump's defense team claimed it was worth as much as $1.2 billion — but his analysis didn't account for the costs of running the place as a business.

In Friday's scathing verdict that punishes a decade of deceit, Engoron slammed Trump, his two eldest sons, and his namesake company with a nearly $364 million cash penalty.

While Trump is personally on the hook for almost $355 million of that penalty, Donald Trump, Jr., and Eric Trump must pay $4 million each. And former Trump CFO Allen Weisselberg $1 million.

Read the original article on Business Insider