Judge rules Trump committed fraud in building real estate empire

Judge rules Trump committed fraud in building real estate empire
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A New York judge found former President Trump liable for fraud Tuesday, ruling that New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) had proven the core elements of her sprawling civil case against Trump and his businesses.

Justice Arthur Engoron’s 35-page ruling also rejected Trump’s effort to toss the entire case, allowing the remaining elements to proceed to trial. The ruling also strips some of Trump’s business licenses and orders that an independent monitor continue to oversee the Trump Organization.

That trial before Engoron is scheduled to begin Monday, barring Trump’s separate, last-minute effort for a delay.

James’s office last September sued Trump, the Trump Organization and two of his adult children — Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. — claiming more than a decade of fraud.

Engoron granted James’s request to find Trump and all the other defendants liable for the first of seven causes of action alleged in the lawsuit, which followed a multi-year investigation.

Beyond Trump and his two children, the defendants also include former Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, former Trump Organization controller Jeffrey McConney and various business entities connected to Trump.

Engoron simultaneously granted James’s request to sanction five of Trump’s lawyers for bringing up already-dismissed arguments in court, ordering them to pay a $7,500 fine each.

The lawsuit alleged Trump’s company sought lower taxes and better insurance coverage by falsely inflating and deflating the value of its assets.

Engoron found that several of Trump’s properties were falsely valuated, including his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida and Trump Park Avenue in New York. Arguments Trump made over the numbers in a deposition with the New York attorney general’s office were “wholly without basis in law or fact,” Engoron wrote in the decision.

Alina Habba, Trump’s legal spokeswoman who was previously one of his attorneys in the case, said the former president will immediately appeal the decision.

“Today’s decision is fundamentally flawed at every level. It is important to remember that the Trump Organization is an American success story,” Habba said in a statement. “The fact that this Court summarily found that there is no question of fact, finding in part that Mar-a-Lago is worth approximately $20 million and issue a decision of this magnitude is an affront to our legal system.”

The Hill has requested comment from the New York attorney general’s office.

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James’s office is seeking some $250 million in financial penalties. It also seeks to bar Trump and his children from serving as officers or directors of New York-registered or licensed corporations.

Trump had sought to toss the entire case ahead of trial, asserting, among other arguments, that James had no authority and the claims had passed the statute of limitations.

Engoron’s ruling Tuesday rejected those arguments and said the case can proceed to trial on the remaining claims.

“[James] has demonstrated that there remain, at the very least, disputed issues of fact as to whether defendants violated these statutes, intentionally and materially,” Engoron wrote.

In a PowerPoint used to argue its motion, James’ office suggested Trump and his co-defendants used “deceptive practices” like disregarding appraisals and legal restrictions to misrepresent their assets. The former president inflated his net worth by as much as $2.2 billion, the office claimed in prior court filings.

Trump and his co-defendants argued in their own PowerPoint that the foundation of the New York attorney general’s office’s case is to “ignore everything,” from profitable business transactions to established case law.

The $7,500 that Trump’s attorneys were required to pay followed their “egregious” conduct of repeating arguments previously rejected multiple times, Engoron said.

“We are way beyond the point of ‘sophisticated counsel should have known better’; we are at the point of intentional and blatant disregard of controlling authority and law of the case. This Court emphatically rejected these arguments, as did the First Department. Defendants’ repetition of them here is indefensible,” he added.

In addition to the New York civil case, Trump faces a combined 91 charges in four criminal cases: the New York hush money case, federal election interference case, federal classified documents case and Georgia election interference case.

Updated 6:50 p.m. ET

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