NEW YORK — New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a bombshell $250 million civil fraud lawsuit Wednesday against Donald Trump and the Trump Organization. Three of Trump’s adult children, Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric Trump, were also named as defendants, along with two longtime company executives, Allen Weisselberg and Jeffrey McConney.
The attorney general’s lawsuit filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan accuses the Trump Organization, related entities and senior executives of purposely misvaluing assets emblazoned with Trump’s name by hundreds of millions of dollars on skyscrapers, mansions and golf courses.
“This investigation revealed that Donald Trump engaged in years of illegal conduct to inflate his net worth, to deceive banks and the people of the great state of New York,” James said at a news conference. “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.”
The sweeping lawsuit, the result of a three-year civil investigation, seeks to remove Trump and family members from their roles within the eponymous organization for engaging in widespread financial fraud in an “astounding” scheme from 2011 through 2021. And James wants to permanently ban them from ever running a business in the Big Apple again or buying commercial real estate in New York for five years.
“Donald Trump falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself, and cheat the system, thereby cheating all of us,” James said.
Trump took to his social media platform, Truth Social, to lash out against the lawsuit. “Attorney General Letitia ‘Peekaboo’ James” was “a failed A.G.” whose “lack of talent” was causing people and companies to flee New York.
“Today’s filing represents the culmination of nearly three years of persistent, targeted, unethical political harassment by the New York State Attorney General, Letitia James,” the Trump Organization said in a statement.
“What an abhorrent abuse of power, waste of valuable resources and tens of millions of taxpayer dollars.”
Trump’s lawyer Alina Habba said the AG’s office had overstepped its authority “by prying into transactions where absolutely no wrongdoing” had occurred.
The AG’s lawsuit represents the latest legal setback faced by the former president and a resounding blow. If it succeeds, it could sound the death knell for Trump’s family company in his home state — where his grandmother founded it with his father almost 100 years ago.
As well as demanding the Trump entities pay back lenders $250 million in ill-gotten proceeds, James said her office made a referral for criminal prosecution to the IRS and the Southern District of New York.
Nick Biase, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Damian Williams, said the federal prosecutor’s office was aware of the AG’s referral and declined to comment further.
Reached by the New York Daily News, Michael Cohen, a former Trump attorney and fixer who served three years in federal custody for his work for Trump, said he felt validated after a journey filled with “pain, sadness and anger.”
“Today’s announcement makes it all worth it,” Cohen said.
The AG’s office deposed Trump and three of his adult children in the probe, with the former president and Eric invoking their Fifth Amendment right hundreds of times under questioning. During the investigation, Trump was held in civil contempt and fined $110,000 for failing to meet deadlines.
The AG’s civil probe ran parallel to a criminal investigation into Trump’s business practices brought by the Manhattan district attorney. James and Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg’s office have shared evidence in their respective investigations.
The DA’s case against the Trump Organization is headed to trial next month. Weisselberg pleaded guilty to criminal charges in that case in August, admitting to engaging in a 15-year scheme with the company. His plea deal requires him to testify against the Trump Organization at trial.
Bragg said the criminal investigation into Trump, the Trump Organization, and its leadership was “active and ongoing.”
On Wednesday, James said she was only “scratching the surface” as she detailed scheme after scheme related to Trump-owned properties across the country.
Investigators scrutinized numerous assets in the probe, including Trump’s sprawling estate in Westchester County, Trump Park Avenue, Trump’s 70-story skyscraper at 40 Wall St. in lower Manhattan and his golf course in Scotland.
James said the twice-impeached former president valued his Florida resort Mar-a-Lago at nearly 10 times its actual worth.
“The club generated annual revenues of less than $25 million and should have been valued at about $75 million,” she said. “However, Mar-a-Lago was valued as high as $739 million.”
The 280-page complaint is a litany of business fraud allegations, including how Trump in 2015 falsely and knowingly tripled the value of his triplex apartment at Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue to the tune of $300 million.
The $327 million price tag “was absurd given the fact that at that point only one apartment in New York City had ever sold for even $100 million,” reads the AG’s lawsuit, which says it was worth closer to $16.5 million.
James said the numbers represented “intentional and deliberate fraud, not an honest mistake” and that Trump was “intimately familiar” with the building and apartment, having overseen their construction.
Alan Futerfas, a lawyer for the Trump children named in the lawsuit, did not respond to a request seeking comment, nor did firms representing various Trump entities named in the lawsuit. McConney’s lawyer did not return a call. Weisselberg’s lawyer Mary Mulligan declined to comment.
James’ lawsuit comes amid a swirl of unprecedented legal challenges for a former president, including an FBI investigation into Trump’s handling of classified records and inquiries into his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
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