At Donald Trump’s civil trial, scrutiny shifts to son Eric’s ‘lofty ideas’ for valuing a property

Oct 19, 2023, 12:48 PM

Eric Trump arrives at New York Supreme Court, Monday, Oct. 2, 2023, in New York. Former President D...

Eric Trump arrives at New York Supreme Court, Monday, Oct. 2, 2023, in New York. Former President Donald Trump is making a rare, voluntary trip to court in New York for the start of a civil trial in a lawsuit that already has resulted in a judge ruling that he committed fraud in his business dealings. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)


The spotlight at Donald Trump’s civil fraud trial turned Thursday to the former president’s son Eric, with documents and testimony suggesting the scion envisioned a “lofty” value on a suburban New York golf course where the family business proposed building luxury townhouses.

The trial stems from New York Attorney General Letitia James’ claims that Trump, his company and executives, including Eric Trump, fraudulently inflated the value of the Westchester County golf club and other properties on financial statements given to lenders, insurers and others. Trump, the Republican front-runner in the 2024 presidential campaign, denies the allegations and says the documents actually underestimated the value of his prime properties.

Eric Trump, an executive vice president at the Trump Organization, sought an appraisal of the Trump National Golf Club in Briarcliff Manor, New York, in 2013, according to documents and testimony Thursday.

At the time, the Trumps were considering what’s known as a conservation easement on the property, according to David McArdle, an appraiser with the commercial real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield. A conservation easement is essentially an agreement to forgo development in exchange for a tax break.

McArdle said he was asked to figure out what the property would be worth if the Trump Organization built 71 high-end townhomes there, and he got substantial input from Eric Trump.

“Of course Eric Trump has lofty ideas on value,” assuming the townhouses would easily sell for $1,000 per square foot, McArdle wrote in an email to a fellow appraiser at the time.

“Eric loved this project. He thought it was very special. I didn’t disagree with him,” McArdle testified Thursday. He said that it wasn’t unusual for property owners to weigh in on the appraisal process and that he was “perfectly willing to listen,” while ultimately making his own professional judgment.

McArdle’s appraisal ultimately came in at $43.3 million. In an email exchange as a ballpark figure was becoming clear, he and some lawyers for the Trump company strategized about how to present it to their client.

McArdle said Thursday that Eric Trump may have had a “more lofty value” in mind, but a higher number wouldn’t have been credible. With one of the attorneys suggesting that the number might come under scrutiny from tax authorities or a court, the email discussion was a leadup “to finally tell Eric he should accept this value from the professionals that probably know this better than he,” McArdle testified.

Shortly after that email discussion, Eric Trump wrote in a message that he’d spoken to one of the attorneys and told McArdle to hold off sending the appraisal until further notice. McArdle said he wasn’t told why, noting that appraisals often “have a lot of stops and starts.”

He said he didn’t believe the final appraisal ever was sent.

Trump’s financial statements went on to list the golf course at values sometimes topping $100 million, according to James’ lawsuit. The villas weren’t built.

Lawyers for the Trumps haven’t yet had their turn to question McArdle. In pretrial testimony, Eric Trump said he didn’t recall much about engaging with McArdle and the other appraisers about the golf course, and that the easement was something the company briefly explored but didn’t pursue.

Both Eric and Donald Trump have attended some parts of the trial but weren’t there Thursday. Besides McArdle, the court also heard from a lending executive who said that Donald Trump’s claimed net worth played a role — but not a key one — in securing a $160 million refinancing loan on a Wall Street office building in 2015.

The executive, Jack Weisselberg of Ladder Capital, worked on the deal with Trump executives including his father, then-finance chief Allen Weisselberg.

An internal Ladder Capital document, shown in court Thursday, said the “deal strengths” included Trump’s stated net worth of nearly $5.8 billion, over $300 million of it in cash and other liquid assets — figures that reflected Trump’s 2014 financial statement.

“The net worth statement is one of many thing that we look at in the underwriting process. I wouldn’t say it was a key factor … it was a factor,” Weisselberg testified, explaining that “liquidity was what we were really paying attention to.”

Asked whether Ladder Capital had independently gathered financial information on Trump, Weisselberg said the data had come from the then-businessman.

Earlier in the trial, retired Deutsche Bank official Nicholas Haigh testified that Trump’s financial statements were key to approvals for hundreds of millions of dollars in loans in 2011 and 2012.

But the bank conducted “sanity checks” on Trump’s numbers, sometimes knocking significant amounts off his value estimates for such holdings as Trump Tower and his golf courses, Haigh said.

The state attorney general is seeking $250 million and a ban on Trump and other defendants doing business in New York.

In a pretrial ruling, Judge Arthur Engoron found that Trump and his company engaged in fraud, and ordered that a court-appointed receiver take control of some Trump companies, which could strip the ex-president of control over Trump Tower and other marquee properties. An appeals court has since blocked enforcement of that aspect of the ruling, at least for now.

Both Engoron and James are Democrats.


Associated Press writer Michael R. Sisak contributed to this report.

United States News

Associated Press

Indiana man suspected in teen girl’s disappearance charged with murder after remains found

ARLINGTON, Ind. (AP) — A 59-year-old man suspected in the June disappearance of a 17-year-old neighbor has been charged with murder after human remains were found buried in a pit on his central Indiana property. Patrick Scott of Arlington appeared Thursday in Rush County Circuit Court for an initial hearing. Scott also is charged with […]

4 minutes ago

Associated Press

Publishing industry heavy-hitters sue Iowa over state’s new school book-banning law

The nation’s largest publisher and several bestselling authors, including novelists John Green and Jodi Picoult, are part of a lawsuit filed Thursday challenging Iowa’s new law that bans public school libraries and classrooms from having practically any book that depicts sexual activity. The lawsuit is the second in the past week to challenge the law, […]

13 minutes ago

Associated Press

Florida Supreme Court: Law enforcement isn’t required to withhold victims’ names

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida law enforcement agencies began refusing to publicly release crime victims’ names after voters passed a victims’ rights constitutional amendment, but the state Supreme Court ruled on Thursday they weren’t required to do so. Legally, the name of a crime victim doesn’t have to be withheld from the public, the court […]

43 minutes ago

Associated Press

Facebook parent Meta sues the FTC claiming ‘unconstitutional authority’ in child privacy case

MENLO PARK, Calif. (AP) — The parent company of Instagram and Facebook has sued the Federal Trade Commission in an attempt to stop the agency from reopening a 2020 privacy settlement with the company that would prohibit it from profiting from data it collects on users under 18. In a lawsuit filed late Wednesday in […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Drivers would pay $15 to enter busiest part of NYC under plan to raise funds for mass transit

NEW YORK (AP) — Most drivers would pay $15 to enter Manhattan’s central business district under a plan released by New York officials Thursday. The congestion pricing plan, which neighboring New Jersey has filed a lawsuit over, will be the first such program in the United States if it is approved by transportation officials early […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Collective bargaining ban in Wisconsin under attack by unions after Supreme Court majority flips

Seven unions representing teachers and other public workers in Wisconsin filed a lawsuit Thursday attempting to end the state’s near-total ban on collective bargaining for most public employees. The 2011 law, known as Act 10, has withstood numerous legal challenges over the past dozen years and was the signature legislative achievement of former Republican Gov. […]

2 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(KTAR News Graphic)...

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.


Desert Institute for Spine Care

Desert Institute for Spine Care (DISC) wants to help Valley residents address back, neck issues through awake spine surgery

As the weather begins to change, those with back issues can no longer rely on the dry heat to aid their backs. That's where DISC comes in.



Importance of AC maintenance after Arizona’s excruciating heat wave

An air conditioning unit in Phoenix is vital to living a comfortable life inside, away from triple-digit heat.

At Donald Trump’s civil trial, scrutiny shifts to son Eric’s ‘lofty ideas’ for valuing a property