On Tuesday, September 26, a judge ruled that Donald Trump spent years committing fraud in building the real estate empire that catapulted him to fame and the White House, and ordered the divestment of some of the 45th US president's companies. his control and eliminate them, as reported APNews.
Judge Arthur Engoron, ruling in a civil lawsuit by New York Attorney General Letitia James, found that Trump and his companies misled banks, insurers and others by significantly overvaluing their assets and exaggerating their net worth in documents used in their transactions. and obtaining loans.
As punishment, Engoron ordered the revocation of some of Trump's business licenses, making it difficult or impossible to do business in New York, and said he would continue to retain an independent monitor to monitor the Trump Organization's activities.
Unless successfully appealed, the ruling would strip Trump of his ability to make strategic and financial decisions over some of his key properties in the state.
Trump is unhappy with the New York justice system
Trump condemned the decision in a series of statements, calling it “un-American” and part of an ongoing plot to damage his campaign to return to the White House.
“My civil rights have been violated, and an appellate court, federal or state, must overturn this terrible, un-American decision,” he wrote on his Truth Social website. He insists that his company has “done a great job for New York State” and has “conducted business impeccably,” calling it “a very sad day for the New York State justice system!”
Trump's lawyer, Christopher Kise, said they would appeal, calling the decision "completely inconsistent with the facts and the law."
When your authority works against you
Engoron's decision, days before James' non-jury trial began, is the strongest rebuttal yet to Trump's carefully crafted image as a wealthy and shrewd real estate mogul turned political leader.
According to Engoron, Trump, his company and key executives not only boasted about their wealth, but also repeatedly lied about it in their annual financial reports, receiving benefits such as preferential lending terms and lower insurance costs.
The tactic crossed the line and violated the law, the judge said, rejecting Trump's contention that the disclaimer in the financial statements absolved him of any wrongdoing.
“In the defendants' world: rent-regulated apartments cost the same as unregulated apartments; land with restrictions costs the same as land without restrictions; restrictions may evaporate into thin air; one party's abdication of responsibility to the other party justifies the other party's lies,” Engoron wrote in his 35-page ruling. “This is a fantasy world, not the real world.”
Recovery of $250 million
Manhattan prosecutors considered pursuing criminal charges for similar conduct but decided against it, leaving James free to sue Trump and seek fines aimed at disrupting his and his family's ability to do business.
Engoron's resolution, issued during the trial phase, resolves the main claim in James' lawsuit, but several others remain. These claims and James' demand for $250 million will be decided at the trial, which begins on October 2. Trump's lawyers asked the appeals court for a delay.
“Today, a judge ruled in our favor and found that Donald Trump and the Trump Organization engaged in financial fraud for years,” James said in a statement. “We look forward to presenting the rest of our case in court.”
Trump's lawyers, in their motion for summary judgment, asked the judge to dismiss the case, arguing there was no evidence Trump's actions caused harm to the public. They also argued that many of the allegations contained in the lawsuit are beyond the statute of limitations.
Engoron, noting that he had previously rejected these arguments, equated them to the plot of the movie “Groundhog Day.” He fined five defense attorneys $7,500 each as punishment for making “repetitive, frivolous” arguments, but rejected James' request for sanctions against Trump and the other defendants.
James, a Democrat, sued Trump and the Trump Organization a year ago, accusing them of routinely inflating the value of assets such as skyscrapers, golf courses and his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, boosting his profits.
Engoron found that Trump had consistently inflated the value of Mar-a-Lago, inflating it by 2% in one financial report. The judge also rebuked Trump for lying about the size of his Manhattan apartment. Trump claimed that his three-story penthouse at Trump Tower was almost three times larger than it actually was, valuing it at $300 million.
“A discrepancy of this order of magnitude, made by the developer when determining the size of his own living space, which he has been doing for several decades, can only be regarded as fraud,” Engoron wrote.
Judgment against Trump
Eric Trump, writing on his X blog after the ruling, insisted that the Palm Beach estate "is believed to be worth more than a billion dollars, making it perhaps the most expensive residential property in the country." He called the decision and lawsuit “an attempt to destroy my father and drive him out of New York.”
In an attempt to destroy my father and kick him out of New York, a Judge just ruled that Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach Florida, is only worth approximate “$18 Million dollars”… Mar-a-Lago is speculated to be worth we'll over a billion dollars making it arguably the most valuable… pic.twitter.com/b0U6J5ykWJ
- Eric Trump (@EricTrump) September 26, 2023
Under the order, the limited liability companies that control some of Trump's key properties, such as 40 Wall Street, will be dissolved and management authority transferred to a receiver. Trump will lose the right to hire and fire, lease office space and make other key decisions.
“The decision seeks to nationalize one of the most successful corporate empires in the United States and seize control of private property, while recognizing that there is no evidence of default, irregularities, late payments or any complaints of damages,” Kise said after the decision. solutions.
Headache for Trump
James' lawsuit is one of several legal headaches for Trump, who is the Republican front-runner in next year's election. Over the past six months, he has faced four charges: in Georgia and Washington, he is accused of conspiring to overturn the defeat of the 2020 election, in Florida, he is accused of possessing secret documents, and in Manhattan, he is accused of falsifying business records related to the payment of money for his check.
Last year, the Trump Organization was found guilty of tax fraud in a separate criminal case for helping executives avoid paying taxes on perks such as apartments and cars. The company was fined $1.6 million. One of the executives, Trump's longtime CFO Allen Weisselberg, pleaded guilty and served a five-month prison sentence.
James' office previously sued Trump for misusing his charitable foundation to advance his political and business interests. As a fine, Trump is ordered to donate $2 million to charity, and his own charitable foundation, the Trump Foundation, must cease its activities.