A judge has ruled that Donald Trump committed fraud for years, deceiving banks, insurers, and others by inflating his assets and exaggerating his net worth. The ruling came in a civil lawsuit brought by the New York attorney general, who accused Trump and his company of routinely overvaluing properties and padding his bottom line by billions of dollars. As punishment, the judge ordered the rescinding of some of Trump’s business licenses and the appointment of an independent monitor to oversee the operations of the Trump Organization. This decision challenges Trump’s carefully crafted image as a wealthy real estate mogul and deals a blow to his defense that a disclaimer on his financial statements absolves him of any wrongdoing.
The lawsuit, brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James, alleges a pattern of duplicity by Trump and his company in valuing assets such as skyscrapers, golf courses, and his Mar-a-Lago estate. The claims include Trump falsely claiming that his Trump Tower apartment in Manhattan was three times its actual size and valuing it at $327 million, as well as overinflating the worth of Mar-a-Lago at $739 million, more than 10 times its reasonable estimate. The judge’s ruling on summary judgment resolves the main claim in the lawsuit, but six other claims remain to be decided upon during the upcoming trial. James is seeking $250 million in penalties and a ban on Trump doing business in New York. Trump’s lawyers had requested the case be thrown out, arguing that there was no evidence of harm to the public and that many allegations were barred by the statute of limitations, but the judge rejected these arguments.