June 18, 2024

A judge rules that Trump fraudulently inflated the value of his properties, including his Mar-a-Lago estate.

New York Judge Arthur Engoron has ruled that former United States President Donald Trump committed fraud for years while building his real estate empire.

The ruling came on Tuesday in a civil lawsuit brought by New York’s attorney general, Letitia James.

James, a Democrat, sued Trump and the Trump Organization a year ago, accusing them of fraudulently overvaluing the real estate company’s assets, including skyscrapers, golf courses and his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

Here are the key takeaways from the ruling:

Trump overvalued his assets

Engoron found that Trump consistently overvalued Mar-a-Lago, inflating its value on one financial statement by as much as 2,300 percent.

Trump also lied about the size of his Manhattan apartment. He claimed his three-storey Trump Tower penthouse was nearly three times its actual size, valuing it at $327m.

No apartment in New York City has ever sold for close to that amount, James said.

Trump lied on his financial statements

Engoron also found that Trump, his company and key executives repeatedly lied on annual financial statements, reaping rewards such as favourable loan terms and lower insurance premiums.

Those tactics crossed a line and violated the law, the judge said, rejecting Trump’s contention that a disclaimer on the financial statements absolved him of any wrongdoing.

In his 35-page ruling, Engoron wrote that Trump did not make distinctions between the worth of rent regulated and unregulated apartments or restricted and unrestricted land.

Trump could be banned from business in New York

James has sought a ban on Trump and his three eldest children from running a company based in New York again.

Additionally, she is seeking $250m which she said is the estimated worth of benefits derived from the alleged fraud.

The judge ordered that some of Trump’s business licences be rescinded as punishment, making it difficult or impossible for them to do business in New York, and said he would continue to have an independent monitor oversee Trump Organization operations.

If the order is not successfully appealed, Trump will lose the authority to make strategic and financial decisions over some of his key properties in the state.

The Trump Foundation charity was shut down.

Groundhog Day

Trump’s lawyers had asked the judge to throw out the case, which he refused. They contend that James was not legally allowed to file the lawsuit because there is no evidence the public was harmed by Trump’s actions.

They argued that several allegations in the lawsuit were barred by the statute of limitations. Engoron, noting that he had emphatically rejected those arguments earlier in the case, equated them to the “time loop in the film Groundhog Day”.

He fined five defence lawyers $7,500 each as punishment for engaging in repetitive arguments, but denied James’s request to sanction Trump and other defendants.

Trump calls the ruling ‘un-American’

Trump made a series of statements against the decision, 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 some Appellate Court, whether federal or state, must reverse this horrible, un-American decision,” he wrote on his Truth Social site.

Trump’s lawyer, Christopher Kise, said they would appeal, calling the decision “completely disconnected from the facts and governing law”.

The non-jury trial

Engoron’s ruling – which comes in a phase of the case known as summary judgement – resolves the key claim in James’s lawsuit, but six others remain.

Engoron is slated to hold a non-jury trial starting October 2, before deciding on those claims and any punishments he may impose. The trial could last into December, Engoron has said.

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