Expert witness for Trump defense invited judge and attorney general in NY civil fraud trial to visit Mar-a-Lago

December 7, 2023
by
Ben Marquis

Former President Donald Trump has furiously and repeatedly sought to rebut the absurdly low undervaluation of his prized Mar-a-Lago resort in South Florida in the pre-trial ruling from the judge presiding over his New York civil fraud case brought by the state's Attorney General Letitia James.

A Florida real estate broker who testified in Trump's defense on Tuesday pegged Mar-a-Lago's actual value far higher than even Trump has claimed and seemed to extend an invitation for both the judge and attorney general to visit the resort at "any time" and behold its splendor for themselves, according to Business Insider.

The expert witness for the defense team, undoubtedly in reference to the palpable animosity between Trump and the prosecutor and judge, even joked that he would see to it that Trump wouldn't be present at Mar-a-Lago at the time of their visit if the judge and attorney general took him up on the offer.

Real estate broker pegs Mar-a-Lago value at around $1.5 billion

Adam Klasfeld, a legal correspondent for The Messenger, provided running commentary on social media of the testimony provided Tuesday by Lawrence Moens, a celebrity real estate broker in South Florida who specializes in helping wealthy individuals find valuable properties to purchase.

The crux of his testimony as an expert witness for the defense was that Mar-a-Lago was a uniquely special property that had been seriously undervalued by everyone -- including the former president himself -- and claimed that it was currently worth at least $1.5 billion.

However, Moens' valuation of Mar-a-Lago was based on the premise that it might hypothetically be sold as a single-family residence -- an assumption that Judge Arthur Engoron had already rejected based on a deed that Trump signed decades ago that limited the resort to only ever be used as a commercial property, more specifically as a club with paid membership.

AG and judge invited to visit Mar-a-Lago, can "come see it any time"

Despite objections from prosecutors to Moens' testimony as an expert real estate broker familiar with the high-end South Florida market, Judge Engoron allowed the testimony to be heard, and according to ABC News, Moens was gratuitous in his praise of the 17+ acre waterfront estate owned by the former president.

"I am on the front lines every day of selling properties, and I have a pretty good handle of what is going on currently in the market," he said at one point and later added, "My numbers are usually right."

During his testimony, a roughly seven-minute video featuring dramatic orchestral music was played that provided a stunning look at all aspects of the property, after which Moens provided additional commentary on various luxurious details and finishes that all increased the value of the property overall in his expert opinion.

"I invited the attorney general's office to come see it any time. The offer still stands," the witness said of Mar-a-Lago, and added jokingly of Trump, "I will make sure he is not there when you come."

Judge's value based on uninformed tax assessment, not actual real estate market

Trump and Moens are not alone in calling out the New York judge and attorney general for grossly undervaluing the Mar-a-Lago property, as even CNN reported that numerous real estate experts questioned the exceptionally low valuation placed on the property by the prosecutor and judge.

While Trump had previously asserted that Mar-a-Lago was worth anywhere from $400 to $600 million, Judge Engoron had pegged the property's value in his pre-trial judgment as being more in the range of just $18 to $27 million.

The problem there, according to real estate experts, is that Engoron based that determination on the assessed value of Mar-a-Lago by the Palm Beach County tax assessor -- except that it is common knowledge in the real estate realm that tax assessment values are generally well below the actual market value of any given property.

In other words, the prosecutor and judge accepted without question the lowball valuation of a particularly unique property from an uninformed bureaucrat instead of the informed valuations of expert appraisers, brokers, and realtors who understand and work daily within the real estate market.

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