Lawsuit seeks to bar Donald Trump from acquiring any New York real estate for five years

September 21, 2022

Photo by Krystal T via Flickr

New York Attorney General Letitia James is looking to bar former President Donald Trump and his three adult children from acquiring real estate in New York for five years, a move that could deal a major blow to the family’s business empire. In a civil lawsuit filed on Wednesday, James accused Trump and his business of engaging in years of deliberate financial fraud “to obtain a host of economic benefits.” According to the Office of the Attorney General, Trump and the Trump Organization intentionally created more than 200 false and misleading valuations of assets in annual statements to defraud financial institutions from 2011 to 2021. The 214-page complaint comes after a three-year investigation into fraud across nearly two dozen Trump properties and assets.

The sweeping complaint alleges Trump, with the help of Donald Trump, Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump, as well as senior executives at the Trump Organization, lied about his net worth by billions of dollars to make banks lend money to the company “on more favorable terms to gain tax benefits, and lower premiums, among other things.

The attorney general alleges Trump used false numbers to calculate property values. The complaint goes into detail on several New York City properties, including Trump’s own triplex apartment at Trump Tower, which he valued at 30,000 square feet when it was 10,996 square feet. As a result, the apartment was valued at $327 million in 2015.

Another example is the tower at Trump Park Avenue, where Trump’s financial statements included the values of the unsold residential condo units and failed to acknowledge many of the units were rent-stabilized. A bank-ordered appraisal in 2010 valued the 12 rent-stabilized at $750,000 total. But in the 2011 and 2012 statements, the rent-stabilized apartments at Trump Park Avenue were together valued as market-rate units for nearly $50 million.

According to the lawsuit, another scheme at the Park Avenue tower involved Ivanka Trump’s apartment, a penthouse that was valued three times the option price.

“With the help of his children and senior executives at the Trump Organization, Donald Trump falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself and cheat the system. In fact, the very foundation of his purported net worth is rooted in incredible fraud and illegality,” James said in a statement.

“Mr. Trump thought he could get away with the art of the steal, but today, that conduct ends. There are not two sets of laws for people in this country; we must hold former presidents to the same standards as everyday Americans. I will continue to ensure that no one is able to evade the law, because no one is above it.”

James is seeking roughly $250 million in penalties and also aims to ban Trump, his children, and the company’s executive team from operating businesses in the state of New York. If James is successful, Trump and his organization would also be barred from buying commercial real estate in New York for five years.

Wednesday’s lawsuit is one of many Trump World is currently facing. As NPR reported, a separate criminal trial against the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg will begin next month.

“Today’s filing is neither focused on the facts nor the law – rather, it is solely focused on advancing the Attorney General’s political agenda,” Trump attorney Alina Habba said in a statement. “It is abundantly clear that the Attorney General’s Office has exceeded its statutory authority by prying into transactions where absolutely no wrongdoing has taken place. We are confident that our judicial system will not stand for this unchecked abuse of authority, and we look forward to defending our client against each and every one of the Attorney General’s meritless claims.”

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