U.S.

Billionaire Donald Trump Donor Sued for Withholding Security Deposits from Thousands of Tenants

A billionaire donor to President Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign has been accused of wrongly withholding security deposits from thousands of tenants in his Los Angeles buildings, NBC Los Angeles reported.

Attorney Jimmie Davis Parker filed a lawsuit against Geoffrey Palmer on February 7 in the Superior Court of Los Angeles County. The suit, reviewed by Newsweek, names Palmer-owned GH Palmer Associates, GHP Management Corporation and 22 properties overseen by the billionaire as defendants.

"We believe that Mr. Palmer has systematically and in bad faith retained security deposits in violation of California law by failing to properly document work that they allege was performed on vacated leaseholds, overcharging for repairs and cleaning that were done, and further obscuring the violations of law by using non-compliant and vague descriptions of the work allegedly performed," Parker told Newsweek. "The number of people affected over the four-year period covered by the statute of limitations may total over 20,000."

"GHP Management and GH Palmer Associates takes this matter seriously and we are looking into the allegations being made. This is an owner that cares about its tenants and seeks to comply with all applicable laws," Kelly O. Scott, who identified himself as a lawyer for the companies, told Newsweek. 

GettyImages-460155050 Firefighters douse flames at the remains of the DaVinci apartment complex after a fire destroyed the 1 million square foot site in Los Angeles on December 8, 2014. ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

NBC Los Angeles reported that more than two dozen former tenants have sued Palmer in small claims court. Filing reviewed by Newsweek showed many tenants alleging that Palmer had not returned their security deposits. 

GH Palmer Associates owns more than 11,600 apartment units in Southern California, according to the company website. The business claims a value "in excess of 4.5 billion dollars."

Palmer donated $2 million to Trump during the 2016 campaign. Prior to the 2016 election, he had spent $1.3 million on political campaigns, including more than $500,000 to presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012. 

Politico described Palmer, who has previously been involved in controversies, as a "prolific" developer.

He paid $30,000 after being charged in 1991 with 15 counts of illegally laundering campaign contributions. 

In 2007, he sued Los Angeles, saying that its affordable housing restrictions were illegal. He won and succeeded in an appeal. The legal decision prohibited cities across the state from requiring affordable housing units in new buildings. 

More recently, he was sued for $20 million after a 2014 fire at his DaVinci apartment complex in Los Angeles, which was under construction. The suit claimed that he did not have appropriate fire protection precautions, the Associated Press reported. He settled the legal charges for $400,000 in 2017, according to Curbed Los Angeles. 

This article has been updated to include comment from Kelly O. Scott​.

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