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NY AG Letitia James files massive fraud lawsuit against Trump, his business, and his 3 eldest children

Letitia James, left. Donald Trump, right.
New York Attorney General Letitia James, left. Former president Donald Trump, right.
  • New York Attorney General Letitia James' office sued Trump, his children, and his business.
  • "Trump falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to further enrich himself and cheat the system," James' office said.
  • James is seeking to permanently bar the Trumps from conducting business in New York and pursuing $250 million in penalties.

New York's attorney general filed a sweeping civil suit Wednesday against former President Donald Trump, his business, and his three eldest children.

James is seeking to permanently bar the Trumps from conducting business in New York and pursuing $250 million in penalties. The state attorney general's office is also seeking the appointment of an independent monitor to "oversee compliance, financial reporting, valuations, and disclosures to l enders, insurers, and tax authorities at the Trump Organization" for at least five years.

At a news conference, New York Attorney General Letitia James said Trump "falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to further enrich himself and cheat the system" and "repeatedly and persistently manipulated the value of assets to induce banks to lend money to the Trump Organization."

She said the Trump Organization's fraudulent activity allowed it to receive more favorable loan terms, pay lower taxes, and induce insurance companies to give lower premiums.

"Claiming to have money that you do not have does not amount to the art of the deal," James said, invoking the title of Trump's 1987 memoir and business-advice book. "It's the art of the steal."

James on Wednesday said her office believes the conduct outlined in the civil suit "also violates federal criminal law, including issuing false statements to financial institutions and bank fraud." She said state investigators would refer the matter to the US attorney's office for the Southern District of New York and the Internal Revenue Service.

The suit is the culmination of an aggressive, three-year probe by James, who in 2018 campaigned in part on the promise to investigate — and sue —Trump and his New York-incorporated real estate and golf resort empire.

In April, state Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron held Trump in contempt of court and imposed a daily fine eventually totaling $110,000 after finding that Trump had failed to comply with subpoenas for his personal business documents.

Engoron also sided with James in requiring Trump and his two eldest children to comply with her subpoena for their testimony. Trump pleaded the Fifth some 400 times when he was deposed by James and lawyers for her office last month.

James on Wednesday accused the Trump Organization of issuing financial statements that were in "clear violation" of accepted accounting principles.

"Despite representing that these statements were prepared in accordance with these principles, some of the common tactics they used include representing that Mr. Trump had cash on hand that he did not have," she said.

Many of the lawsuit's fraud allegations center on 10 years of Trump's statements of financial condition. These are annual listings of the value of Trump's individual sky scrapers, hotels, golf resorts, branding deals and the like; Trump used these allegedly inflated valuations to impress banks and other interests.

The truth of these statements — which were signed either by Trump, or, after 2017, by Eric Trump — has been publicly questioned since the former president's fixer-turned-critic Michael Cohen turned over the statements for 2011 through 2013 as part of his testimony before Congress in 2019.

James has alleged that Cohen's testimony about the statements was the impetus for her probe. Even Trump's now-former accounting firm, Mazars USA, which had prepared the statements for decades, said in February the documents "should no longer be relied upon."

Mazars walked away from the statements after James' office found that they repeatedly "misstated objective facts."

Those facts included the size of his Trump Tower penthouse, which Trump allegedly claimed was three times the actual square footage.

Trump also allegedly overstated his liquidity — the amount of cash on hand — and artificially inflated some of his valuations by an undisclosed flat percentage for "brand" value, despite expressly saying in the statements that this brand value had not been factored in.   

Trump, for his part, has insisted that he has not committed financial wrongdoing and has repeatedly accused the attorney general's office of conducting a politically motivated "witch hunt."

This story is developing. Check back for updates.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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