Judge Finds Trump Liable for Fraud in $250 Million New York Lawsuit

By Molly Crane-Newman,
New York Daily News (via TNS).

A Manhattan judge found Donald Trump liable for wide-scale fraud Tuesday for lying about his net worth for years — stripping him of his New York business licenses in a stunning setback for the former president days ahead of state Attorney General Tish James’ sweeping case against his family-run real estate empire.

In a blistering 35-page ruling, state Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron granted James’ request to find Trump, his sons and top Trump Organization executives liable for the top fraud claim in her $250 million lawsuit. Engoron will consider the remaining six claims when the trial starts next week.

In an unexpected portion of his decision, the judge essentially stripped Trump of the ability to run his businesses in New York by canceling his certificates and any controlled by his adult sons, Eric and Don Jr., and Trump Org execs Allen Weisselberg and Jeffrey McConney. Engoron gave them 10 days to find receivers to oversee the LLCs’ dissolution.

The ruling means Trump could potentially lose control of his famous New York City properties including 40 Wall Street in the Financial District.

Trump’s team condemned the decision and said they would appeal.

“Today’s outrageous decision is completely disconnected from the facts and governing law,” Christopher Kise said in a statement.

“The decision seeks to nationalize one of the most successful corporate empires in the United States and seize control of private property all while acknowledging there is zero evidence of any default, breach, late payment or any complaint of harm,” he continued. “While the full impact of the decision remains unclear, what is clear is that President Trump and his family will seek all available appellate remedies to rectify this miscarriage of justice.”

Eric Trump took to X, formerly known as Twitter, to say “the persecution of our family continues.”

“Today, I lost all faith in the New York legal system. Never before have I seen such hatred toward one person by a judge — a coordinated effort with the Attorney General to destroy a man’s life, company and accomplishments,” he wrote.

The AG welcomed the ruling.

“Today, a judge ruled in our favor and found that Donald Trump and the Trump Organization engaged in years of financial fraud. We look forward to presenting the rest of our case at trial.”

In her request, James had pointed to “reams of evidence” in the wide-ranging case proving it was standard for Trump and his executives to grossly exaggerate asset values to banks and lenders, mushrooming his net worth and illegally securing better loans and insurance terms.

Trump-owned properties emblazoned with his name stretching from Palm Beach, Fla., all the way to Aberdeen, Scotland, were exaggerated by hundreds of millions of dollars in official business records. By inflating the values, Trump ballooned his net worth by up to $2.2 billion in the decade covered, the judge found.

Trump valued his Palm Beach abode, Mar-a-Lago, at $739 million in 2018 despite a county appraiser’s estimation that its market value was just $25 million, the AG’s evidence showed. His Scottish golf course was stated as having $135 million in value in 2021 when it was worth around $69 million.

Engoron denied a motion from Trump to throw out the whole case and found his legal positions preposterous. The former president’s lawyer, Chris Kise, described his method for valuing buildings at last week’s court hearing as “genius.”

“Defendants’ respond that: the documents do not say what they say; that there is no such thing as ‘objective’ value; and that, essentially, the Court should not believe its own eyes,” Engoron wrote.

In his colorful ruling, the judge compared Trump’s defense to comedian Chico Marx’s famous line in “Duck Soup” when he said, “Well, who ya gonna believe, me or your own eyes?”

The judge pointed out there weren’t many ways to slice the company documenting Trump’s triplex apartment at Trump Tower on Fifth Ave. as 30,000 square feet when it is actually 10,996.

“A discrepancy of this order of magnitude, by a real estate developer sizing up his own living space of decades, can only be considered fraud,” Engoron wrote.

Engoron’s order also imposed thousands of dollars in fines against five Trump attorneys for filing “indefensible” and frivolous legal arguments after they had already been rejected. In the investigation stage of the case, he sanctioned Trump $10,000 a day for 11 days for failing to hand over documents to the attorney general.

“We are way beyond the point of ‘sophisticated counsel should have known better,’” Engoron wrote, quoting his previous comments about the arguments. “We are at the point of intentional and blatant disregard of controlling authority and law of the case.”

The ruling, coming less than a week from the Monday bench trial, is expected to shorten the case dramatically. Engoron previously estimated it would last three months. He’s expected to hear final pretrial arguments on Wednesday.

Last month, Trump brought proceedings against the judge and James in the First Department Court of Appeals seeking to delay the case, which the panel is expected to rule on this week. James has described Trump’s petition as a “brazen and meritless” attempt to evade accountability and undermine Engoron.

The case is one in a maelstrom of legal woes as Trump seeks the presidency for a second time.

He’s facing federal criminal charges in Washington alleging he plotted to overturn the 2020 election. In Florida, he’s accused of hoarding and mishandling highly-sensitive classified documents after his time in the White House, endangering the nation.

In Georgia, state prosecutors have hit Trump and nearly 20 accused co-conspirators with RICO charges for trying to subvert the state’s results in the last presidential election. And in Manhattan, he’s facing 34 felonies for covering up a hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels that violated election laws.

Trump denies all allegations.

In his decision, Judge Engoron said Trump and his associates were living in an alternate universe.

“In defendants’ world: rent regulated apartments are worth the same as unregulated apartments; restricted land is worth the same as unrestricted land; restrictions can evaporate into thin air; a disclaimer by one party casting responsibility on another party exonerates the other party’s lies,” Engoron wrote.

“That is a fantasy world, not the real world.”

The case is one in a maelstrom facing the former president as he seeks the presidency, polling neck and neck with Biden in some recent polls.

He’s facing federal criminal charges in Washington, D.C., alleging he plotted to overturn the 2020 election.

In Florida, he’s accused of mishandling highly-sensitive classified documents after his time in the White House, endangering the nation. In Georgia, state prosecutors have hit him with RICO charges for trying to subvert the state’s results in the last presidential election. And in Manhattan, he’s facing 34 felonies for covering up a hush-money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels that violated election laws.

In his decision, Judge Engoron said Trump and his associates were living in an alternate universe.

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