The office of New York Attorney General has filed a civil lawsuit against former US President Donald Trump and three his children involved in family real estate business as well as associates and businesses, alleging “numerous acts of fraud and misrepresentation” regarding financial statements.
Announcing the suit on Wednesday, New York Attorney General Letitia James said that Trump “inflated his net worth by billions of dollars” and that his children, Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric, helped him.
“Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization repeatedly and persistently manipulated the value of assets to induce banks to lend money to the Trump Organization on more favorable terms than would otherwise have been available to the company,” James said, “to pay lower taxes, to satisfy continuing loan agreements, and to induce insurance companies to provide insurance coverage for higher limits and at lower premiums.”
The complaint was filed in New York Supreme Court.
The New York investigation began when Trump was president after his attorney Michael Cohen told Congress that Trump made misrepresentations in statements to financial institutions
James said that 65 witnesses were interviewed and millions of documents reviewed during the course of the investigation.
She said the evidence showed that Trump submitted “more than 200 false and misleading asset valuations.”
The misrepresentations included stating that Trump had cash on hand that he did not have and ignoring restrictions that would impact property values, James said.
“Claiming you have money that you do not have does not amount to the art of the deal, It’s the art of the steal,” James said, referencing the title of Trump’s 1987 book.
Mar-a-Lago, the suit says, was valued as high as $739m when it should have been closer to $75m.
James also said the Trumps “received a series of bank ordered appraisals for the commercial property at 40 Wall Street in New York City that calculated the value of the property at $200m as of August 2010 and $220m as of November 2012.
“Yet in his 2011 statement, Mr Trump listed 40 Wall Street with a value of $524m, which increased to $530m over the next two years, more than twice the value calculated by the professionals.
“Even more egregious, the $500m-plus valuation was attributed to information from the appraiser who valued the building at just over $200m.”
Regarding Trump Tower, on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, James said: “Mr Trump represented that his apartment spanned more than 30,000 sq ft, which was the basis for valuing the apartment. In reality, the apartment had an area of less than 11,000 sq ft, something Mr Trump was well aware of.
“Based on that inflated square footage, the value of the apartment in 2015 and 2016 was $327m. To this date, no apartment in New York City has ever sold for close to that amount. Tripling the size of the apartment for purposes of the valuation was intentional and deliberate fraud. Not an honest mistake.”
James said that as far as a possible settlement of the case is concerned, her office’s doors are open.
Trump has consistently accused James of being politically motivated. Before James’s announcement, Bloomberg News reported that “members of Trump’s inner circle” saw the suit as “a fundraising opportunity for James, a Democrat facing re-election in November”.
Trump attorney Alina Habba pushed back against the allegations against the former president.
“Today’s filing is neither focused on the facts nor the law — rather, it is solely focused on advancing the Attorney General’s political agenda,” Habba said in a statement. “It is abundantly clear that the Attorney General’s Office has exceeded its statutory authority by prying into transactions where absolutely no wrongdoing has taken place. We are confident that our judicial system will not stand for this unchecked abuse of authority, and we look forward to defending our client against each and every one of the Attorney General’s meritless claims.”
James said that through the lawsuit, her office is requesting that the New York Supreme Court permanently bar Trump and his children from serving as officers for any New York corporation and bar Trump and the Trump Organization from participating in New York commercial real estate acquisitions or applying for loans in the state for five years.
The suit also seeks to recover at least $250m and to bar the Trump Organization chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, and comptroller, Jeffrey McConney, from serving in top roles of any company in New York.
The attorney general said she believes the allegations also support state and federal criminal laws, and her office is making a referral to the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York and the IRS. The SDNY U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the matter.
Ifunanya Ikueze is an Engineer, Safety Professional, Writer, Investor, Entrepreneur and Educator.