On the season five finale of The Apprentice, eventual winner Sean Yazbeck and runner-up Lee Bienstock were asked to choose between a Trump project in Hawaii or in SoHo as their prize for winning the show, which was then focused on an actual apprenticeship with Donald Trump. Both chose to work on the development in Manhattan.
Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump, Jr.’s subsequent work with that very same property was the subject of a two-year investigation by prosecutors in New York that almost led to both being indicted for felony fraud.
ProPublica, which worked with WNYC and The New Yorker, reported today that evidence included e-mail messages “from the Trumps making clear that they were aware they were using inflated figures about how well the condos were selling to lure buyers.”
Specifically, “the Trumps discussed how to coordinate false information they had given to prospective buyers”—and that went as far as Donald Jr. telling “a broker who was concerned about the false statements, saying that nobody would ever find out, because only people on the email chain or in the Trump Organization knew about the deception.”
Four years after the finale, in 2010, the Major Economic Crimes Bureau of the D.A.’s office in New York City started investigating. Lawyers for the Trump kids “conceded that their clients had made exaggerated claims, but argued that the overstatements didn’t amount to criminal misconduct.”
Why weren’t Ivanka and Don Jr. indicted?
Donald Trump Sr.’s lawyer, Marc Kasowitz asked Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance Jr. to drop the investigation. And Vance told his prosecutors to drop it—a decision he defends today. “I did not at the time believe beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime had been committed,” Vance told ProPublica. (Vance received a $25,000 campaign contribution from Trump’s lawyer that he returned, and after the case was dropped, received another contribution from Trump’s lawyer.)
In 2011, Trump settled a lawsuit brought by people who bought condos and said they’d been defrauded by the Trump Organization.
ProPublica notes that “the prosecutor’s focus on Ivanka and Donald Jr. and the email evidence against them, as well as Kasowitz’s involvement, and Vance’s decision to overrule his prosecutors, had not been previously made public. This account is based on interviews with 20 sources familiar with the investigation, court records, and other public documents.”
Read the full story, which is incredibly detailed and traces the story starting with Trump SoHo’s unveiling on the season finale of The Apprentice in 2006.