The Trump Organization allegedly bribed New York City tax assessors with the help of middlemen to lower the valuations of several Manhattan properties in the 1980s and 1990s so the company could save money on property taxes, ProPublica reported on Wednesday. Two of five former city employees who spoke to ProPublica said they personally received payments from a middleman to lower the assessment on one of the company’s properties. The others interviewed said they knew about the bribes indirectly. Eighteen city employees were indicted in 2002 for accepting more than $10 million in bribes for lowering tax bills on various buildings during a 35-year period. Seventeen of the indicted city employees pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan. Frank Valvo, a former city assessor who served prison time for taking bribes in the scheme, told ProPublica that city employees cheered from excitement after learning that the Trump Organization would pay the bribes. “We got Trump!” Valvo recalled one assessor boasting at the time.
A former Trump Organization employee told the outlet that Donald Trump set up a meeting between an alleged middleman and another employee. ProPublica reported that there is no evidence that Donald Trump was involved in, or was aware of, the bribes. The Trump Organization’s chief legal officer Alan Garten said that “at no time did the Trump Organization or any of its employees or principals ever pay anyone for the purpose of unlawfully obtaining a lower tax valuation.” Garten, however, did not provide any evidence that would back up his claim that investigations determined there was no “wrongdoing by the company or any of its principals.”