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Monday, March 4, 2024

Trump found liable for defrauding banks and insurers in real estate

A judge’s ruling on Tuesday declared that Donald Trump committed fraud over several years while building his real estate empire, resulting in some of his former president’s companies being removed from his control and dissolved.

Judge Arthur Engeron, presiding over a civil lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James, determined that Trump and his company misled banks, insurers, and others by significantly inflating the value of his assets and exaggerating his net worth on paperwork used for deals and loans.

As a penalty, Engoron ordered the rescission of certain business licenses, making it challenging or impossible for Trump’s companies to operate in New York. Additionally, an independent monitor will continue to oversee Trump Organization operations. If the order stands after any appeals, Trump would lose decision-making authority over some of his key properties in the state.

Trump denounced the decision in a series of statements, characterizing it as “un-American” and part of a campaign to harm his presidential aspirations. He asserted that his civil rights were violated and called for a reversal of the ruling.

Trump’s attorney, Christopher Kise, indicated their intention to appeal, describing the decision as disconnected from the facts and the law. Engoron’s ruling, delivered just before the start of a non-jury trial in James’ lawsuit, represents a significant blow to Trump’s image as a wealthy real estate mogul and political figure. The judge concluded that Trump and his company not only boasted about their wealth but consistently lied about it on financial statements, which led to favorable loan terms and lower insurance costs.

Engoron dismissed Trump’s claim that a disclaimer on the financial statements absolved him of wrongdoing, emphasizing that such tactics violated the law. The ruling addressed the primary claim in James’ lawsuit, with other claims and a request for $250 million in penalties to be decided at the upcoming trial.

The lawsuit by James, a Democrat, was filed a year ago and accused Trump and the Trump Organization of routinely inflating the values of assets such as skyscrapers, golf courses, and Mar-a-Lago. Engoron noted that Trump substantially overvalued Mar-a-Lago and falsely stated the size of his Manhattan apartment. Trump Tower’s three-story penthouse, for example, was claimed to be nearly three times its actual size, with a valuation of $327 million.

Trump’s legal woes continue to mount, with multiple indictments in the past six months, including allegations related to election overturning efforts, hoarding classified documents, and falsifying business records. The Trump Organization was previously convicted of tax fraud, and Trump himself was sued for misuse of his charitable foundation.

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