A Westchester County, N.Y., land-use lawyer is at the center of the latest skirmish in the battle between the Trump Organization and the New York attorney general’s office, which is investigating alleged fraud by the president and his company.
The Trump Organization has asked a New York judge to prevent certain documents held by the lawyer, Charles Martabano, from being turned over to the attorney general. The documents held by Mr. Martabano, who represented the Trump Organization from at least 2011 through June 2014, include materials related to the Trump property in Westchester known as Seven Springs and communications with Eric Trump, the attorney general’s office said in court papers. The Trump Organization has said the documents are protected by attorney-client privilege.
New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, is investigating whether President Trump and the Trump Organization improperly inflated the president’s assets on financial documents to get economic and tax benefits. A Trump Organization spokeswoman has said the probe is all about politics. Eric Trump said on Twitter that Ms. James’s “sole focus is an anti-Trump fishing expedition that she promised during her campaign.”
In a separate probe, the Manhattan district attorney is investigating alleged insurance and bank fraud by the Trump Organization and its officers. Mr. Trump has called the investigation the “worst witch hunt in American history.”
The dispute over Mr. Martabano’s documents began after the judge last month instructed the lawyer to turn them over. George Calcagnini, a lawyer for Mr. Martabano, has argued that the judge unfairly ordered his client to produce communications that would violate the Trump Organization’s attorney-client privilege. Lawyers for the attorney general have said the Trump Organization is trying to delay the proceedings and that its lawyers need the documents for the deposition of Eric Trump, which is scheduled for Monday.
A spokesman for Ms. James didn’t comment. A lawyer for the Trump Organization declined to comment. A lawyer for Mr. Martabano didn’t respond to requests for comment.
The Seven Springs estate is one of at least four properties that are part of the probe. The attorney general is looking at the estate’s conservation easement, an agreement the Trump Organization made in which it said it wouldn’t develop parts of the land in exchange for tax benefits. “One aspect of the attorney general’s investigation is whether the value of that easement was improperly inflated for the purpose of taking a larger tax deduction than would otherwise have been permitted,” Matthew Colangelo, a lawyer for the attorney general, said at a court hearing last month.
Eugene Meyer, a former publisher of the Washington Post, built the 213-acre property’s mansion in 1919, according to the Trump Organization website. The website says the property is used as a Trump family retreat.
A Trump Organization subsidiary purchased the property for $7.5 million in 1995, according to the attorney general’s office. In the ensuing years, Mr. Trump made efforts to develop the property into a golf course and residential subdivision.
In late 2015, Mr. Trump entered into an agreement to establish a 158-acre conservation easement on the property. The land may provide a habitat for species such as mountain dusky salamanders and some of the rarest bats in the region, according to the agreement.
A 2016 appraisal, prepared by real-estate services firm
Cushman & Wakefield
at the request of Eric Trump, valued the property at $56.5 million and the easement at $21.1 million, according to the attorney general’s office.
Tax forms submitted to the Internal Revenue Service in 2016 also value the easement at $21.1 million, according to the attorney general. Property owners can claim the value of such donations as an income-tax deduction.
Mr. Martabano, the land-use attorney, worked with the Trump Organization in connection with potential development of the Seven Springs property in the years prior to the easement. Mr. Martabano’s lawyer has said the subpoena related to a proposed subdivision called the Seven Springs project.
Mr. Martabano comes from a longtime Westchester family known locally for owning real estate and car dealerships.
Frank Veith, a real-estate lawyer in Katonah, N.Y., who said he has known Mr. Martabano professionally for about 20 years, said Mr. Martabano has a reputation as a specialist in getting municipal approvals that require the consent of local officials. He is known for taking on controversial applications and pursuing them vigorously, Mr. Veith said.
“Charlie is the type of lawyer who enjoys the fight, enjoys the challenge,” he added.
In the 1980s, Mr. Martabano served as the village attorney of Mount Kisco, N.Y. He has been involved in real-estate development, and recent clients have included an auto-body shop, documents show.
Mr. Martabano appeared before local boards on behalf of President Trump, according to news reports and people present at local board meetings.
The dispute over what Mr. Martabano is required to give to the attorney general’s office, which subpoenaed documents in January, has dragged on for months. In July, Mr. Martabano appeared for a deposition but, according to the attorney general, his lawyer told him not to answer questions about communications with the Trump Organization and Eric Trump.
—Rebecca Davis O’Brien contributed to this article.
Write to Corinne Ramey at [email protected]
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