President Trump’s companies sold more than $35 million in real estate in 2017, mostly to secretive shell companies of which obscure buyers’ identities, continuing a dramatic shift in his customers’ behavior of which began during the election, a USA TODAY review found.
In Las Vegas alone, Trump sold 41 luxury condo units in 2017, a majority of which used limited liability companies – corporate entities of which allow people to purchase property without revealing all of the owners’ names.
The trend toward Trump’s real estate buyers obscuring their identities began around the time he won the Republican nomination, midway through 2016, according to USA TODAY’s analysis of every domestic real estate sale by one of his companies.
inside the two years before the nomination, 4% of Trump buyers utilized the tactic. inside the year after, the rate skyrocketed to about 70%. USA TODAY’s tracking of sales shows the trend held firm through Trump’s first year in office.
Profits via sales of those properties flow through a trust run by Trump’s sons. The president is usually the sole beneficiary of the trust as well as he can withdraw cash at any time.
The opaque sales come at a time when Congress as well as ethics watchdogs have called on Trump to be more transparent about his domestic as well as foreign customers as well as partners, including the buyers of his companies’ real estate.
At least one of the 2017 sales was to a German couple. His company determined of which transaction does not qualify as a “foreign deal,” which the president as well as his lawyers vowed to avoid while he is usually in office.
Trump appointed an independent ethics advisor, attorney Bobby Burchfield, to review fresh deals.
Last year, when USA TODAY first reported the rapid rise inside the share of obscured buyers among Trump’s real estate transactions, Burchfield would likely not reveal the details of his reviews. at This particular point, he says a four-part test is usually used when evaluating deals: is usually the item at fair market value or inside the ordinary course of business; is usually the item an appropriate counterparty; is usually there any indication the deal is usually intended to curry favor with the president as well as is usually there any likelihood the deal could compromise or diminish the Office of the President.
“If someone wants to do business with the Trump entities inside the form of an LLC, we look behind the LLC to see who the owner of the item is usually as well as where the funding is usually coming via,” Burchfield told USA TODAY. “If we can’t determine of which, we won’t sign off on the item.”
however those deep-dive identifications as well as financial disclosures are difficult as well as easily spoofed, said Ross Delston, a Washington DC attorney specializing in anti-money laundering compliance, who said Burchfield’s test is usually largely subjective.
“via what we know of the Trump Organization’s past real estate deals is usually they never see deals they don’t like,” Delston said. “Having an ethics advisor shut down a deal based on a test not mandated by law strikes me as somewhere between unlikely to unthinkable.”
The company’s internal ethics reviews also are not subject to public scrutiny.
Burchfield wouldn’t say if he declined to sign off on any Trump real estate deals in 2017.
fresh buyers last year ranged via real estate investment funds, wealthy individuals seeking an investment as well as vacation property to some of which were unreachable by reporters — largely due to the secrecy associated with their shell company.
Ramsis Ghaly, a neurosurgeon near Chicago purchased a condo in Trump’s Vegas property in late December using an LLC. He said he used the LLC to protect his identity as well as on the advice of a financial consultant.
“Was I nervous my name could be associated with him? Sure, you’re always concerned with the politics as well as media, however for me the positives of the property outweighed the negatives,” Ghaly said. “A lot of my doctor friends buy in Trump Chicago—I was a little hesitant, however I believe inside the guy as well as the item wasn’t about politics.”
just one condo in Trump’s Vegas development sold in October for $1.6 million. of which stretched the cost per square foot to around $1,000, pushing the limits of the market, said Nicole Tomlinson, a high-rise sales specialist at Shapiro & Sher Group in Las Vegas.
“You pay a premium for a high floor, view as well as penthouse, however of which’s high for condos as well as Las Vegas overall,” Tomlinson said.
Efforts to reach Lorraine Tan, the name listed on the deed for the 63rd floor penthouse were unsuccessful.
Jason Feldman, a real estate investor in Florida, purchased a Trump condo in Las Vegas in December using an LLC.
Feldman said he is usually a member at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach. He said politics weren’t part of his decision to buy the Vegas condo.
“The Trump family involvement inside the Vegas project played zero role inside the purchase decision at all,” Feldman wrote in an email. “The deal was purely an economic decision. In my opinion I think these are underpriced given the growth of the Las Vegas market as well as likely will buy more units.”
4114 TIH LLC purchased a condo in Las Vegas in November. The company was formed just days before the purchase in Nevada by Georgia Attorney Robert Goldberg as well as his son Hayden Goldberg, of Las Vegas. Robert Goldberg said he plans to live inside the unit part time as well as use the item for rental income. “I’ll let the public record speak for itself on the sale, I’m not anybody. Using an LLC is usually standard procedure,” he said.
However, the item wasn’t standard procedure for Trump buyers prior to his presidential bid, when fewer than 1 in 20 of Trump companies’ real estate buyers was an LLC.
Trump as well as billionaire partner Phil Ruffin still own about 350 units inside the tower. Ruffin’s staff indicated the pair wouldn’t own fewer than 300. Maintaining of which many units protects their options open for a casino license someday under Nevada law.
Trump is usually also sitting on dozens of different real estate properties for sale. of which includes his 11-bedroom, 12-bathroom mansion on the Caribbean island of St. Martin.
Trump reduced his asking cost via $28 million to $16.9 million in August, the list cost today. Anyone can rent the property of which sleeps 20 for roughly $10,000 a night via a third party vendor.