NY attorney general files civil fraud lawsuit against Trump
Attorney General Letitia James’ lawsuit, filed in state court in New York, is the culmination of the Democrat’s three-year civil investigation of Trump and the Trump Organisation.
The lawsuit seeks to strike at the core of what made Trump famous, taking a blacklight to the image of wealth and opulence he’s embraced throughout his career — first as a real estate developer, then as a reality TV host on The Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice, and later as president.
James announced details of the lawsuit at a news conference on Wednesday. The case showed up on a court docket Wednesday morning.
“Donald Trump falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself, and cheat the system, thereby cheating all of us,” James said at the news conference.
In the more than 200-page lawsuit, Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, alleges the fraud touched all aspects of the Trump business, including its properties and golf courses. According to the lawsuit, the Trump Organisation deceived lenders, insurers and tax authorities by inflating the value of his properties using misleading appraisals.
“These acts of fraud and misrepresentation were similar in nature, were committed by upper management at the Trump Organisation as part of a common endeavor for each annual Statement, and were approved at the highest levels of the Trump Organisation – including by Mr. Trump himself,” the lawsuit states.
James said she believes state and criminal laws may have been violated and referred the matter to the US attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York and the Internal Revenue Service.
James is seeking $US250 million ($375 million) in allegedly ill-gotten funds and to permanently bar Trump and the children named in the lawsuit from serving as the director of a business registered in New York state. She is also seeking to cancel the Trump Organisation’s corporate certificate, which, if granted by a judge, could effectively force the company to cease operations in New York state.
“Today’s filing is neither focused on the facts nor the law — rather, it is solely focused on advancing the Attorney General’s political agenda,” Alina Habba, an attorney for Trump said.
“It is abundantly clear that the Attorney General’s Office has exceeded its statutory authority by prying into transactions where absolutely no wrongdoing has taken place.
“We are confident that our judicial system will not stand for this unchecked abuse of authority, and we look forward to defending our client against each and every one of the Attorney General’s meritless claims.”
Trump, a Republican, previously called James, a Democrat, a “renegade prosecutor” who he said is running a “vindictive and self-serving fishing expedition.”
The Trump Organisation called her previously allegations “baseless” and denied any wrongdoing.
The civil lawsuit comes as Trump is under increasing legal pressure as prosecutors are taking investigative steps that move ever closer to his inner circle.
Trump is facing numerous criminal investigations from federal and state prosecutors involving the accuracy of his company’s financial statements, interference in the 2020 presidential election, and his handling of classified documents after leaving office. Trump has denied any wrongdoing.
The announcement is the latest development in what has been a three-year investigation led by James into the Trump Organisation’s finances.
In January, James’ office said it found “significant” evidence indicating the Trump Organisation used false or misleading asset valuations in its financial statements to obtain loans, insurance and tax benefits. The following month, Trump’s long-time accounting firm resigned.
James’ launched her investigation in 2019 after Trump’s former fixer and personal attorney Michael Cohen testified before Congress alleging that Trump inflated the value of certain assets to obtain loans and insurance and undervalued others to gain tax benefits.
In addition to the new fraud lawsuit, the Trump Organisation is going on trial next month on charges it was engaged in a 15-year tax fraud scheme and its long-time chief financial officer has agreed to testify against the company.
Weisselberg, who served as chief financial officer at the Trump Organisation for decades, pleaded guilty in August to his role in a 15-year-long tax fraud scheme, and as part of the deal, he had agreed to testify against Trump’s real estate company at trial.
In recent weeks, the Trump Organisation had offered to settle to ward off the lawsuit even as they denied any wrongdoing, but James’ office made it clear it wasn’t interested in a deal, people familiar with the matter said.
Family was deposed by AG’s office
In April, after a protracted legal fight to enforce subpoenas for Trump and his adult children’s depositions, lawyers with James’ office saying they were nearing the end of the investigation and needed the Trumps’ testimony before making a decision.
Last month, Trump did not answer questions and asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when deposed by the attorney general’s office. Eric Trump, who runs the business on a daily basis, also invoked his Fifth Amendment right in 2020 in response to more than 500 questions.
Since Trump and Eric Trump declined to answer questions, if the case goes to trial, the jury can draw an “adverse inference” against them for not answering questions. That could result in a higher judgment against them or the company if they’re found liable.
Ivanka Trump and Trump Jr. both answered questions during interviews that spanned more than seven hours, sources told CNN.
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