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Judge imposes $364 million fine in Trump's New York civil fraud case

Judge imposes $364 million fine in Trump's New York civil fraud case

 


NEW YORK (AP) A New York judge on Friday ordered Donald Trump and his companies to pay $355 million in penalties, ruling they engaged in a years-long scheme to dupe banks and others with financial statements that inflated his wealth.

Trump will not have to pay the money immediately during the appeal process, but the verdict still represents a resounding setback for the former president.

If he is ultimately forced to pay, the scale of the sanction, which is added to previous judgments, could considerably reduce his financial resources. And it damages the image of a successful businessman that he carefully tailored to enable his improbable rise from reality TV star to former and perhaps future president.

Judge Arthur Engoron concluded that Trump and his company would likely continue their fraudulent practices without the financial sanctions and other controls he imposed. Engoron concluded that Trump and his co-defendants failed to accept responsibility and that the experts who testified on his behalf simply denied reality.

This is a venial sin, not a mortal sin, Engoron, a Democrat, wrote in a poignant 92-page opinion. They didn't rob a bank at gunpoint. Donald Trump is not Bernard Madoff. Yet the defendants are unable to admit their mistakes.

He said their total lack of contrition and remorse borders on the pathological and that the frauds found here are obvious and shocking to the conscience.”

Trump, who built his reputation as a real estate titan, was also banned from serving as an officer or director of a New York company for three years or from obtaining a loan from banks registered in his Native state.

His eldest sons, Trump Organization executive vice presidents Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, were each ordered to pay $4 million and banned from being executives of New York companies for two years. Former CFO Allen Weisselberg was ordered to pay $1 million.

Trump called the verdict a complete and utter sham.” He wrote on his Truth Social platform that New York Attorney General Letitia James had been obsessed with getting Trump for years and that Engoron's decision was an illegal and un-American judgment against me, my family and my amazing business.

The total verdict of $364 million, according to James' office, amounts to $450 million, adding that the interest keeps the Trump Organization in business. The judge backed away from an earlier ruling that would have dissolved the former president's companies. But if confirmed, the verdict will lead to a reshuffle at the top of the company.

READ FULL: Civil fraud lawsuit ruling imposing more than $350 million on Trump

In a statement, James said justice had been served and called the ruling a tremendous victory for this state, this nation and for everyone who believes we should all play by the same rules, even past presidents.

Today, Donald Trump is finally facing accountability for his lies, cheating and staggering fraud. Because no matter how big, rich or powerful you think you are, no one is above the law, James said.

Trump's lawyers have vowed to appeal. Lawyer Alina Habba called the verdict a clear injustice and the culmination of a years-long politically fueled witch hunt. Trump's lawyer, Christopher Kise, called the outcome a draconian and unconstitutional fine and death sentence for Trump, his family and his business.

Engoron made his ruling after a two-month trial in which the Republican presidential nominee swore under oath that he was a victim of a rigged justice system.

The hefty penalty was a victory for James, a Democrat, who sued Trump over what she said was not just a harmless boast but years of deceptive practices as he built a multinational collection of scraps -sky, golf courses and other properties that catapulted him to wealth and fame. and the White House.

James sued Trump in 2022 under a state law that allows him to investigate ongoing fraud in business dealings.

The suit accused Trump and his co-defendants of regularly inflating his financial statements to create the illusion that his properties were more valuable than they actually were. State lawyers said Trump exaggerated his wealth by as much as $3.6 billion a year.

By pretending to be richer, Trump qualified for better loan terms, saved on interest and was able to complete projects he might not have completed otherwise, the people said. state lawyers.

Even before the trial began, Engoron ruled that James had proven that Trump's financial statements were fraudulent. The judge ordered that some of Trump's companies be removed from his control and dissolved. An appeals court suspended this decision.

In that earlier ruling, the judge found that, among other tricks, Trump's financial statements falsely claimed that his Trump Tower penthouse was nearly three times its actual size and overvalued his Mar-a-Lago estate at Palm Beach, Florida based on the idea. that the property could be developed for residential purposes, even though he had waived the right to develop it for purposes other than a club.

READ MORE: Trump calls for new leadership at RNC, including daughter-in-law as co-chair

Trump, one of 40 witnesses to testify at the trial, said his financial statements understated his net worth and that banks had done their own research and were happy with his affairs.

There were no victims. There was nothing, Trump said in November.

During the trial, Trump called the judge extremely hostile and the attorney general a political hack. In a six-minute rant during closing arguments in January, Trump proclaimed that I was an innocent man and called the case against me a fraud.

Trump and his lawyers said outside accountants who helped prepare the returns should have flagged any discrepancies and that the documents came with disclaimers that shielded him from liability. They also argued that some of the allegations were barred by the statute of limitations.

The lawsuit is one of several legal issues facing Trump as he campaigns for a return to the White House. He has been indicted four times in the last year, accused in Georgia and Washington, D.C., of plotting to overturn his 2020 election loss to Democrat Joe Biden, in Florida of hoarding classified documents and Manhattan to falsify business documents related to the money paid. to porn actor Stormy Daniels on his behalf.

READ MORE: The potential impact of Trump's extreme deportation and immigration agenda

A judge on Thursday confirmed that Trump's secret trial would begin March 25 and an Atlanta judge heard arguments on whether to remove Fulton County Prosecutor Fani Willis from her interference case election in Georgia because she had a personal relationship with a special prosecutor. hiring.

These criminal charges do not appear to harm his march toward the Republican presidential nomination, but a civil suit threatens him financially.

On January 26, a jury ordered Trump to pay $83.3 million to writer E. Jean Carroll for defaming her after she accused him in 2019 of sexually assaulting her in a large Manhattan store in the 1990s. That's in addition to $5 million the jury awarded Carroll in a related trial last year.

In 2022, the Trump Organization was convicted of tax fraud and fined $1.6 million in an unrelated criminal case for helping executives dodge taxes on extravagant perks such as apartments in Manhattan and luxury cars.

James had asked the judge to impose a fine of at least $370 million.

Engoron decided the case because neither side requested a jury and state law does not allow juries to be impaneled for this type of trial.

Because it was a civil matter and not a criminal one, the case could not result in prison time.

James, who campaigned to become a Trump critic and watchdog, began scrutinizing his business practices in March 2019 after his former personal attorney Michael Cohen testified before Congress that Trump had exaggerated his wealth on financial statements provided at Deutsche Bank while trying to obtain financing to purchase. the NFL's Buffalo Bills.

James' office previously sued Trump for misusing his own charitable foundation to advance his political and business interests. Trump was ordered to pay $2 million to various charities as fines and the charity, the Trump Foundation, was shut down.

Trump incorporated the Trump Organization in New York in 1981. He still owns it, but he placed its assets in a revocable trust and gave up his roles as director, chairman and chairman of the company when he was became president, leaving management of the company to Eric. Trump and Donald Trump Jr.

Trump did not return to a stated leadership position after leaving the White House in 2021, but his sons testified that he was involved in some decision-making.

Engoron had already appointed a retired federal judge, Barbara Jones, to oversee the company.

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