White House advisor Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr has been subject of a criminal investigation for fraud
That’s first daughter and White House advisor Ivanka Trump.
But it turns out that Ivanka is much more familiar with the tribulations of being the subject of a criminal investigation than her poised, society heiress persona would lead the American public to believe.
For two years starting in 2010, the aspiring entrepreneur and her brother Donald Trump Jr. were under investigation in a felony fraud case involving Trump SoHo, a luxury hotel and condominium project in New York City that they were developing for their father’s Trump Organization, according to a new story by the New Yorker.
But then Trump’s personal attorney, Marc Kasowitz, intervened with a meeting with Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. Kasowitz had donated generously to Vance’s re-election campaign. Within a few months the investigation was dropped, according to the report, a collaboration of the New Yorker, ProPublica and WNYC.
“For two years, prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office had been building a criminal case against them for misleading prospective buyers of units in the Trump SoHo,” reads the story.
“Despite the best efforts of the siblings’ defense team, the case had not gone away,” the story continues. “An indictment seemed like a real possibility. The evidence included e-mails from the Trumps making clear that they were aware they were using inflated figures about how well the condos were selling to lure buyers.”
In one e-mail, the Trumps discussed the false information they had given to prospective buyers, according to the New Yorker story, which cites 20 sources familiar with the investigation, as well as court records and other public documents.
In another e-mail, the siblings fret that a reporter would break the story. In another, Donald, Jr., reassures a broker who was concerned about the false statements, saying that nobody would ever find out, because only people on the e-mail chain or in the Trump Organization knew about the deception, a person who saw the e-mail told the New Yorker.
The investigation was launched in 2010 by the Major Economic Crimes Bureau of the District Attorney’s office and progressed to the point that the lead prosecutor considered impanelling a special grand jury, a step that’s often considered a prelude to indictments, the New Yorker said.
“With a grand jury in place, defense lawyers knew the risk of indictment was high,” the story said.
In response, the Trump Organization hired several top New York criminal-defense lawyers to represent Donald, Jr., and Ivanka. In meetings with prosecutors, the attorneys conceded that their clients had made exaggerated claims, but argued that the overstatements didn’t amount to criminal misconduct.
The case continued until the future president had Kasowitz, his long-time personal attorney, get involved in the case in the spring of 2012. That’s when Kasowitz, who briefly represented Trump in the Russia investigation, paid a visit to the District Attorney Vance.
Earlier in 2012, Kasowitz had donated $25,000 to Vance’s re-election — which Vance returned just before his meeting with Kasowitz. None of the investigators on the case reportedly were present.
Then, three months after meeting with Kasowitz, Vance overruled his prosecutors and told his office to drop the investigation.
Kasowitz “subsequently boasted to colleagues about representing the Trump children,” the New Yorker story said, citing two sources. He said that the case was “really dangerous,” one person said, and that it was “amazing I got them off.”
And six months after Vance’s ruling, Kasowitz made an even larger donation to Vance’s campaign, helping to raise more than $50,000, with $32,000 from himself and the rest from others.
“I don’t want the money to be a millstone around anybody’s neck, including the office’s,” he said.
He also defended his decision to have his office drop the investigation.
“I did not at the time believe beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime had been committed,” he said. “I had to make a call and I made the call, and I think I made the right call.”
Kasowitz also justified his contribution to Vance’s campaign and denied it had anything to do with his work with the Trump siblings. He said he’s “never made a contribution to anyone’s campaign, including Cy Vance’s, as a ‘quid-pro-quo’ for anything.”
In a statement to the Huffington Post, a spokeswoman for Vance doubled-down on the position that there was insufficient evidence to bring charges against Ivanka and Donald Jr. in 2012.
“This was a two-year investigation that never produced sufficient evidence to support a criminal prosecution,“ said Joan Vollero, Vance’s director of communications. “During the investigation, the luxury apartment purchasers reversed course and took the position that the sellers had not committed any crime against them. No outside attorney influenced any decision in this matter.”
The future president unveiled the Trump SoHo project on the 2006 season finale of “The Apprentice.” The high-end development was intended to herald the arrival of Ivanka and Donald, Jr., as full players in his real estate empire. Ivanka was then 24 and Donald Jr. was 28.
But the project was troubled from the start. For one thing, the high-priced condos hit the market in September, 2007, just as the global economy began to crater and a global recession set in. Over the next few months, Ivanka and Donald Jr. made numerous statements to the media and others that inflated the number of units sold. During a June 2008 press conference with the foreign press at Trump Tower, Ivanka announced that 60 percent of units had been sold.
But none of that was true, the New Yorker said. According to a sworn affidavit made by a Trump partner to the New York Attorney General’s office, only 15.8 of units had been sold by March 2010.
Concluding they had been cheated, some buyers filed a lawsuit against the Trump Organization, accusing the Trumps and other defendants of “a consistent and concerted pattern of outright lies.” The suit was subsequently settled, with the Trumps agreeing to return 90 percent of the buyers’ deposits as long as the plaintiffs agreed to not coöperate with prosecutors unless they were subpoenaed.
In 2014, the Trump SoHo went into foreclosure in 2014 and was taken over by a creditor, the New Yorker said.
Only 128 of the 391 units in the building have sold — around 33 percent and far below the 60 percent Ivanka once claimed.