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New York Attorney General sues Trump and several of his children for fraud

(CNN) — New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a sweeping lawsuit Wednesday against former President Donald Trump, three of his adult children and the Trump Organization, accusing them of being involved in a sprawling fraud that lasted more than a decade. and that the former president would have used to enrich himself.

The case file indicates that the defendants are Donald J. Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Ivanka Trump, Allen Weisselberg, Jeffrey McConney, The Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust, The Trump Organization, Inc. and other companies associated with the Ex leader.

In the more than 200-page lawsuit, James, a Democrat, contends that the fraud extended to every aspect of Trump’s business dealings. Among them, his properties and his golf courses. According to the document, the Trump Organization misled lenders, insurers and tax authorities by inflating the value of his properties using misleading appraisals.

“This conduct cannot be ignored and dismissed as some kind of bona fide mistake,” James told a news conference in New York.

“The financial statements were grossly exaggerated, grossly inflated, factually false and therefore fraudulent and illegal,” it added. “And as a result of that, we are seeking redress, and Mr. Trump, the Trump Organization, his family, all of them should be held accountable.”

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In addition to Trump, his children, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump are among those charged in the lawsuit. Allen Weisselberg, a former chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, and Jeff McConney, another longtime company executive, were also included.

James said he believes state and criminal laws may have been violated and referred the matter to the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

“These acts of fraud and misrepresentation were similar in nature, committed by senior management of the Trump Organization as part of a common effort for each annual statement, and approved at the highest levels of the Trump Organization, including Mr. Trump himself. “, states the lawsuit.

As part of the lawsuit, James is seeking compensation of $250 million in allegedly ill-gotten funds, as well as permanently banning Trump and his sons named in the lawsuit from serving as directors of a New York state-registered company. . He is also requesting to cancel the Trump Organization’s corporate certificate which, if granted by a judge, could effectively force the company to cease operations in that state.

Trump has described James as a “rogue prosecutor” who he says is running a “vindictive and self-serving” investigation. The Trump Organization called her previous accusations “baseless” and denied any wrongdoing.

In response to Wednesday’s announcement, Alina Habba, Trump’s attorney, said in a statement to CNN: “Today’s court document focuses neither on the facts nor on the law, but rather focuses solely on furthering the political agenda of the Attorney General. It is abundantly clear that the Office of the Attorney General has exceeded its statutory authority by meddling in transactions in which there has been absolutely no wrongdoing.”

Weisselberg’s attorney, Nicholas Gravante, declined to comment.

The civil lawsuit comes as Trump finds himself under mounting legal pressure, as prosecutors push forward with investigations that draw ever closer to his inner circle.

The former president faces numerous criminal investigations from federal and state prosecutors, involving the accuracy of his company’s financial statements, interference in the 2020 presidential election, and his handling of classified documents after leaving office. Trump has denied all allegations.

Prosecutor accused Trump of lying more than 200 times about the value of his assets

James alleged that the former president and his company made “scores of fraudulent, false and misleading representations” over a 10-year period, according to the lawsuit. The document also specifically highlighted what it called “200 false and misleading valuations” of Trump’s assets.

“The financial statements in question were issued annually; each contained a significant number of fraudulent, false, and misleading representations about many of the Trump Organization’s assets. And most played a role in particular transactions with financial institutions,” the lawsuit added. .

Three years of research on finances

James’s announcement is the latest development in what has been a three-year investigation she has led into the finances of the Trump Organization.

In January, James’ office said it had found “significant” evidence indicating the company used false or misleading asset valuations in its financial statements to obtain loans, insurance and tax benefits. The company that had kept Trump’s accounts all his life resigned the following month.

James began his investigation in 2019 after Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen testified before Congress that the former president inflated the value of certain assets to obtain loans and insurance and undervalued others to obtain tax benefits.

In addition to the new fraud lawsuit, the Trump Organization faces trial next month on charges of participating in a 15-year tax fraud conspiracy. The company’s former CFO, Allen Weisselberg, has agreed to testify against the company.

Weisselberg, who served as the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer for decades, pleaded guilty in August to his role in a 15-year tax fraud scheme. As part of the settlement, he had agreed to testify against the real estate company at trial.

In recent weeks, the Trump Organization has offered to settle to avoid the lawsuit, though it denied doing anything wrong. However, James’ office made it clear it was not interested in a deal, people familiar with the matter said.

The family declared before the Prosecutor’s Office

In April, after a protracted legal battle to enforce subpoenas on Trump and his adult children, attorneys for James’s office said they were nearing the end of the investigation and needed the family’s testimony before taking a decision. decision.

Last month, Trump did not answer questions and invoked his right not to incriminate himself under the Fifth Amendment, when he was called to testify by the District Attorney.

Eric Trump, who runs the business, also invoked his Fifth Amendment right in 2020 in response to more than 500 questions.

Since Trump and Eric Trump refused to answer the questions, if the case goes to trial, the jury can draw an “adverse inference” against them for not answering them. That could result in a higher sentence against them or the company if they are found liable.

Ivanka Trump and Trump Jr. answered questions during interviews that lasted more than seven hours, the sources told CNN.

CNN’s Shawna Mizelle contributed to this report.

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