Evidence at fraud trial shows Trump’s financial statements were key to loan deal

Evidence at Donald Trump’s civil fraud trial in New York has showed his yearly financial statements were integral to some of his business empire’s loan deals, despite him saying he never believed they “would be taken very seriously”.

A state lawyer showed letters that former Trump company controller Jeffrey McConney sent to a bank, saying he was providing copies of the business mogul’s 2015 and 2016 financial statements as required under the conditions of a loan for his Seven Springs estate north of New York City.

Mr McConney was the first ex-insider from the Trump Organisation to give evidence at the trial, where New York attorney general Letitia James is alleging that Trump and his business deceived banks, insurers and others with fraudulent financial statements that vastly overvalued Trump Tower, Mar-a-Lago and other assets.

Jeffrey McConney
Jeffrey McConney (Seth Wenig/AP)

He did not attend proceedings on Thursday after choosing to be there the three previous days, when he addressed the news cameras waiting outside.

The financial statements went to lenders, insurers and others, but he said in pre-trial evidence that he never felt they “would be taken very seriously”, and that people who did business with him were given ample warning not to trust them.

He described the documents as “a fairly good compilation of properties” rather than a true representation of their value, and said some numbers were “guesstimates”.

Ms James has said the statements were the crux of “persistent and repeated fraud”.

Letitia James
Letitia James (Mary Altaffer/AP)

At the company’s criminal tax fraud trial last year, he admitted breaking the law to help fellow executives avoid taxes on company-paid perks, including by filing false tax returns and failing to report the benefits to tax authorities.

He was granted immunity to give evidence for the prosecution in the trial, which ended in the company’s conviction. Trump was not charged in that case.

Ms James’s legal team has sought to demonstrate that Trump and his company had complete control over the preparation of the statements, with the accountants relying on information the Trump Organisation provided.

The defence has tried to show that if there were problems with the financial statements, the errors were accountant Donald Bender’s fault.

Mr Bender, who prepared the statements for years, insisted on Thursday that he asked Trump Organisation executives for all required documents but did not always get them. He said he learned about some missing appraisals only when Manhattan prosecutors questioned him during their investigation into Trump’s business practices.

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