6 months ago
6 months ago
The attorney general of New York claimed Wednesday that former president Donald Trump inflated his wealth by billions of dollars and routinely deceived banks and other parties about the value of prized properties like golf courses, hotels, and his Mar-a-Lago estate. The lawsuit aims to permanently obstruct the Republican's ability to conduct business in the state.
The three-year civil investigation into Trump and the Trump Organization by Democrats has culminated in the complaint, which was filed in state court in Manhattan. Along with two longstanding company employees, the three eldest children of Trump, Donald Jr., Ivanka, and Eric Trump, were named as defendants.
The 222-page lawsuit aimed a blacklight at the image of wealth and opulence that Trump has embraced throughout his career, first as a real estate developer, then as a reality TV host on "The Apprentice," and later as president. This is what made Trump famous.
It describes scores of alleged fraud cases, many involving assertions made on annual financial statements that Trump provided to banks, business partners, and financial publications as evidence of his wealth when he applied for loans and commercial transactions.
For instance, the lawsuit claims that Trump exaggerated the size of his Trump Tower apartment, a three-story penthouse complete with gold-plated fixtures, to the point where it was valued at $327 million. According to James, no flat in New York City has ever sold for this much.
The lawsuit claimed that Trump used similarly sloppy calculations to value his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, at up to $739 million, more than ten times what was actually reasonable to expect it to be worth. Trump's estimate is predicated on the assumption that the land might be converted to residential use, but it is against the terms of the deed.
James stated at a news conference that the probe "found that Donald Trump participated in years of unlawful conduct to inflate his net worth, to defraud banks and the people of the great state of New York."
"The art of the trade does not consist in claiming to have money that you do not. She referred to the title of Trump's 1987 autobiography, "The Art of the Deal," saying, "It's the art of the steal.
The probe, according to James, also turned up evidence of possible criminal offenses, such as insurance fraud and bank fraud, but her office was forwarding such findings to outside authorities for additional examination.
Trump called the lawsuit "Another Witch Hunt" and blasted James as "a charlatan who campaigned on a 'get Trump' platform" in a post to his Truth Social platform.
The complaint "is not focused on the facts nor the law — rather, it is exclusively focused on pushing the Attorney General's political agenda," according to Alina Habba, Trump's attorney, who called the accusations "meritless."
James' complaint requested the court to prevent Trump and his three eldest children from ever again being in charge of a state-based corporation.
In addition, she demands reimbursement of at least $250 million, which she claims represents the estimated value of the gains attributable to the alleged fraud. Along with other restrictions, she wants Trump and the Trump Organization to refrain for five years from buying commercial real estate.
James' complaint comes amid a barrage of previously unheard-of legal troubles for a former president, such as an FBI probe into how Trump handled confidential documents and inquiries into his attempts to rig the 2020 election.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has been collaborating with James' office on a parallel criminal investigation while James' complaint is being prosecuted in civil court.
When Trump declined to respond to questions in a deposition with James in August, he asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination more than 400 times.
After Bragg permitted a grand jury to adjourn without recommending charges, the likelihood of a criminal prosecution has been thought to decline recently. Nevertheless, Bragg reiterated on Wednesday that the criminal probe was "live and ongoing."
The burden of proof in a criminal case would be far higher than in a civil one. Additionally, prosecutors would need to demonstrate that Trump meant to break the law in a criminal case, although this is not always necessary in a civil action.
In criminal proceedings, you typically need to demonstrate intent. Just carelessness or willful misrepresentation can result in responsibility in civil proceedings, according to Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor in San Diego who now works as a lawyer for a business in Los Angeles.
The Manhattan office of the U.S. attorney said it was aware of James' referral of possible criminal offenses but otherwise choose not to comment. The criminal investigative section of the Internal Revenue Service stated that it "does not confirm the existence of investigations until court documents are made publicly available."
In a criminal case, it is alleged that the Trump Organization planned to give senior executives untaxed perks, including its longtime finance chief Allen Weisselberg, who alone accepted more than $1.7 million in extras. The case is scheduled to go to trial in October.
On August 18, Weisselberg, 75, entered a guilty plea. Prior to beginning a five-month jail sentence, he must testify in the company's trial as per his plea agreement. The Trump Organization could be hit with a penalties equal to twice the amount of unpaid taxes if found guilty.
In James' case, Weisselberg and Jeffrey McConney, another official with the Trump Organization, were listed as defendants.
While a special grand jury in Georgia looks into whether Trump and others attempted to sway state election officials, the FBI is still looking into Trump's storage of secret government papers at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
Prior to the midterm elections in November, where Republicans are attempting to take control of one or both chambers of Congress, all of the legal drama is taking place.
Trump has been building the basis for a future 2024 run for president, and he has claimed that President Joe Biden's government is pursuing him in an effort to harm his electoral prospects.