In a stunning verdict on Tuesday, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron delivered a bombshell ruling that former President Donald Trump committed fraud by inflating the value of his wealth.
This pivotal decision, which came down without a jury, has sent shockwaves through political — and real estate — circles.
Justice Engoron’s verdict holds Trump, 77, along with his family and his business empire, the Trump Organization, liable for fraud — a central allegation in New York Attorney General Letitia James’s expansive lawsuit against the defendants.
In a 35-page judgment, Justice Engoron sided with James, asserting that Trump had made unequivocally false statements in official documents to secure favorable terms with financial institutions.
Notably, Trump’s claims, such as his triplex penthouse in Trump Tower being 30,000 square feet when it was closer to 11,000, were described by Engoron as “fraudulent” given their significant discrepancies.
However, the ruling raised eyebrows when Justice Engoron, a democrat who ran unopposed in the general election on Nov. 3, 2015, evaluated the worth of Trump’s prized Mar-a-Lago Club resort at a mere $18 million.
He cited a basic Palm Beach Assessor valuation that ranged from $18 million to $28 million between 2011 and 2021, failing to take into consideration the fair market value. This valuation is a far cry from Trump’s 1985 purchase price of $10 million, a meager $8 million less than what the judge declared it was worth today.
To put it in perspective, a 2-acre wooded lot at 1980 S. Ocean Blvd., just 5 minutes from Mar-a-Lago, is currently listed for an eye-popping $150 million. Mar-a-Lago, situated at 1100 S. Ocean Blvd., dwarfs this lot tenfold and operates as a commercial business with around 500 members as part of the golf club.
Also nearby: a 2.3-acre plot of land at 1063/1071 N. Ocean Blvd., on the market for a sky-high $200 million.
Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate boasts 20 acres.
Forbes had appraised the property, boasting 128 rooms, at approximately $160 million in 2018 following extensive renovations and its exclusive Palm Beach location on Billionaires’ Row. The property includes a 20,000-square-foot ballroom, five clay tennis courts and a sprawling waterfront pool.
One prominent Palm Beach real estate broker, speaking on the basis of anonymity, told The Post, “It’s utterly delusional to think that property is only worth $18 million.”
The insider added, “If that property were on the market today, I would list it at around $300 million, minimum … at least. He also has the separate golf course minutes away.”
Nearby residential properties, less than half the size and lacking ocean frontage, are commanding an average price of $40 million in today’s market.
There have also been very prominent local purchases.
In March, Rush Limbaugh’s widow, Kathryn Adams Limbaugh, sold her husband’s longtime Palm Beach compound, on 2.7 acres, for $155 million.
And back in 2013, hedge funder Ken Griffin paid $129.6 million for four parcels in the area.
In addition to the verdict, Justice Engoron revoked the New York “business certificates” held by the Trump Organization and any other New York-based business associated with the former commander in chief or his family. He further mandated an independent third party to oversee the “dissolution of the cancelled LLCs.”
In response, Trump denounced it as a “Witch Hunt.”
Trump issued a lengthy statement, stating, “It is a great company that has been slandered and maligned by this politically motivated Witch Hunt. It is very unfair, and I call for the help from the highest courts in New York State, or the Federal System, to intercede. THIS IS NOT AMERICA.”
Last year, Judge Engoron referred to Trump as “just a bad guy,” in a scathing rebuke to a lawyer arguing that the former president was being unfairly singled out for investigation by AG James.
“If Ms. James has a thing against him, OK, that’s not in my understanding [of] unlawful discrimination. He’s just a bad guy she should go after as the chief law enforcement officer of the state.”