The U.S. Supreme Court declined Monday to block a New York grand jury from getting President Donald Trump’s personal and corporate tax returns, a decisive defeat in his prolonged legal battle to keep his tax records out of the hands of investigators.
The subpoena issued to the New York City Tax Commission is the latest indication that Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. is looking at the values Trump assigned to some commercial properties in tax filings and loan documents.
Vance has not commented specifically on the focus of his investigation but noted in court filings that his office is exploring “possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct” at the Trump Organization, including possible falsification of records as well as insurance and tax fraud.
Along with information already subpoenaed from creditors, the tax agency documents would help investigators determine whether Trump’s business inflated the value of his properties to secure favorable terms on loans while deflating those values to lower tax bills for those same properties.
If Trump’s business claimed a substantially lower value for a property in its tax filings than it did in documents it submitted to creditors, the discrepancy could help back up a fraud charge, according to Daniel J. Horwitz, a white-collar defense lawyer who previously prosecuted tax and complex fraud cases during more than eight years in the Manhattan district attorney’s office.
If there’s a “material difference” between the property values claimed in tax filings and the values claimed in loan documents, he added, “that’s fairly compelling.”
Fraud can carry prison time.