New York Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks to the media during a press conference at City Hall on January 3, 2020 in New York City.
Eduardo Munoz Alvarez / Getty Images
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday that the city —”because of the possibility of a criminal act” — notified Manhattan prosecutors after news reports that the Trump Organization gave conflicting information about income and expenses to city tax officials and investors.
“This is a real problem, and I think there could be some real exposure here,” de Blasio told WNYC when a reporter asked if the city had conducted an inquiry into the reports, by that radio station and ProPublica, of discrepancies in how President Donald Trump‘s company reported financial information to different entities.
“It was looked at [by the city] and one of the specific issues within your story — or ProPublica story originally — was referred to the district attorney because there is the possibility of a criminal act having been committed,” said de Blasio, who until September had sought the Democratic nomination for president in 2020.
ProPublica and WNYC reported in October that documents showed that Trump’s businesses gave lenders and New York City tax authorities “different figures” for “some expenses, profits and occupancy figures for two Manhattan buildings.”
“The discrepancies made the buildings appear more profitable to the lender — and less profitable to the officials who set the buildings’ property tax,” the news site noted.
Nancy Wallace, a professor of finance and real estate at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, told ProPublica that such discrepancies are “versions of fraud.”
“This kind of stuff is not OK,” Wallace said.
“Certainly, if I were sitting in a prosecutor’s office, I would want to ask a lot more questions,” said Anne Milgram, a former attorney general for New Jersey who is now a professor at New York University School of Law, in an interview with the news outlets.
A spokeswoman for de Blasio later told CNBC that city made the referral to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office in November on the heels of the reports by ProPublica and WNYC.
“ProPublica and WNYC’s investigation raised questions about what was reported to the Tax Commission versus bank lenders,” said Laura Feyer, the spokeswoman.
“The Manhattan DA is the proper jurisdiction to investigate these claims, as the City can only review what is directly reported to us. The DA has the jurisdiction to take appropriate steps if they find wrongdoing.”
Danny Frost, a spokesman for Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr. told CNBC, “We will decline to comment.”
“Our office does not confirm investigations,” Frost said.
A spokeswoman for the Trump Organization, when asked about de Blasio’s comments, told CNBC, “”Given the rash of investigations launched against the mayor’s presidential campaign and administration, he is the last person to be pointing fingers.”
“But even more troubling is his admission that, at or around the time he was running for president, he was using the power of his office to try and launch an investigation into his political opponent,” the spokeswoman said. “The allegations are unfounded and clearly motivated by politics.”