New York Attorney General Letitia James on Wednesday sued former President Donald Trump, the Trump Organization, three of his adult children, and others for allegedly widespread fraud involving years’ worth of false financial statements related to the company’s business.
The 220-page civil lawsuit filed in Manhattan Supreme Court seeks at least $250 million in damages. And it seeks to permanently bar Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, and Ivanka Trump from serving as an officer of a company in New York, and permanently prohibit the Trump companies named in the suit from doing business in New York state.
James also said that she was referring evidence obtained in the course of a three-year investigation to federal prosecutors in Manhattan, as well as to the Internal Revenue Service, saying she believed her civil investigation had found violations of federal criminal laws.
James said Trump massively overstated the values of his assets in statements to banks, insurance companies and the IRS to obtain more favorable loan and insurance terms for his company, as well as to lower its tax obligations.
“Trump falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars,” James said at a press conference.
“For too long, powerful, wealthy people in this country have operated as if the rules do not apply to them,” she said in a statement.
“Donald Trump stands out as among the most egregious examples of this misconduct. With the help of his children and senior executives at the Trump Organization, Donald Trump falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself and cheat the system.”
The suit alleges that “the number of grossly inflated asset values is staggering, affecting most if not all of the real estate holdings in any given year.”
“All told, Mr. Trump, the Trump Organization, and the other Defendants, as part of a repeated pattern and common scheme, derived more than 200 false and misleading valuations of assets included in the 11 Statements covering 2011 through 2021.”
Former U.S. president Donald Trump speaks in support of candidates Doug Mastriano and Mehmet Oz during a rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, September 3, 2022.
Andrew Kelly | Reuters
The complaint says that Trump’s personal financial statements “for the period 2011 through 2021 were fraudulent and misleading in both their composition and presentation.”
James said that Trump had falsely claimed that his apartment in Manhattan was more than triple its actual size as part of the fraud.
And the suit says Trump valued his Mar-a-Lago club property in Palm Beach, Florida, on the false premise that it sat on unrestricted property and could be developed for residential use, even though he allegedly knew that asset was subject to a slew of tight restrictions.
Mar-a-Lago “generated less than $25 million in annual revenue,” James said. “It should have been valued at about $75 million, but it was valued at $739 million.”
Trump for years has blasted James for investigating his business, saying the Democratic attorney general was motivated by political animus against a Republican former president.
Trump’s lawyer Alina Habba, in a statement Wednesday, said, “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.”
“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,” Habba said.
“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.”
James’ office interviewed more than 65 witnesses and reviewed millions of documents part of the investigation, the lawsuit said.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has been conducting a criminal investigation of Trump and his company that mirrors in many ways the civil probe by James. But the DA’s office has not lodged any criminal charges to date, and since the beginning of this year has appeared unlikely to do so.
Read the lawsuit against Trump and others here.
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