The Trump Organization paid bribes, through middlemen, to New York City tax assessors to lower its property tax bills for several Manhattan buildings in the 1980s and 1990s, according to five former tax assessors and city employees as well as a former Trump Organization employee.
Two of the five city employees said they personally took bribes to lower the assessment on a Trump property; the other three said they had indirect knowledge of the payments. The city employees were among 18 indicted in 2002 for taking bribes in exchange for lowering the valuations of properties, which in turn reduced the taxes owed for the buildings. All of the 18 eventually pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Manhattan except for one, who died before his case was resolved.
No building owners were charged, though the addresses of some of the properties involved became public. Trump’s buildings were not on that list. No evidence has emerged that Donald Trump personally knew of or participated in the alleged bribery.
Trump denied any wrongdoing at the time, and the Trump Organization reiterated that position in response to questions for this article. “To be clear, at no time did the Trump Organization or any of its employees or principals ever pay anyone for the purpose of unlawfully obtaining a lower tax valuation,” Alan Garten, the Trump Organization’s chief legal officer, wrote in a statement. “This was corroborated by multiple investigations which found no evidence of any wrongdoing by the company or any of its principals. ... If anything, the Trump Organization was a victim of the scandal.” (Here is the company’s full statement.)
Read the full print version of this story at ProPublica. Special thanks to former New York Times reporter Charles Bagli, who first reported on the bribery scheme in 2002. Sign up for email updates from Trump, Inc. for the latest on WNYC and ProPublica's investigations
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