A New York judge has ruled that former US President Donald Trump and his family business committed fraud by lying about their assets and net worth to get better deals from banks and insurers.
The civil lawsuit, filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James, accused Trump and the Trump Organization of inflating their values by billions of dollars for over a decade.
The ruling was issued by Justice Arthur Engoron of the New York state court in Manhattan on Tuesday, according to Reuters.
Engoron said James had proven that Trump and his business had falsely valued several properties, including his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, his penthouse apartment in Manhattan’s Trump Tower, and various office buildings and golf courses.
Engoron also criticized Trump for giving baseless defenses in a deposition, where he claimed that the values of his properties had gone up since he submitted the financial statements, and that he could find a “buyer from Saudi Arabia” to pay any price he suggested. Engoron wrote that these arguments were “wholly without basis in law or fact.”
The lawsuit, which was filed in September 2022, seeks to recover millions of dollars in damages and penalties from Trump and his business for defrauding banks and insurers.
James said that Trump inflated his net worth by as much as $2.23 billion, and by one measure as much as $3.6 billion, on annual financial statements given to banks and insurers.
James said that the inflated values helped Trump secure loans, insurance policies, tax benefits, and other business advantages that he would not have otherwise obtained. She said that the fraud also harmed the public interest by undermining the integrity of the financial markets and the regulatory agencies.
A trial is scheduled for October 2, and could last well into December 2023. The trial will determine the amount of damages and penalties that Trump and his business will have to pay. Lawyers for Trump and the other defendants did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The lawsuit is one of several legal challenges that Trump is facing in New York and elsewhere, including criminal investigations into his tax affairs, business dealings, and alleged hush-money payments to women. Trump has denied any wrongdoing and has called the investigations a political witch hunt.