In so many words, the Associated Press has posed the question: did Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump commit insurance fraud?
The Press reviewed court documents that showed Trump received a $17 million insurance payment for storm damage at his Mar-a-Lago resort in 2005, but they could not find any record of extensive damage or anyone who even remembers the property being damaged.
Palm Beach building department records show no permits for construction on that scale after the storms. Permits reflected smaller projects, including installation of new grease traps in the kitchen and tree trimming along the road. The only permits that appeared hurricane-related were for $3,000 in repairs to storm-damaged outdoor lighting and the vacuuming of sand from the property's beachfront pool. Likewise, records of the city's Landmarks and Preservation Commission reflected no repair work conducted following the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons.
The city's former planning administrator said getting away with such extensive, unpermitted work would have been unlikely. Frank cited both his own agency's vigilance and wealthy Palm Beach residents' habit of calling out each other's code violations. Once, Trump's neighbors hired lawyers to report suspicions that he improperly let guests sleep in poolside cabanas during a wedding.
"If there were $17 million dollars of damage, we sure as hell would have known about that," said Frank. "I would have known if there was anything in the magnitude of $100,000."
The Republican mayor of Palm Beach at the time — and Mar-a-Lago member — Jack McDonald, agreed: "I am unable to comprehend $17 million in reimbursable damage."
The Associated Press also spoke to Trump's longtime butler who also could not recall any extensive damage to the property.
So where did the majority of that $17 million go? Trump apparently pocketed the overwhelming majority of it according to a 2007 deposition filed in Trump's libel lawsuit against a journalist.
Trump reportedly claimed that his insurance policy did not require that he reinvest the money, but it's not clear if he had a justifiable reason to make the insurance claim in the first place.
The list of scandals that may have taken place at the Mar-a-Lago is getting very long.