Her office counted that Trump and his associates put out more than 200 false and misleading valuations of assets
Ex-US President Donald Trump, three of his adult children and his family company are sued for what New York state’s attorney general calls a decade of fraudulent real estate misstatements to secure favorable loans and tax benefits. Attorney General Letitia James dubbed the alleged fraud as “the art of the steal.” (Reuters Archive) Donald Trump and family members have lied to tax collectors, lenders and insurers for years in a scheme that routinely misstated the value of his properties to enrich themselves, according to a suit filed by New York's attorney general.
Top state prosecutor Letitia James said on Wednesday that with the help of his children and others at the Trump Organization, the former president provided fraudulent statements of his net worth and false asset valuations “to obtain and satisfy loans, get insurance benefits, and pay lower taxes.”
“In short, he lied to gain massive financial benefits for himself.”
The sweeping investigation is one of many criminal, civil and congressional probes into Trump, who is eyeing another run for the White House in 2024.
James' office requested that the former president pay at least $250 million in penalties –– a sum she says he made from the fraud –– and that his family be banned from running businesses in the state.
She also urged that Trump along with his children Donald Trump Jr, Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump be barred from purchasing property in the state for five years.
“The very foundation of his purported net worth is rooted in incredible fraud and illegality,” James said in a statement.
'Art of steal'
Referring to the title of Trump's book “The Art of Deal,” she said that “Mr Trump thought he could get away with the art of the steal, but today, that conduct ends.”
James said her office, which lacks authority to file criminal charges, was making a criminal referral to the US Justice Department as well as the Internal Revenue Service based on the three-year investigation.
The lawsuit filed with the New York State Supreme Court includes allegations that Trump's annual financial statements for at least a decade “grossly inflated” property values across his assets –– from his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida to Manhattan's Trump Tower –– to a “staggering” degree.
He did so to obtain favourable loans with lower interests and premiums, said James, who is running to be re-elected to her post in November.
Her office counted that Trump and his associates put out more than 200 false and misleading valuations of assets.
No 'victimless crime'
Among the alleged crimes was also valuing 12 rent-stabilised units at market rate in his Trump Park Avenue property –– inflating the value by 65 times, James said.
“White collar financial crime is not a victimless crime,” James said.
“When the well-connected break the law to take in more money than they are entitled to, it reduces resources available to working people, to regular people, to small businesses and to all taxpayers.”
James' lawsuit requests that a judge appoint an independent authority to monitor the Trump Organization's financial practices, and remove the Trumps from their own family business.
New York authorities have been probing Trump and his family business since 2018 when the Manhattan district attorney opened a probe into the then-president who has long vied to present himself as a self-made billionaire.
Trump is also facing legal scrutiny for his efforts to overturn the results of the November 2020 election and over the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol by his supporters.