Maybe it's just a coincidence, but in the year since President Trump clinched the Republican presidential nomination, about 70 percent of the entities purchasing property from the Trump Organization have been secretive shell companies that obscure the identities of the buyers, versus just 4 percent of such buyers in the previous two years, USA Today reports, following a six-month investigation. Limited liabilities companies (LLCs) are corporate entities that aren't required to list the names of all owners.
"The clear post-nomination shift since last year to more shell-company purchases is unique to sales by Trump's companies, even in his own towers and neighborhoods," USA Today found. In all, the newspaper discovered that Trump and his companies own more than 430 properties worth more than $250 million, and that since Election Day, Trump's businesses have sold 28 U.S. properties for $33 million. Real estate "offers unique opportunity for anyone to steer money to a sitting president," USA Today notes. "The increase in purchasers shielded by LLCs makes it far more difficult to track who is paying the president and his companies for properties ranging in price from $220,000 to $10 million — or more," though reporters "found no sales by Trump's companies that were obviously above the market rate."
LLCs can be used to buy property for relatively benign reasons, like giving celebrities and foreign political dissidents a way to protect their privacy while purchasing a home, but they can also be used for "more nefarious reasons," like tax evasion and laundering drug profits or embezzled funds, USA Today explains. The White House referred the newspaper's questions to the Trump Organization, which declined to respond. You can read more at USA Today.