Court finds Donald Trump guilty of bank and insurance fraud in real estate ventures

By Esther Muhozi
On 27 September 2023 at 09:36

A New York Supreme Court Judge , Arthur F. Engoron has found former President Donald Trump guilty of committing fraud for several years during the development of his real estate empire, which eventually led to his fame and presidency.

According to USA Today , this judgment came on Tuesday as part of a civil lawsuit filed by New York’s attorney general, Letitia James.

Judge Engoron determined that Trump and his company had engaged in deceptive practices by significantly inflating the valuation of their assets and exaggerating Trump’s net worth on documents used for deals and securing financing.

As a penalty, some of Trump’s business licenses might be revoked, making it challenging for them to operate in New York. Additionally, an independent monitor will oversee the Trump Organization’s activities.

The ruling strongly refutes Trump’s image as a wealthy and savvy real estate tycoon turned political figure. The judge concluded that these deceptive tactics were not merely boastful but unlawful, leading to favorable loan terms and lower insurance premiums for Trump and his company. Trump’s argument that a disclaimer on financial statements absolved him of wrongdoing was rejected by the judge, who deemed it a fantasy.

While Manhattan prosecutors had considered a criminal case for the same conduct, they did not pursue it, leaving Letitia James to sue Trump in a civil lawsuit seeking penalties that could hinder Trump’s business activities in New York. The ruling resolves a major claim in James’ lawsuit, with additional claims and potential penalties to be decided in a non-jury trial starting on October 2, 2023. James is seeking $250 million in penalties and a ban on Trump conducting business in New York, with the trial potentially lasting until December.

Trump’s legal team had attempted to have the case dismissed, arguing that there was no evidence of harm to the public and that many allegations were barred by the statute of limitations. However, Judge Engoron rejected these arguments.

The lawsuit filed by Letitia James alleged that Trump habitually exaggerated the value of assets such as skyscrapers, golf courses, and Mar-a-Lago, significantly inflating his net worth. Trump’s valuations were found to be far higher than reasonable estimates, including his Trump Tower apartment and Mar-a-Lago.

This legal challenge adds to Trump’s ongoing legal issues as he considers a return to the White House in 2024. He has faced multiple indictments in recent months, including allegations related to election interference, document hoarding, and falsifying business records.

While the lawsuit does not carry the possibility of prison time, it could disrupt Trump’s real estate dealings and tarnish his legacy as a developer. Letitia James has sought penalties, including banning Trump and his three eldest children from running a New York-based company and preventing them from entering commercial real estate acquisitions for five years. The $250 million in penalties sought by James corresponds to the estimated gains from the alleged fraud.

Letitia James began investigating Trump’s business practices in 2019 after his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, testified that Trump had inflated his wealth on financial statements provided to Deutsche Bank while seeking financing for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills. Additionally, James previously sued Trump for misusing his charitable foundation, resulting in a $2 million fine and the closure of the Trump Foundation.

The lawsuit filed by Letitia James alleged that Trump habitually exaggerated the value of assets such as skyscrapers, golf courses, and Mar-a-Lago, significantly inflating his net worth.