Tax Crime Investigator Believes Donald Trump Is Laundering Money Through Mar-A-Lago
Donald Trump and his campaign may be using his Mar-A-Lago resort as a money-laundering machine, warns a retired tax crimes investigator. He’s looking at how payments to the Florida resort, through Trump’s campaign, have the appearance of dodging financial reporting requirements — in short, he says they look like a cover-up.
Writing for The Daily Beast, 30-year IRS tax crimes investigator Martin Sheil says that a series of payments to Mar-A-Lago from the campaign, all ostensibly for “facility rental/catering services,” would have raised questions in his line of work.
Is the $380,000 income? If so, what was delivered in exchange for it? Were these payments for past services rendered or for future expected returns? Who were the donors? Why didn’t the Trump Organization just report the entire $380,000 in total? Why break that down into separate transactions? Why was each payment identically described as “Facility Rental/ Catering Services”? Is something being disguised here?
He’s talking about a financial record that Washington Post reporter David Farenthold tweeted out last week. It shows the Trump campaign making 43 separate payments, most between $8k and $10k, totaling $380k, to Mar-A-Lago in just two days. All of the items are listed as being for facility rental and catering. While Farenthold sees these as using campaign donations to enrich Trump’s private business, Sheil’s IRS eye sees something else: he says the payments are just below the minimum that would require reporting.
In just two days, @realdonaldtrump’s campaign pumped $380K into Trump’s private business, in 43 separate payments. Trump Org says this was for a weeklong “donor retreat,” held in early March at Mar-a-Lago.
Campaign donations turned into private revenue for POTUS pic.twitter.com/1kf39vAqkt
— David Fahrenthold (@Fahrenthold) July 17, 2020
…broken into chunks of $10,000 and less—which happens to be the reporting requirement for receipt of cash payments in a trade or business to FinCEN (the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network)
It’s not the first time that Trump has been accused of having outside money pumped into his businesses in a way that dodges the law. Mary Trump described in her book an incident in which she says that her grandfather, Fred Trump, once bought over $3 million in casino chips from Trump Castle Casino Resort, leaving with them rather than using them to gamble — which resulted in an investigation by the gaming commission and a hefty fine.
Trump has also been criticized throughout his presidency for the amount of taxpayer money he’s diverted to his businesses. Propublica, earlier this year, detailed some of these costs, including charging the U.S. government $650 per night for secret service members to stay at Mar-A-Lago, where they provide protection for the president, adding up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. An analysis published by Time last year found that Trump’s visits to his own resorts cost the government about $1 million per day. Not all of that is in payments directly to the president’s own private business, but significant portions are.
With regard to the current allegations, Sheil notes that there are criminal penalties for breaking a large payment into smaller chunks to avoid reporting laws, and that the president’s businesses have run afoul of these same laws before. The Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort was charged a $10 million fine for violations, and that business has a history of similar violations and penalties dating back to 2003, as well as a 1998 violation for currency transaction reporting.