East Prefabricated House Manufacture (Shandong) Co., Ltd.

How Donald Trump Jr Promised—and Failed—to Provide Shelter to the World’s Poor

        He and a partner intend to build “millions of homes” for the poor in developing countries. They almost never built a single object, leaving investors in the lurch and suing creditors instead of paying them.
        The Trump family is little known for its humanitarian efforts, but for a moment, Donald Trump Jr seemed the exception. Back in 2010, Trump Jr. and his business partners made a surprise pledge to build millions of low-cost prefabricated homes for some of the world’s poorest families and ship them to countries around the world. The company has also unveiled a seemingly miraculous solution for powering homes: in addition to housing kits, the company will also be distributing small power-generating wind turbines that can be attached to rooftops.
        What happened next provides insight into how Don Jr. does business, a topic first explored by New Republic and Type Investigations last September. We wanted to know more about former President Trump’s eldest child who became a hero to the Big Lie crowd. In that article, we showed what happened on the Don. Junior and his partners have pledged to renovate a former naval hospital and relocate one of Trump’s five-star hotels to North Charleston, South Carolina. They left the hospital in a deplorable state. The hotel was never built. The episode cost taxpayers at least $33 million and Junior and his associates made a profit. An electrician who witnessed the rampant stripping of copper wires told me that the debacle is sometimes like “a real-life soprano episode.”
       But Don Jr. and his associates came to North Charleston primarily to launch their prefabricated housing business.
        The company’s business plans, recently obtained through our investigation, include photographs of Donald Trump Jr. and financial projections suggesting hundreds of thousands of homes will be built and billions in revenue generated. In fact, all we could find were a few properties the company built, including one for the mayor of North Charleston, SC, a major company sponsor, and several kits the company shipped overseas.
        In the process, they cornered investors and sued creditors instead of paying what they were owed. The company made dubious promises about wind turbines, claimed huge losses on its tax returns, damaged a small law firm by failing to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, and refused to provide workers for the company.
       After all, as one burned-out client told us, Don Jr. was more of a “three-card Monte” dealer than the benevolent son of a billionaire trying to make his mark.
        To build the low-income housing they envisioned, Don Jr. and his lead partner, longtime friend Jeremy Blackburn, needed a factory that could make parts. They found him in South Carolina. The 158,000 square foot facility was previously used for cladding panels and is equipped with production equipment from the Austrian company EVG.
       The firm’s third partner, Washington state farmer Lee Eikmeyer, invested nearly a million dollars and later alleged in court documents that someone used his scheme to steal his fortune.
        The company’s bold mission caught the attention of a wide range of people, including international officials and Wall Street veterans. “Everyone can have an idea,” said Christopher Jannow, an American expatriate small hotel builder living in Zambia who briefly worked with Trump Jr. in 2010. “What sets these guys apart is the equipment. It’s very authentic and respectable.” EVG Equipment draws 3D panels that have a foam core between wire mesh frames. After installation is completed, concrete is blown into the panels, which allows them to harden. This technology has been around for decades and has found applications in everything from mining facilities to highway noise barriers. In recent years, the construction of fire resistant 3D panels has become a small but growing segment of the residential construction market.
        Yannow said he met Don Jr. at Trump Tower in 2010 while looking for a local US partner in Zambia for his new Titan Atlas Manufacturing company. Jannow was initially impressed. Don came across as “very charming,” he told me. He remembers Junior pointing out the majestic view from his Trump Tower office. “Don said, ‘My father built all these beautiful skyscrapers and these magnificent buildings. I can’t compete with this. But what I can do is build millions of homes for the world’s poor,” recalls Yannow.
        Yannou’s memories match those of former Trump organization repairman-turned-whistleblower Michael Cohen, who ended up helping Don Jr. with legal issues related to the production of the Titan Atlas. “Do you know why he ended up in this business?” Cohen said in an interview. “Because he wants to be himself. He doesn’t want to be under his father’s protection and control all his life. He wants to make money himself. He wants to make money himself. Desperate people do stupid things.”
        In 2010, Trump Jr. and Blackburn, Trump Jr.’s partner in a failed naval hospital joint venture, had just bought the facility. In 2010, the couple bought buildings and equipment, as well as over 10 acres of land, from Charleston businessman Franz Meyer for $4 million. Meyer donated $1 million. Instead of working through a bank, Meyer agreed to a payment schedule of around $10,000 a month for 10 years. But after two payments, the check stopped, according to court documents.
        Meyer sued in Charleston and won a default judgment. But Alan Garten, a lawyer for the Trump Organization, countersued in New York State on behalf of Titan Atlas Manufacturing, alleging that Meyer did not properly disclose patent issues related to his panel equipment. A South Carolina judge said Meyer could not receive the money until a decision was made in the New York case. CNN contacted Garten about his involvement in the case and asked Donald Trump Jr. questions but received no response.
        Even as things got tense, Meyer asked Trump Jr. to wish his father a happy birthday. Meyer tried to patch things up with Trump Jr. by emailing him and pleading with them to work out their differences. “All of this means further delays and legal costs,” Meyer wrote. Trump Jr. responded: “You have to trust your advice and we will. Claims [on patent matters] compensate for the cost and defects of the property.” In other words, you don’t fit in our deep pockets. The impending New York affair appears to have forced Meyer into a settlement that multiple sources tell us is far less than what is due.
        Mel told me he didn’t want to discuss painful chapters. “I’m not interested in discussing my past with the Trump organization. I survived the consequences of my relationship, left it behind and moved on with my life. I believe in a public conspiracy and business transactions are clear enough that you can write about any topic you want to shed light,” Meyer wrote in his email.
        Bronx businessman Carlos Perez was equally impressed by Don Jr.’s commitment and sheer enthusiasm at first. Perez hoped to become a social entrepreneur when he and a partner at Tunisian company Tactic Homes agreed to buy 36,000 Titan Atlas housing kits worth about $900 million, which he planned to ship to the Middle East. “Don Jr. knew me from Adam; I was just a Dominican kid growing up in Washington Heights. But he showed interest. It meant a lot,” Perez recalls. In a sense, the deal is desirable, since Tactic Homes does not have the funds to buy all these kits. Perez said Trump Jr. and Blackburn urged the two partners to sign the ambitious deal anyway, arguing that the deal would help both parties raise money.
        Tactic Homes paid Titan Atlas approximately $115,000 for three sets of housing; the company plans to build houses and use them as models, receiving funding from state funds – in search of good PR after the Arab Spring protests – to order thousands more. But when the container arrived, Peres’ French-Tunisian partner wrote to Blackburn and Don Jr. to complain that the container was full of “garbage,” adding in another email that “no windows, no doors, no cabinets, no plumbing, no electricity.” , no cables, no fittings.” Even after Perez’s call and Trump Tower visit, emails I later received showed Trump Jr. refusing to back down, later tweeting: Perez’s email called the allegations “bullshit.” In fact, the shipment from Tunisia was one of many cases where there were problems with the shipments.
        See TAM Toolkit in the business plan. The company has promised to revolutionize affordable housing around the world, but has left debt and unpaid taxes behind. Image: Business plan from Titan Atlas Manufacturing
        Perez, who last met Junior at Trump Tower, is still hoping for some kind of refund. “I have a lot of respect for this man,” he said. “And I thought maybe Don would see for himself that it was crazy not to give us our money back.” But instead, Trump Jr. told him something he said he would never forget. “Don said, ‘Listen, Carlos, you know my father,’” Perez recalls. “If my father had dealt with this, he would have sued you guys.” I know what that means – if it was dad, he wouldn’t be too polite to accept a refund request.”
        Bank chief executive Phillips Lee inadvertently became involved in Titan Atlas Manufacturing’s efforts to attract investors. Lee, from New York, previously worked for Société Générale, known on Wall Street as SocGen, running its export finance division. His specialty is arranging financial transactions through EXIM, the export-import bank of the federal government.
        Lee said a Titan Atlas colleague told him Titan Atlas had hundreds of millions of dollars in Nigerian government debt. At SocGen, Lee wrote to the Nigerian Minister of Housing in September 2011 about his bank’s offer to arrange a $298 million loan from the Federal Ministry of Housing and Lands to purchase housing units from Titan Atlas. He never answered. Lee said he had written similar letters to senior government officials around the world who he knew were also interested in Titan’s products, including the president of Zambia.
        No world leader or government responded to Lee’s letter. Bank officials were suspicious. So Lee decided to go to South Carolina to visit the factory that Trump Jr. and Blackburn had bought to “kick and bust,” as he put it, an ambitious company. “I wanted to make sure there was a real company and something out there,” Lee recalls. The trip seemed less hopeful to him. “It’s just on a very small scale,” he said. “It was a skeletal operation that was not built very well. They had a lot of free space.”
        Lee recalls discussing what the company called an ongoing deal. In one deal in particular: “I asked, ‘How big is this deal?’ [Titan Atlas partner] said, “It’s going to be 20,000 units,” Lee recalls. “I said, ‘What the hell is this?’ I pulled out a calculator and said, “That’s a billion dollars. Sorry, this won’t happen. A digestible assortment. Material – 500 units. Eventually, according to Lee, his relationship with Titan Atlas fell apart, never completing any major projects.
        The Atlas Titan has other problems. In 2011, the company was sued by a temporary employment agency called Alternative Staff, which supplies workers to factories. In a contract signed by Kimble Blackburn, father of Jeremy Blackburn, who joined Titan Atlas that same year, Alternative Staffing agreed to provide the company with various employees. Titan Atlas paid the first four invoices in full and partially paid the fifth invoice. But after that, the company made no payments for the next 26 weeks, according to the lawsuit, despite the Trump family’s alleged solidarity with small business owners and “forgotten Americans.”
        Ian Cappellini, owner of Alternative Staff, told me that the company offered her a promise of payment. Later, in court documents, Titan Atlas said it did not pay because some of its employees had criminal records. Ironically, Kimble Blackburn, the Titan Atlas officer who signed the contract, also has a criminal history of her own. In 2003, he pleaded guilty to 36 counts of fraud and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Sevier County Attorney Don Brown said at the time that the case was “undoubtedly the biggest fraud ever perpetrated by a Utah government agency.” (The charges were omitted from Blackburn’s criminal record in 2012.)
        After all, emails obtained by The New Republic and Type Investigations show that Trump Jr. was able to receive a 12-cent settlement from Alternative Staffing. In 2013, Trump Jr. wrote to his associates, boasting that he was able to “settle a $65,000 lawsuit against us in three monthly installments of $7,500.”
       Don Jr. also helped promote the product, the TAM wind turbine, which the company says is “the most efficient certified wind turbine on the market.”
       The business proposal I received included a photograph of Donald Trump Jr. and Jeremy Blackburn on the roof of Trump’s Soho, smiling in front of one of the supposedly magical turbines.
        Left: Jeremy Blackburn on the rooftop of Trump’s Soho in a photo sent to potential investors by Donald Trump Jr. Right: a failed wind turbine for sale by their company. IMAGE: FROM A TITAN ATLAS PRODUCTION BUSINESS PLAN
        One of the few buyers who bought a TAM housing kit told me that a few days after the housing kit arrived in Haiti in 2011, another wind turbine box appeared along with a thousands of dollars cash on delivery bill that turned out to be worthless. items. The recipient, Jean-Claude Assali, told me he was confused because he never ordered the product. But he believes it will help deal with the frequent power outages that followed the devastating Haiti earthquake in 2010. Since the small Haitian businessman was also promised that he could be a sales representative in a company headed by the son of billionaire Donald Trump, Assali decided to pay off. But the turbine proved useless, Assali said, describing it as an unassembled and apparently missing piece.
        The low-level opportunity to work for Donald Trump Jr. in Haiti never came. By 2012, Titan Atlas Manufacturing was mired in litigation and debt and went out of business.
        When I spoke to Asali over the crackling telephone line from Port-au-Prince, he was still reeling from the pain of the loss. He wanted me to tell Donald Trump Jr. that he or his father doesn’t hold a grudge, but that I should tell Donald Jr. that he wants the money back.
        Titan Atlas Manufacturing also took advantage of an Obama-era federal stimulus package by selling five TAM wind turbines to the city of North Charleston. For some time they were installed on the roof of the city hall. Titan Atlas promised to provide the city with 50,000 kilowatts of electricity per year, enough to power 50 homes for a month. A letter from the company to the city’s federal grants administrator states, “This turbine is patented and no other turbines are comparable in design or performance. There are no other known competitors or competing products suitable for this application.” program and use. are the only source for this product.” Longtime North Charleston Mayor Keith Summi, who signed the bid and federal funding, will continue to maintain the contract with the Navy Hospital. At the time, Sammi was advertising the wind turbine project, telling the Charleston Post and Courier, “It’s part of the cutting edge technology we’re trying to bring in.”
        But the turbine apparently never produced any noticeable power and was discreetly removed in 2014 at the expense of the city a few years after installation. Summi’s assistant, Julie Elmore, wrote to council staff to tell them what had happened and what to say if the media called. She wrote that she wants to make sure employees aren’t “caught off guard,” adding that the city doesn’t want to “throw more money at them because we don’t have a real way to measure their performance.”
        No wonder TAM turbines barely work, wind energy expert Paul Gipe told me, calling their design worse than pseudoscience. “The original design of Windtronics could barely run a 100-watt light bulb all year,” Gaip added.
       ”The original Windtronics design had problems running a 100-watt light bulb all year long.”
        In an interview with me in 2018, Blackburn, instead of asking questions about the turbines not working as promised, said that he and Don Jr. were irresponsible because, in fact, Titan Atlas was just rebranding a different product. “It’s like the local Ford Motor Company doesn’t make Fords but sells them,” Blackburn said. “We sell wind turbines, which are part of our suite of vertically integrated [systems] that provide you with your own power. So we sell turbines, but we don’t build turbines.” when the company told the Charleston Post and Courier that Titan would create about 100 turbine manufacturing jobs at its North Charleston plant. In addition, a Titan Atlas investor presentation we received states that the company plans to expand in Mexico City with a “120,000 sq. ft., 3 production lines for the support and manufacture of wind turbines.
        Since the tragic assassination of TAM Energy Vice President Robert Torres in June 2011, Kimble Blackburn has become a key figure in Titan Atlas despite his history of fraud. The elder Blackburn took over many of Torres’ responsibilities, including becoming the city’s contact for Titan Atlas after completing the sale of the wind turbines and contracting alternative personnel.
        At a Red Robin burger joint near Atlanta, Torres’ son Scott shared with me his father’s now vintage iPhone, which contains text messages related to his work. Torres Jr. told me that when Don Jr. personally confirmed him as VP of TAM Energy in late 2010, his father had been in the military for several years and he was very excited, a text message confirming the account.
        When I interviewed Jeremy Blackburn in the empty former Titan Atlas warehouse in 2018, he remembered the morning Torres died. “I was on the phone with him around 5:30 am and he didn’t show up for our meeting at 7 am, so I went to his house at 8:30 am and they kicked him out,” Blackburn said. Scott Torres told me that Blackburn held an impromptu memorial service for Torres when he showed up in North Charleston. He said Blackburn told him his father might be upset about problems at work, possibly related to a big deal with China.
        While it’s unclear exactly what the alleged deal with China was, our investigation has identified two contracts potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The earliest major deal was in 2010 with the Mexican company KAFE.
        The contract with KAFE is ambitious, stating that TAM will supply 43,614 TAM kits, which KAFE will use to build “military housing” for the Mexican government, bringing the total value of the deal to over $500 million. According to Blackburn’s own report and sources in Mexico, Trump Jr. and Blackburn traveled to Sonora, Mexico at least once in 2010 to meet with senior administration officials.
        When I researched KAFE, I discovered that the company is so small that its office is above a furniture store in Mexico City. It’s hard to find anyone who knows anything about the company, but I tracked down a former employee, an administrator, who asked not to be named but gave some details about a strange contract with Titan Atlas Manufacturing. Yes, his boss, Sergio Flores, had numerous conversations with Titan Atlas, but to the best of his knowledge, they never shipped TAM kits to Mexico.
        We found no evidence that any houses were ever built in Mexico using Titan Atlas kits. Donald Trump Jr. did not respond to questions about the deal that CNN sent him through his lawyer. Potential investors and clients such as Carlos Perez said they were told about this and other supposedly significant deals as proof of the company’s viability. New York law firm Solomon Blum Heymann drafted the contract and completed other work for Titan Atlas. The firm was described in Blackburn’s testimony as “legal counsel” to Titan Atlas. But the companies never paid the $310,759 to work on Titan Atlas, according to Blackburn’s 2013 bankruptcy filing and a source close to the company. Sources told me that Don Jr was personally involved and said the firm was “dazzled” by Don Jr and Blackburn, adding that the firm lied to the law firm and promised to pay “when the project was completed”.
        Solomon Blum Heymann was not the only law firm not paid by Titan Atlas Manufacturing. Mendelsohn and Drucker, the Philadelphia-based law firm representing the company in a patent dispute, has secured over $400,000 in judgment against Titan Atlas, including unpaid fees and interest. Multiple sources tell me that Titan Atlas has only paid out $100,000 and the rest has yet to be paid. “The record of this case shows a history of delays,” U.S. District Judge Michael Bailson wrote in 2013. “Titan continues to violate the principle that companies must be represented by an attorney. Over the past 24 months, four law firms have had to refuse to represent Titan due to Titan repeatedly failing to pay for legal representation received.”
        Even if Titan shirks the six-figure legal fees, Don Jr could benefit from the outstanding debt. TNR received copies of Don Jr.’s 2011 and 2012 Titan Atlas Manufacturing federal tax returns, which were completed on a form known as K-1. In 2011, tax returns showed that Don Jr.’s losses were $1,080,373. In 2012, he lost $439,119.
        The return raises a thorny question for Don Jr. whether the former president’s eldest son had debts that were never paid, and then claimed those debts as restitution. To be clear, we don’t know if the expenses on his tax return were unpaid. We asked if Trump Jr. deducted unpaid expenses, but received no answer.
       The deductions are reminiscent of what The New York Times reported in its seminal article on President Trump’s taxes, which said that Trump Sr. demanded huge and dubious losses in order to secure a whopping $72.9 million in tax refunds.
        Trump Jr.’s Titan Atlas tax return included deductions of $431,603 in 2011 and $492,283 in 2012 for what he called “professional expenses,” a category that includes legal and accounting expenses, according to the IRS. The two-year deductions amounted to over $923,000 of reported costs.

Post time: Feb-16-2023