Enough is enough for the judge. A New York magistrate concluded Tuesday that Donald Trump and two of his children, Donald Jr. and Eric Trump, were responsible for lies and “repeated” financial “fraud” in the 2010s by inflating the assets of the Trump Organization, a decision scathing even before the civil trial in this case opened on Monday.
This decision represents a major setback in this matter for the former American president, who dreams of reconquering the White House in November 2024 and taking his revenge on his successor Joe Biden. On the other hand, it facilitates the task of the Attorney General of the State of New York, Letitia James, who had filed a complaint against Donald Trump. She is seeking $250 million in fines and bans from running companies for Donald Trump and several of his relatives, including his two children who now run the Trump Organization.
According to John Coffee, a law professor at Columbia University in New York who specializes in financial crime, the judge made his decision “on the issues of fraud and misrepresentation”, which “are the most important” and the court must still decide on the sanction.
According to this expert, “the best hope remaining for Donald Trump” now concerns “the prescription” of the facts, an argument which must still be decided by the courts.
On his social network Truth Social, the former American president reaffirms that he has nothing to reproach himself for and describes the judge who made the decision as “hateful” towards him.
Donald Trump attacked on all fronts
The civil trial which is to begin on Monday is only the first in a long list for the former president, who will also have to appear in federal justice, accused of having tried to reverse the result of the presidential election of 2020, or before the courts of the State of Georgia for having also tried to manipulate the results of the vote lost to Joe Biden.
Legal troubles which do not prevent Donald Trump from largely dominating his opponents in the polls for the Republican nomination.
Letitia James, equivalent of a minister of justice for the state and elected Democrat, had requested a civil trial against the Republican billionaire, accusing him of having inflated the value of the assets of the Trump Organization, to the tune of several billion dollars, in particular to obtain more advantageous loans from banks from 2011 to 2021.
“I am worth much more than what the figures say in my financial statements,” asserts Donald Trump, in capital letters, on Truth Social, ensuring that the banks have never had to complain about the loans granted.
But according to the decision of Judge Arthur Engoron, Letitia James presented “conclusive evidence that between 2014 and 2021, the defendants overstated the assets reported in (Donald Trump’s) financial declaration by 17.27% to 38.51% ”, a gap of between “812 million and 2.2 billion dollars”.
The Trump Organization brings together a myriad of companies and ranges from residential real estate, with several skyscrapers in New York, to luxury hotels, residences or private clubs like Mar-a-Lago in Florida and golf clubs. In March 2023, Forbes magazine estimated Donald Trump’s fortune at $2.5 billion.
In her complaint, the Attorney General cites several examples, including Donald Trump’s triplex inside the Trump Tower in New York, the value of which was allegedly declared on the basis of a surface area three times greater than reality (2,700 square meters compared to 1,000), which would have made it possible to value it at 327 million dollars.
Partial dissolution ordered
“Good faith measures could vary by 10-20%, not 200%,” writes Judge Arthur Engoron. For the magistrate, a “discrepancy of this order of magnitude, on the part of a real estate developer increasing its own residential surface area for decades, can only be considered as fraud”.
The judge lists other examples, such as the Seven Springs property in the New York region, the Trump Park Avenue or 40 Wall Street buildings in New York or even golf courses and the Mar-a-Lago residence. Particularly scathing, the magistrate wrote in his 35-page decision that the arguments in defense of the Trump camp come from a “fantasy world, not the real world”. For Judge Engoron, Donald Trump and his two sons are “responsible” for “repeated violations” of the law.
He also ordered the equivalent of a partial dissolution of the Trump Organization in New York state, a decision that is expected to be stayed pending an appeal. Donald Trump took the lead last year by creating an alternative company in the state of Delaware.