According to BBC report on Tuesday, September 26, 2023, a New York judge has ruled that former president Donald Trump, two of his sons, and the Trump Organization committed years of fraud by repeatedly inflating the values of assets on financial statements.
The decision comes in a $250 million civil lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James last September.
The judge, Arthur Engoron, granted summary judgment on some claims, finding the Trumps liable for violating state fraud laws.
Specifically, Engoron ruled the Trumps inflated asset values to obtain loans and insurance coverage.
For example, Trump stated his Trump Tower triplex apartment was 30,000 square feet when it was actually around 10,000 square feet – triple the actual size.
The judge wrote “A discrepancy of this order of magnitude, by a real estate developer sizing up his own living space of decades, can only be considered fraud.”
The alleged fraud dates back to at least 2011 when Trump began significantly inflating the value of assets on his annual financial statements.
The AG’s office provided evidence of vastly inflated valuations on numerous Trump properties compared to professional appraisals.
Engoron sharply criticized the Trumps’ legal arguments, stating “That is a fantasy world, not the real world.”
He sanctioned several of Trump’s attorneys $7,500 each for making frivolous claims. The remaining parts of the AG’s fraud case will go to trial in October.
The civil investigation began after Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen testified to Congress in 2019 that Trump exaggerated assets.
Trump was previously held in contempt for not properly responding to subpoenas.
He and his sons unsuccessfully tried to get the case transferred to another judge.
The judge’s ruling cancels numerous business licenses and authorizations that had allowed the Trumps to operate in New York.
This represents a major blow to the Trump Organization’s ability to conduct business and raises the prospect of criminal liability.
Trump’s attorney said they will appeal the “miscarriage of justice” as the ruling was “disconnected from the facts.”
But the AG’s office amassed substantial evidence over its three year investigation.
The judge determined the documents “clearly contain fraudulent valuations” used for business purposes.
While this is a civil fraud case, these findings could aid a criminal investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney into possible financial crimes by the Trump Organization.
The DA’s office has convened a special grand jury to consider indictments.
The judge’s blunt rebuke of fraudulent conduct builds on years of scrutiny into Trump’s finances.
Though Trump was not charged criminally while in office, he now faces legal jeopardy on multiple fronts as prosecutors pursue active investigations.