New York attorney general sues Trump for fraud

NEW YORK — The New York Attorney General on Wednesday sued former President Donald Trump and his firm for fraud, alleging they added billions of dollars to his fortune by speculating on the value of valuable assets such as golf courses, hotels and his homes in the Trump Tower would have lied and Mar-a-Lago.

Attorney General Letitia James called it “The Art of Stealing”.

James’ lawsuit, filed in state court in New York, is the culmination of a three-year civil investigation into Trump and the Trump Organization. Trump’s three eldest children, Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric Trump, have also been named as defendants, along with two longtime company executives, Allen Weisselberg and Jeffrey McConney.

The lawsuit goes to the heart of what made Trump famous, and upsets the image of wealth and opulence that he has cultivated 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 wants Trump and the other defendants to pay at least $250 million, which she says is the approximate value of the benefits they received from fraudulent practices.

James, a Democrat, provided details of the lawsuit at a news conference on Wednesday. She said her office filed the case – which is civil, not criminal – in nature after she rejected offers of settlement from attorneys for the defendants.

The alleged scheme was intended to boost Trump’s billionaire image, and the value of his property thereby gave him an advantage, for example in obtaining favorable credit terms, while at other times the value of assets was downplayed for tax purposes, James’ office said.

“This investigation has established that Donald Trump engaged in illegal conduct for years to inflate his wealth, deceive banks and the people of great New York State,” James said at the press conference. “Pretending you have money you don’t have is not the art of dealing. It is the art of stealing.”

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James said their investigation uncovered potential criminal violations, including falsifying business records, issuing false financial statements, insurance fraud, conspiracy and bank fraud. She said her office is referring those findings to federal prosecutors and the Internal Revenue Service.

In a statement released on his Truth Social platform, Trump called the lawsuit “another witch hunt by a racist attorney general” and called James, who is black, “a con man who fought on a ‘Get Trump’ platform.” has, despite the fact that the city has one of the most crime and murder disasters in the world under their watch!”

Trump attorney Alina Habba said the lawsuit “does not focus on the facts or the law — rather, it focuses solely on advancing the attorney general’s political agenda,” and accused James of abusing her authority “by being in Transactions where there is absolutely no wrongdoing happen.”

Habba said the allegations in the lawsuit were “baseless”.

James is seeking to remove the Trumps from companies involved in the alleged fraud and wants an independent observer appointed for at least five years to oversee compliance, financial reporting, valuations and disclosure to lenders, insurers and tax authorities monitor the Trump Organization.

She is seeking to replace the current trustees of Trump’s revocable trust, which controls his business interests, with independent trustees to prevent Trump and the Trump Organization from making commercial real estate purchases and receiving loans from banks in New York for five years and permanently prohibit Trump and three of his adult children from serving as officers or directors of any New York corporation or similar business entity registered and/or licensed in New York State.

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She is also seeking to permanently bar Weisselberg and McConney from serving in the financial control function of a New York corporation or similar business entity registered and/or licensed in New York State.

James’ lawsuit comes amid a flurry of unprecedented legal challenges for a former president, including an FBI probe into Trump’s handling of classified records and investigations into his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

The Trump Organization is scheduled to face trial in October in a criminal case alleging it planned to give untaxed perks to senior executives, including its longtime chief financial officer, Weisselberg, who alone raked in more than $1.7 million in extras.

Weisselberg, 75, pleaded guilty Aug. 18. His pleading calls for him to testify at the company’s trial before serving a five-month sentence. If convicted, the Trump Organization could face a fine of twice the unpaid taxes.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has conducted a parallel criminal investigation into the same business practices at the center of James’ civil lawsuit. That investigation lost momentum earlier this year after Bragg raised questions internally about whether a criminal trial was viable, but the Democrat said it has not been abandoned.

At the same time, the FBI continues to investigate Trump’s storage of sensitive government documents at his Mar-a-Lago, Florida estate, and a special grand jury in Georgia is investigating whether Trump and others attempted to influence state election officials.

All of the legal drama is playing out ahead of the November midterm elections, in which Republicans are trying to gain control of one or both houses of Congress.

Meanwhile, Trump has laid the groundwork for a possible comeback campaign for president in 2024, accusing President Joe Biden’s administration of targeting him to hurt his political chances.

State law permits a wide range of civil remedies against companies that commit commercial fraud, including revoking licenses to conduct business in the state, removing company directors, and enforcing payment of refunds or surrender of ill-gotten gains.

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James’ office may also seek to ban Trump from engaging in certain types of deals, as happened in January when a judge barred former drug company CEO Martin Shkreli from the drug industry for life.

In a previous clash with Trump, James oversaw the closure of his charity, the Trump Foundation, after her predecessor in the attorney general’s office, Barbara Underwood, filed a lawsuit alleging that he misappropriated her assets to resolve business disputes and to boost his run for the White House. A judge ordered Trump to pay $2 million to a number of charities to settle the matter.

James, who is running for office as a Trump critic and watchdog, began questioning his business practices in March 2019 after his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, testified before Congress that Trump made his fortune from financial statements submitted to Deutsche Bank overdid it when he tried to get financing to buy the NFL’s Buffalo Bills.

Since then, James’ office and Trump’s attorneys have repeatedly disagreed over the direction of the investigation and Trump’s refusal to comply with subpoenas for his testimony and records. Trump fought for months the subpoena that led to his August testimony, and his attorneys failed to convince the courts that he should be excused from testifying because his answers could be used in Bragg’s criminal investigation.

In May, Trump paid a $110,000 fine after he was arrested in contempt of court for being slow to respond to a subpoena from James’ office requesting documents and other evidence. The contempt finding was overturned in June after Trump and his attorneys filed filings showing they had made good faith efforts to locate relevant documents.

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