Donald Trump was found to have engaged in deception for years while establishing the real estate enterprise that propelled him to notoriety and the White House.
In his ruling on Tuesday in a civil case brought by the attorney general of New York, Judge Arthur Engoron determined that the former president and his company had deceived banks, insurers, and others by grossly overvaluing their assets and inflating their net worth on documents used to close deals and obtain financing.
Days before a non-jury trial in Attorney General Letitia James’ case is scheduled to begin, the ruling is the greatest challenge yet to Trump’s carefully cultivated image as a successful and cunning real estate tycoon who has transitioned into a political juggernaut.
Engoron discovered that Trump, his business, and senior staffers did more than just boast about their wealth; they routinely lied about it on his annual financial statements, gaining benefits including better loan conditions and cheaper insurance, he said.
The judge rejected Trump’s allegation that a disclaimer on the financial records freed him of any wrongdoing and declared that those techniques went too far and were illegal.
James had to sue Trump in order to pursue fines that would hinder his and his family’s capacity to conduct business in the state after Manhattan prosecutors considered filing a criminal prosecution over the same behavior but decided against it.
The most important claim in James’ complaint is settled by Engoron’s decision, which was made during a stage of the case known as summary judgment, but there are still six others.
Before making a decision about these accusations and any potential penalties, Engoron is scheduled to have a non-jury trial beginning on October 2.
James is requesting a $250 million fine and a prohibition on Trump conducting business in his home state of New York. According to Engoron, the trial may run into December.
The judge had been requested by Trump’s attorneys to dismiss the lawsuit, but he refused. They assert that because there is no proof that the public was damaged by Trump’s acts, James was not authorized by law to bring the complaint.
They also maintained that the statute of limitations precluded several of the claims made in the complaint.