NY State Attorney General Tish James has dropped the hammer on Donald Trump, filing a $250 million fraud suit involving the Trump Organization and Trump family.
For 20 years, Donald Trump and his family enriched themselves through "numerous acts of fraud and misrepresentations," New York Attorney General Letitia James alleges in a new lawsuit that accuses the Trumps of "grossly" inflating the former president's net worth by billions of dollars and cheating lenders and others with false and misleading financial statements.
The civil lawsuit, filed Wednesday in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, seeks a $250 million judgment and a prohibition on any of the Trumps leading a company in the state of New York.
Among other allegations, the suit claims that the former president's Florida estate and golf resort, Mar-a-Lago, was valued as high as $739 million, but should have been valued at around one-tenth that amount, at $75 million. The suit says that higher valuation was "based on the false premise that it was unrestricted property and could be developed for residential use even though Mr. Trump himself signed deeds donating his residential development rights and sharply restricting changes to the property."
James is referring her findings to federal prosecutors in Manhattan, who could possibly open a criminal investigation into bank fraud, according to a footnote in the lawsuit.
Through "persistent and repeated business fraud," the Trumps convinced banks to lend money to the Trump Organization on more favorable terms than deserved, according to the lawsuit, which named the former president, three of his adult children, the company, and two of its executives, Allan Weisselberg and Jeff McConney.
"Mr. Trump made known through Mr. Weisselberg that he wanted his net worth on the Statements to increase -- a desire Mr. Weisselberg and others carried out year after year in their fraudulent preparation of the Statements," the lawsuit said. "The scheme to inflate Mr. Trump's net worth also remained consistent year after year."
Weisselberg last month pleaded guilty to unrelated criminal charges of tax evasion brought by the Manhattan district attorney's office, which has been conducting a parallel investigation.
And just in time for Manhattan AG Alvin Bragg opening his fraud trial next month against the same Trump Organization. SDNY US Attorney Damien Williams, and the IRS will also be notified of the case and its evidence, as this could very well turn into both a state and federal tax fraud case against Trump and not just his company.
Trump's in real trouble now. The civil burden of proof is a lot lower than any criminal proceeding would be, meaning that hitting Trump in the pocketbook is very much a real option.
Trump no doubt will fundraise off this, and I expect he'll announce his candidacy in order to force Republicans into pressuring James to drop the case. The only question there is timing.
But for now, the game begins in earnest.