Speed Reads

Things that make you go hmmm

The number of buyers using secretive shell companies to purchase Trump real estate has skyrocketed

President Trump's real estate sales have gotten much more secretive since he won the Republican nomination in 2016, with the majority of buyers now using limited liability companies to hide to-be owners' names, a USA Today investigation has found. In the two years before Trump was nominated, just 4 percent of buyers used shell companies to make purchases; in the year that followed, and throughout Trump's first year in office, that rate jumped all the way to 70 percent.

Attorney Bobby Burchfield, who was appointed to review the ethics of new Trump real estate deals, told USA Today that "if someone wants to do business with the Trump entities in the form of an LLC, we look behind the LLC to see who the owner of it is and where the funding is coming from. If we can't determine that, we won't sign off on it." Ross Delston, an attorney who specializes in anti-money laundering, argued in return: “From what we know of the Trump Organization's past real estate deals is they never see deals they don't like."

Ramsis Ghaly, a neurosurgeon who bought a Trump condo in Chicago, said he used an LLC on the advice of a consultant. "Was I nervous my name could be associated with him? Sure, you're always concerned with the politics and media, but for me the positives of the property outweighed the negatives," he explained.

Trump companies sold more than $35 million in real estate in 2017. Read more about the secretive sales, and who is actually purchasing the condos, at USA Today.