By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
In a decision reverberating through the legal and political spheres, New York Judge Arthur Engoron ruled on Tuesday that former President Donald Trump engaged in fraudulent activities for years during the ascent of his real estate empire, eventually propelling him to fame and the White House.
Letitia James, the attorney general of New York, filed a civil lawsuit, and the jury found that Trump and his company had orchestrated a widespread scheme to deceive financial institutions, insurers, and other stakeholders. The deception involved inflating the value of assets and exaggerating Trump’s net worth on official documents, which were instrumental in securing financing and executing lucrative deals.
Judge Engoron’s ruling, which came just days before the commencement of the non-jury trial in AG James’ lawsuit, represents a profound repudiation of Trump’s carefully curated public persona as a wealthy and astute real estate magnate who successfully transitioned into a political figure. Beyond the realm of mere self-promotion, Engoron determined that Trump, along with his company and key executives, consistently disseminated false information on their annual financial statements. According to the judge, these actions resulted in tangible benefits such as favorable loan terms and reduced insurance premiums, thereby crossing the threshold of legality. The judge dismissed Trump’s claim that a disclaimer on the financial statements absolved him of wrongdoing.
While Manhattan prosecutors had contemplated pursuing criminal charges for the same misconduct, they ultimately opted against it, leaving Attorney General James to bring forth the civil lawsuit and seek penalties that could disrupt Trump’s and his family’s business activities within the state.
Engoron’s ruling, rendered during the summary judgment phase of the case, addresses the central allegation in James’ lawsuit. However, six other claims still await resolution, with Engoron scheduled to preside over a non-jury trial beginning on October 2, during which he will determine both the merits of these claims and any potential penalties. Attorney General James is pursuing fines of $250 million and a ban on Trump’s business operations in New York, his home state. Engoron has noted that the trial’s duration might extend into December.
Trump’s legal team had requested the dismissal of the case, a request that was denied by the judge. Their argument rested on the premise that James lacked the legal authority to initiate the lawsuit due to the absence of evidence showing harm to the public from Trump’s actions. Additionally, they argued that the statute of limitations barred a number of the lawsuit’s allegations.
“The documents here clearly contain fraudulent valuations that defendants used in business,” Engoron wrote.