Judge rules Donald Trump defrauded banks, insurers while building real estate empire

FILE - Former President Donald Trump pauses before ending his remarks at a rally in Summerville, S.C., Sept. 25, 2023. A New York judge ruled, Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, that the former president and his company committed fraud for years while building the real estate empire that catapulted him to fame and the White House. (AP Photo/Artie Walker Jr., File)

NEW YORK — A judge ruled Tuesday that Donald Trump committed fraud for years while building the real estate empire that catapulted him to fame and the White House.

Judge Arthur Engoron, ruling in a civil lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James, found that the former president and his company deceived banks, insurers and others by massively overvaluing his assets and exaggerating his net worth on paperwork used in making deals and securing loans.

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Engoron ordered that some of Trump’s business licenses be rescinded as punishment, making it difficult or impossible for them to do business in New York, and said he would continue to have an independent monitor oversee Trump Organization operations.

Trump’s lawyer, Christopher Kise, said they intend to appeal the decision, calling it a “miscarriage of justice” and “completely disconnected from the facts and governing law.”

“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,” Kise said.

Trump has long insisted he did nothing wrong. His son, Eric, said Engoron’s ruling was “an attempt to destroy my father and kick him out of New York.”

“Today, I lost all faith in the New York legal system,” Eric Trump, a Trump Organization executive and lawsuit defendant, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “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.”

Engoron’s decision, days before the start of a non-jury trial in James’ lawsuit, is the strongest repudiation yet of Trump’s carefully coiffed image as a wealthy and shrewd real estate mogul turned political powerhouse.

Beyond mere bragging about his riches, Trump, his company and key executives repeatedly lied about them on his annual financial statements, reaping rewards such as favorable loan terms and lower insurance costs, Engoron found.

Those tactics crossed a line and violated the law, the judge said, rejecting Trump’s contention that a disclaimer on the financial statements absolved him of any wrongdoing.

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