In a recent development, a New York judge presiding over a $250 million lawsuit against former President Donald Trump ruled that Trump and his company engaged in fraud by exaggerating his net worth during business dealings. This ruling simplifies the task for the state’s attorney general in the forthcoming civil trial by establishing a general framework of fraud, now only requiring proof of specific illegal actions.
Justice Arthur Engoron also mandated the revocation of business certificates for Trump’s enterprises and sanctioned the attorneys representing Trump, two of his adult children, and two other executives alongside the business itself. This sanction was imposed due to the repetition of previously failed motions, which were deemed “borderline frivolous” by the judge.
This decision marks a significant drawback for Trump as it strips his company’s authorization to operate in New York, the base of the Trump Organization and a hub for Trump’s substantial real estate ventures. It’s a win for Attorney General Letitia James, who had requested a simplification of the upcoming trial by having the judge ascertain the broad occurrence of fraud beforehand.
Despite the ruling, Trump and his legal team have refuted any misconduct. A spokesperson for Trump, Alina Habba, mentioned that an appeal against Tuesday’s ruling is in the pipeline.
The judge ordered five of Trump’s attorneys to contribute $7,500 each to a state entity compensating clients for attorney misappropriation of funds. Among the sanctioned attorneys is Christopher Kise, a former Florida solicitor general, who also represents Trump in a federal court in Florida concerning an indictment over mishandling and retaining classified documents.
The ruling also directed the involved parties to propose candidates for receivers who would supervise dismantling of the Trump Organization’s corporate structure, hinting at a potential cessation of its New York operations.
Reacting to the decision, Kise, representing the defense, labeled it “outrageous” and “completely disconnected from the facts and governing law,” criticizing the court for bypassing a trial and substituting its judgment for nationally recognized experts.
The lawsuit, initiated by James last year, accuses Trump and his company of defrauding lenders and insurance firms from 2011 to 2021 by inflating Trump’s net worth in business transactions. The alleged manipulation of Trump’s property and other real estate assets’ value, amounting to up to $2.2 billion annually, enabled better interest and policy rates for the company.
The trial, set to commence next Monday, might face delays due to an ongoing appellate court issue. The list of preliminary witnesses comprises nearly 60 names, including the former president, who is expected to testify.
The judge’s finding of fraud under the state’s civil law now necessitates a determination of specific illegal activities and other penalties the defendants might incur during the bench trial. This civil case implies liability for misconduct but doesn’t carry a prison sentence. Nonetheless, Trump faces potential imprisonment in four unrelated criminal cases, one filed in New York, which could go to trial next year amidst his 2024 presidential campaign endeavors.
The decision also highlighted the Trump defense team’s futile arguments, which led to the sanctions, as they kept reiterating them. Judge Engoron described the defendants’ conduct as “egregious,” dismissing Trump’s attempted defenses in his sworn deposition as entirely baseless.