In a significant blow to former President Donald Trump’s business empire, a New York judge has ruled that the Trump Organization engaged in widespread fraud. Justice Arthur Engoron determined that Trump and his sons, Eric and Donald Jr, grossly exaggerated the value of their properties to deceive banks, insurers, and other entities.
The verdict was delivered in a civil lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James, just days before a bench trial set to examine allegations that Trump and his organization misrepresented asset values and his net worth for a decade to secure favorable terms on loans and insurance.
James accused Trump of executing a “bait and switch” scheme, inflating his net worth by up to $2.23 billion, and in some calculations, as high as $3.6 billion, in annual financial statements provided to banks and insurers.
Assets with inflated values include Trump’s office buildings, golf courses, his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, and his Trump Tower penthouse in New York. Trump claimed the penthouse was nearly three times its actual size, leading to an overvaluation of up to $207 million.
The ruling paves the way for James to establish damages in a civil trial scheduled to commence next week, where she is seeking a penalty of approximately $250 million. Engoron also ordered the revocation of certificates permitting some of Trump’s businesses, including the Trump Organization, to operate in New York, potentially signaling the downfall of his empire.
If Trump’s legal team fails to overturn the judge’s damning decision on appeal, it will mark the first time a government probe into the former president has resulted in punishment. It will also significantly tarnish his image as a successful business magnate.
Read more at The Guardian.