NEW YORK, Sept 21 (Reuters) – Donald Trump, his family business and three of his adult children were sued by New York’s Attorney General on Wednesday, who accused them of overstating the former US President’s fortune and fortune through a decade of lies have to banks and insurance companies.
Attorney General Letitia James filed her civil complaint in a New York state court in Manhattan, accusing the Trump Organization of “numerous acts of fraud and misrepresentation” in the preparation of financial statements from 2011 to 2021.
She also said that Trump, who has long used his fortune to boost his image and fame as a successful businessman and politician, has inflated his fortune by billions of dollars to help his company obtain favorable financial terms for transactions , including lower interest rates and cheaper insurance coverage.
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The 214-page complaint also names Trump’s adult children Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump as defendants, as well as longtime executives at the company, including former CFO Allen Weisselberg.
The lawsuit adds to the many legal problems Trump faces.
These include a Georgia criminal investigation into his efforts to undo the 2020 presidential election and a state probe into his handling of presidential records, which led to an Aug. 8 FBI search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home. read more
The Trump Organization manages hotels, golf courses and other properties around the world and was studied by James for more than three years.
James, a Democrat, said the values of 23 assets had been “grossly and fraudulently inflated” and her office had uncovered more than 200 examples of misleading asset valuations.
Those assets included marquee properties like Mar-a-Lago in Florida and Trump’s penthouse on Manhattan’s Trump Tower, James said. The lawsuit seeks to recover at least $250 million in alleged improper winnings.
“Claiming that you have money you don’t have isn’t the ‘art of the deal,’ it’s the art of stealing,” James said at a press conference, alluding to Donald Trump’s 1987 memoir. She called the “pattern of fraud and deception” used by Trump and the Trump Organization “amazing.”
Trump, in a statement published on Truth Social, called the lawsuit “another witch hunt by a racist attorney general” who was pursuing the case for political reasons.
James is black and is running for re-election in November. Trump hasn’t announced whether he will run for president in 2024, but would likely be a Republican frontrunner.
While the case does not involve any criminal charges, James said Trump has repeatedly violated several state criminal statutes and may have violated federal criminal codes, and asked US prosecutors and the Internal Revenue Service to investigate.
A spokesman for US Attorney Damian Williams in Manhattan declined to comment.
“DISASTERS OF THE WORLD”
James wants to remove the Trumps from power at their company and ban Trump and his adult children from serving as officers or directors in New York.
She also wants to install a monitor for the Trump Organization and ban the company and Trump from buying commercial real estate in New York or borrowing money from state-licensed banks for five years.
The lawsuit alleges Trump’s plan is designed to fraudulently trick banks into lending money cheaper, persuade insurers to cover higher limits at lower premiums, and obtain tax benefits.
James said Trump pretended his apartment in Trump Tower was 30,000 square feet when it was actually 10,996 square feet, and that its 2015 valuation of $327 million was “preposterous” because none at the time New York City apartment sold for $100 million.
She also said Trump valued Mar-a-Lago at $739 million by suggesting it could be developed for housing and it should have been valued closer to $75 million.
James said her office has turned down offers of settlement from the defendants, but “our doors are always open” for negotiations.
She said Trump could try to move his company or borrow money elsewhere, but that wouldn’t relieve him of his obligations in New York.
“There can’t be different rules for different people in this country or state, and past presidents are no different,” James said.
The attorney general opened her investigation after Michael Cohen, who was Trump’s attorney and fixer before hitting him on, said in a testimony to Congress that the former president inflated some assets to save money on loans and insurance.
Trump was ordered to testify in an Aug. 10 affidavit for the inquest, where he invoked more than 400 times his right against self-incrimination under the US Constitution’s Fifth Amendment.
“The attorney general’s office has exceeded its statutory authority by investigating transactions in which absolutely no wrongdoing took place,” Alina Habba, an attorney for Trump, said in a statement, calling the allegations “baseless.”
Donald Trump Jr. tweeted that James was “weaponizing her office to take action against her political opponents!”
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has separately charged the Trump Organization with criminal tax fraud and is preparing for an Oct. 24 trial.
Weisselberg has pleaded guilty and is expected to testify against the company, which has pleaded not guilty. Continue reading
“Our criminal investigation into former President Donald J. Trump, the Trump Organization and their leadership is active and ongoing,” Bragg said in a statement.
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Reporting by Jonathan Stempel, Karen Freifeld and Luc Cohen in New York; Edited by Will Dunham and Alistair Bell
Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.