Just weeks after the New York Times published a 13,000-word report on how self-made millionaire Donald Trump actually inherited millions of dollars of his father’s scammer fortune, ProPublica and WNYC have published a report about how Trump and his kids have carried on the family tradition, conning their way to wealth and fame across the globe.
The report details how the Trump Organization routinely misled or outright lied to investors, buyers, and the press about their real estate and licensing projects, profiting off of failed ventures and then blaming developers or other contractors for the mess left in their wake. ProPublica and WYNC looked at a dozen of the organization’s international projects and found a pattern: Donald Trump would mislead or outright lie to investors about his ownership stake in projects, while Ivanka fed false sales figures of their projects to the press, misleading potential buyers. The projects failed, but the Trumps still walked away with millions.
From the report:
The cycle is exemplified in Panama City, where the Trumps were involved in a project to build a massive tower and complex known as the Trump Ocean Club. The project’s unfortunate turns included bankruptcy, then, years later, the forcible ejection of the Trump Organization from managing the hotel.
There, as elsewhere, the Trump Organization disclaimed responsibility. It emphasized that it had merely licensed the Trump name to developers who handled everything from construction to marketing. “The Trump Organization was not the owner, developer or seller of the Trump Ocean Club Panama project,” it said in a statement last year. “Because of its limited role, the company was not responsible for the financing of the project and had no involvement in the sale of units.”
That claim was false, according to the report. Ivanka’s role, as a fresh Wharton graduate, was to sell the units—or at least to appear to sell units:
Trump touted himself as a “partner” of the developer. His daughter Ivanka briefly boasted that she had personally sold 40 units. (A broker on the project said he couldn’t remember her selling even one.) Meanwhile, Ivanka told a journalist at the time that “over 90 percent” of the Panama units had sold — and at prices five times as high as comparable buildings. Both statements were untrue.
Not only were the Panama sales figures inflated, but many “purchases” turned out to be an illusion. That was no coincidence. The building’s financing depended on obtaining advance commitments from buyers, often before concrete had started pouring. But in between the sale of the bonds in 2007 and 2013, the year the building went bankrupt, buyers of 458 units in the 1,000-unit building abandoned their purchase contracts. Those buyers forfeited more than $50 million in deposits, and they never took possession of finished units. Given that the “buyers” were often shadowy shell companies or other paper entities, it was nearly impossible to discern who the actual purchasers were, let alone why they backed out.
The building went bankrupt, but Donald Trump made between $30 million and $55 million from the deal, according to the report.
Don Jr. also go in on the grift, of course (emphasis mine):
Panama also wasn’t the only project where questions emerged about insider deals. In Tampa, Donald Trump Jr. and three executives associated with the Trump Organization arranged to buy a unit under unusually attractive terms, according to emails between the executives and the developer. As early sales on the project surged, the Trump group — which formed a company called Busy Boys Investments to handle the purchase — bargained both for a discount price and a smaller deposit than other buyers paid.
Yes, it seems the Trumps were very, very, very busy boys.