Civil trial in New York | Trump suffers a crushing defeat

The former president and his sons lost their case for real estate fraud and were fined 355 million.

(New York) The defeat may not be fatal for Donald Trump’s real estate empire. But it is undoubtedly stinging and humiliating for its patriarch, whose image as a brilliant businessman not only shaped his identity, but also contributed to his election to the presidency of the United States.

It could also be very costly, both financially and politically, for anyone who could be described as a fraud during the 2024 presidential campaign, of which he is expected to be one of the main candidates.

Handing down a highly anticipated verdict Friday afternoon, after a long and chaotic civil trial in New York, Judge Arthur Engoron fined Donald Trump $355 million, or more than $450 million with interest, for manipulating the value of his assets from 2011 to 2021. He also banned him from running any New York business, including his own, for three years.

This ban also applies for two years to Donald Trump’s first two sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, who were each fined $4 million. Since the 2016 election, Eric Trump has officially led the Trump Organization.

In his 92-page decision, Judge Engoron notably criticized the Trumps for their systematic refusal to express the slightest regret for the fraudulent behavior for which they were declared responsible. But he put the seriousness of these behaviors into perspective.

“This is a venial sin and not a mortal sin,” he wrote. “The defendants did not commit murder or arson. They didn’t rob a bank at gunpoint. Donald Trump is not Bernard Madoff. Yet the defendants are incapable of admitting their error,” he wrote, slipping in a reference to the New York financier responsible for the largest pyramid scam in American history.

Their total lack of contrition and remorse borders on pathology.

Extract from the judgment written by Judge Arthur Engoron

On page 77 of his decision, the judge added: “The frauds found here are obvious and shock the conscience. »

Trump will appeal

In a written statement, Donald Trump confirmed what everyone suspected: he will appeal Judge Engoron’s verdict, pronounced at the end of a trial held without a jury.

“This “decision” is a real hoax. There were no victims, no damage, no complaints,” denounced the 45e president. “There were just happy banks and insurance companies (who made a ton of money), great financial statements, which didn’t even include the most valuable asset – the TRUMP brand – , irrefutable disclaimers […] and incredible properties around the world. »


The Trump Organization allegedly made false statements about the size of Donald Trump’s apartment in Trump Tower in New York.

In that same statement, Donald Trump attacked New York State Attorney General Letitia James, calling her “racist” and “corrupt,” as well as the “dishonest” judge assigned to the case.

His campaign team, for its part, rushed to solicit donations from its supporters. “A DEMOCRATIC JUDGE JUST RULED AGAINST ME!” », We could read in capital letters in a text message attributed to Donald Trump. “We need a massive, peaceful response. »

Elected to her post under the Democratic banner, Letitia James filed a civil lawsuit in 2022 against Donald Trump and his family, accusing them of inflating the net value of her assets over several years to obtain favorable treatment from banks and insurers.

Mme James asked Judge Engoron to fine Trump $370 million and ban him from permanently running a New York business. The 355 million fine imposed by the judge corresponds to the profits that the lenders were deprived of due to the fraudulent financial statements produced by the Trump Organization.

Among the examples of fraud, Judge Engoron mentioned the Trump Organization’s statements regarding the ex-president’s triplex at Trump Tower. According to documents presented by the company, the apartment measured 30,000 square feet, almost three times its actual size. The Trump Organization used these bogus figures to drive up the apartment’s value to $327 million in 2015, more than four times the reported value four years earlier.

“At the expense of honest and hardworking people”

The New York State Attorney General hailed “a tremendous victory for this state, for this nation and for all.”

“For years, Donald Trump engaged in massive fraud. When powerful people cheat to get better loans, they do it at the expense of honest, hard-working people,” she said.


New York State Attorney General Letitia James on Friday

Today, Donald Trump must finally be held accountable for his lies, cheating and staggering fraud. Because no matter how big, how rich, or how powerful you think you are, no one is above the law.

Letitia James, Attorney General of the State of New York

Following Judge Engoron’s decision, Donald Trump will have to make the $355 million, plus interest, available to the courts or obtain bail. This sum is in addition to the $88 million that New York juries ordered the former president to pay to author E. Jean Carroll following defamation trials.

Donald Trump was found responsible for sexual assault in the first of these civil trials, a verdict that also applied to the second.

Donald Trump does not risk bankruptcy following Judge Engoron’s decision. During the trial, he testified under oath that he had more than $400 million in cash. But this amount could evaporate if he loses his appeal.

In the meantime, he will also have to deal with the presence of an independent monitor within the Trump Organization for three years. In his decision, Judge Engoron entrusted this role to a seasoned lawyer, Barbara Jones, who will ensure that the leaders of the real estate empire do not continue the fraudulent behavior of the Trumps.

Donald Trump is also the subject of four criminal trials, the first of which is scheduled to begin in New York on March 25.

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