NEW YORK — New York Attorney General Letitia James has filed suit against former U.S. President Donald Trump, three of his adult children and his business empire, accusing them of large-scale fraudulent financial practices and seeking to bar them from real estate transactions for the next five years.
The attorney general’s civil suit alleges decades of deception, including billions of dollars in falsified net worth, as part of an effort to minimize his companies’ tax bills while winning favorable terms from banks and insurance companies.
James’s suit relies on a special statute for repeat instances of alleged violations of the law, stemming from real estate transactions. She is also filing a criminal referral to federal prosecutors in Manhattan and a separate tax fraud referral to the IRS for the same underlying allegations.
The suit seeks about $250 million in allegedly illegal profits netted from the scheme, as well as a five-year ban on the former president, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump participating in any real estate transactions–a restriction that would spell the end of the Trump real estate empire. James’ suit also seeks a permanent ban on the former president and his family members involved in his business enterprises from serving as directors or officers of any New York corporation or business licensed in the state. If successful, the suit would likely spell the end to Trump’s real estate empire.
“I’m announcing that today we’re filing a lawsuit against Donald Trump for violating the law as part of his efforts to generate profits for himself, his family, his company,” James said, as she announced the action at a press conference in Manhattan Wednesday morning. “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.”
Trump has accused James of being on a political vendetta and has complained that she was elected to office in 2018 in part on explicit pledges to target him.
The non-criminal enforcement action caps a three-and-a-half year investigation that state officials say began shortly after Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, testified to Congress that Trump regularly inflated the value of his company’s assets in order to secure favorable tax and loan arrangements.
James is accusing Trump and his children of creating more than 200 misleading evaluations of the company’s finances and other forms of misrepresentation, including by falsely claiming the square footage of his own apartment from 11,000 to 30,000 in financial filings.
James’ action is the latest in a mushrooming pileup of legal threats to Trump and may not even be the former president’s most acute legal headache as a series of other probes and trials close in on him and various figures in his orbit.
The new suit from the New York attorney general came during a week in which the former president’s attorneys were fighting in federal court to block the Justice Department’s effort to investigate the discovery of highly sensitive national security records at his Mar-a-Lago estate. Federal prosecutors are also hauling in former Trump aides and allies to a grand jury probing his efforts to subvert the 2020 election, and an Atlanta-area grand jury is reaching a critical phase in its own election-related probe.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is preparing to try a criminal fraud case against the Trump Organization next month and recently secured a guilty plea and agreement with the company’s former Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg to testify in the trial. The former president was not charged in that case, but James said her new suit is based in part on evidence about Trump’s directives to Weisselberg to inflate various financial statements.
Trump had fought efforts to force his deposition in the NY AG’s case, but lost a series of court challenges on the issue. When he finally appeared for questioning last month, he reportedly invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination more than 400 times.
“When your family, your company, and all the people in your orbit have become the targets of an unfounded, politically motivated Witch Hunt supported by lawyers, prosecutors, and the Fake News Media, you have no choice,” Trump said in a statement explaining why he took the Fifth despite numerous past comments he’d made about such a move signaling guilt.