New York state Attorney General Letitia James on Wednesday announced she is suing former President Donald Trump and three of his children for fraud stemming from her long-running civil investigation into the Trump Organization’s business dealings.
“I am announcing today that we are filing a lawsuit against Donald Trump for violating the law as part of his efforts to generate profits for himself, his family and his company,” James said. “The complaint demonstrates that Donald Trump falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself and to cheat the system, thereby cheating all of us.”
The civil lawsuit seeks at least $250 million in damages.
James said her office conducted more than 65 witness interviews and reviewed millions of pages of documents as part of its investigation. In addition to Trump, the additional defendants named in the lawsuit include his three eldest children (Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric) as well as former Trump Organization executives Allen Weisselberg and Jeffrey McConney.
“Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization repeatedly and persistently manipulated the value of assets to induce banks to lend money to the Trump Organization on more favorable terms than would otherwise have been available to the company, to pay lower taxes, to satisfy continuing loan agreements and to induce insurance companies to provide insurance coverage for higher limits and at lower premiums,” James said during the remarks, which came after the 222-page civil complaint was filed in New York Supreme Court on Wednesday morning.
Alina Habba, one of Trump’s attorneys, said in a statement: “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.
“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.”
An October 2018 report in the New York Times found that Trump had participated in a series of tax schemes related to his father’s real estate empire. James said the investigation began in 2019 after former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen discussed these business tactics during testimony under questioning from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., in front of the House Oversight Committee.
James listed a series of allegations against Trump, including that he misstated the value and size of his own triplex apartment in Trump Tower. She alleged that in some filings, his Florida resort and home, Mar-a-Lago, was valued as high as $739 million when it should have been closer to $75 million. James also claimed that Trump inflated the value of other properties and unsold memberships at his golf clubs. The formal complaint includes examples involving 23 assets, but James said her office found more than 200 examples on his filings over the years.
The New York attorney general said she is making a criminal referral to the Internal Revenue Service and the Southern District of New York.
James said that her office is also asking the court to permanently bar Trump and the three Trump children from serving as an officer or director on any corporation registered or licensed in New York state, as well as ban Trump and his organization from entering into any commercial real estate acquisitions in the state for five years and from applying for loans with New York-based banks for that same period.
Trump attended a deposition with James’s office last month in Manhattan, during which he declined to answer questions, using his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. In a statement, Trump said he “declined to answer the questions under the rights and privileges afforded to every citizen under the United States Constitution” and attacked James for what he called a “despicable attempt” to bring down his company.
James told a judge in January that Trump’s son Eric invoked the Fifth Amendment more than 500 times in an October 2020 deposition. Donald Jr. and Ivanka, however, reportedly testified in James’s probe in early August and did not invoke the Fifth Amendment.
The former president is still dealing with a federal investigation into his mishandling of classified documents, which led to the FBI raid on his Florida home in August. Trump is also still under scrutiny for his role in the violence of Jan. 6, 2021, which is being investigated by the Justice Department and a House committee. Additionally, a Georgia district attorney is investigating his attempts to overturn the 2020 election results in the state, which voted for Joe Biden.