REFinBlog

Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

May 16, 2017

Manafort’s Mystery Mortgage

By David Reiss

photo by Kevin Dooley

NBC News quoted me in Manafort Got $3.5M Mystery Mortgage, Paid No Tax. It opens,

Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort took out a $3.5 million mortgage through a shell company just after leaving the campaign, but the mortgage document that explains how he would pay it back was never filed — and Manafort’s company never paid $36,000 in taxes that would be due on the loan.

In addition, despite telling NBC News previously that all his real estate transactions are transparent and include his name and signature, Manafort’s name and signature do not appear on any of the loan documents that are publicly available. A Manafort spokesperson said the $3.5 million loan was repaid in December, but also said paperwork showing the repayment was not filed until he was asked about the loan by NBC News.

News of the missing documents comes as New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is taking a “preliminary look” at Manafort’s real estate transactions, according to a source familiar with the matter.

On August 19, 2016, Manafort left the Trump campaign amid media reports about his previous work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine, including allegations he received millions of dollars in payments.

That same day, Manafort created a holding company called Summerbreeze LLC. Several weeks later, a document called a UCC filed with the state of New York shows that Summerbreeze took out a $3.5 million loan on Manafort’s home in the tony beach enclave of Bridgehampton.

Manafort’s name does not appear on the UCC filing, but Summerbreeze LLC gives his Florida address as a contact, and lists his Bridgehampton home as collateral.

A review of New York state and Suffolk County records shows the loan was made by S C 3, a subsidiary of Spruce Capital, which was co-founded by Joshua Crane, who has partnered with Donald Trump on real estate deals. Spruce is also partially funded by Ukrainian-American real-estate magnate Alexander Rovt, who tried to donate $10,000 to Trump’s presidential campaign on Election Day but had all but the legal maximum of $2,700 returned.

The mortgage notice for the loan, however, was never entered into government records by the lender. A mortgage notice normally names the lender, and gives the interest rate, the frequency with which payments must be made, and the length of the mortgage.

Real estate experts contacted by NBC News called the omission “highly unusual,” though not illegal.

David Reiss, a professor at Brooklyn Law School who specializes in real estate law, said, “It would be totally ill-advised to not record the loan on the property that is being secured. … Recording the mortgage on the property protects the lender.” Without it, there’s no public record that the borrower owes money.

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