New York AG Letitia James files $250 million lawsuit against Trump for defrauding lenders, others

For 20 years, Donald Trump and his family have enriched themselves through “countless acts of fraud and misrepresentation,” New York Attorney General Letitia James claims in a new lawsuit accusing the Trumps of “gross blowing.” of the former president’s billion-dollar net worth and defrauding lenders and others with false and misleading financial statements.

The civil lawsuit, filed Wednesday in the state Supreme Court in Manhattan, seeks a $250 million judgment and an injunction against one of Trumps running a New York state company.

The lawsuit alleges, among other things, that Mar-a-Lago, the former president’s Florida estate and golf resort, was valued at $739 million, but should have been estimated at about one-tenth that amount, at $75 million. The suit says the higher rating was “based on the false premise that the property was unrestricted and could be developed for residential use, even though Mr. Trump himself signed deeds donating his residential development rights and making changes to the property.” sharply limited.”

James refers her findings to federal prosecutors in Manhattan, who could potentially open a criminal investigation into bank fraud, according to a footnote in the lawsuit.

Through “persistent and repeated corporate fraud,” Trumps convinced banks to lend money to the Trump Organization on more favorable terms than they deserved, according to the lawsuit in which the former president, three of his adult children, owned the company and two of its executives, Allan Weisselberg. and Jeff McConney.

“Mr. Trump made known through Mr. Weisselberg that he wanted to increase his assets on the statements — a wish Mr. Weisselberg and others have carried out year after year in their fraudulent preparation of the statements,” the lawsuit said. “The plan to inflate Mr Trump’s wealth also remained consistent year after year.”

Weisselberg pleaded guilty last month to unrelated criminal charges of tax evasion filed by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, which conducted a parallel investigation.

A wide angle view shows the main entrance to Trump Tower in New York, February 2020.

Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via AP, FILE

Trump has denied doing anything wrong and has called the investigation a politically motivated “witch hunt” by an attorney general he has called “racist”. James, who is black, rejected a Trump Organization settlement proposal last month to resolve the matter, sources told ABC News.

“Today’s filing is not focused on the facts or the law, but is solely aimed at advancing the attorney general’s political agenda,” Trump attorney Alina Habba said in a statement Wednesday. “It is abundantly clear that the Attorney General has exceeded his legal authority by engaging in transactions where absolutely no wrongdoing has occurred. We are confident that our legal system will not be able to withstand this unchecked abuse of power, and we look forward to hearing from you. defend our client against any of the attorney general’s baseless claims.”

During a statement last month, Trump repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The lawsuit includes numerous cases where Trump invoked the Fifth when asked to explain how the company calculated the value of certain properties. In a civil trial, jurors could draw a negative conclusion that Trump refuses to answer.

The attorney general’s investigation began in March 2019 after Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen testified before Congress that Trump’s financial statements inflated the value of Trump’s assets to obtain favorable terms for loans and insurance coverage. , while also reducing the value of other assets to property taxes.

The suit also said that in a 2012 statement, rent-stabilized apartments in the Trump Park Avenue property were valued as if they could be rented at market value. As a result, units worth $750,000 total were valued at nearly $50 million, according to the lawsuit.

Trump Turnberry, a golf club in Scotland, was valued at nearly $127 million, but the suit said the golf course has been running at a loss every year since it opened in 2017.

“As a result, using values ​​for the golf course between $123 million and $126.8 million based on the use of the fixed asset plan is materially inaccurate and misleading; the golf course should have been valued at a much lower amount,” the statement said. the Attorney General. .

“The magnitude of the financial benefit that Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization gained through these fraudulent and deceptive submissions was significant,” the indictment said.