Wed, Sep 21, 2022 1:35 PM
By Steve Bittenbender, The Center Square
New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Wednesday morning a $250 million lawsuit against former President Donald Trump, his children, his company and two executives, saying the former president committed rampant fraud by constantly changing property values to his benefit.
James, a Democrat, also said she would make criminal referrals to the U.S. attorney's office for the Southern District of New York and the Internal Revenue Service. She said she would inform them the 76-year-old Trump, a Republican and the nation's 45th leader in the Oval Office, and his cohorts adjusted property values to gain favorable rates on insurance policies, loans and taxes.
The filing comes 48 days before the midterm elections, where Trump's sway or lack thereof in his party is impacting voters' decisions. He hasn't ruled out a run for the presidency in 2024. James, a 63-year-old from Brooklyn in her first term as the state's attorney general, is challenged by Republican Michael Henry on Nov. 8.
One example in the 222-page complaint states that Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property in Florida was valued as high as $739 million on the “false premise” it could be developed for residential use even though Trump signed away those rights. The actual value of the club was closer to $75 million.
“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,” James said at a press conference announcing her actions.
Besides suing for monetary damages, James said the lawsuit will also seek to prohibit Trump or his children – Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric – from serving as an officer or director for any business or corporation established in New York. The suit also will seek to stop Trump or his company from acquiring any New York property for five years.
Former Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg and Jeffrey McConney, the company’s controller, are also named in the suit.
The lawsuit comes as James and her office have investigated Trump and his business dealings for three years. She said investigators pouring over financial records found more than 200 instances of asset value manipulation over 10 years.
Trump and James have battled in court over the investigation. Earlier this year, a state judge ordered that Trump, Donald Jr. and Ivanka were required to be deposed, and in May, a federal judge dismissed an attempt by Trump to stop her review.
Alina Habba, a lawyer for the former president, issued a statement saying James took action only to further her political career.
“It is abundantly clear that the attorney general’s office has exceeded its statutory authority by prying into transactions where absolutely no wrongdoing has taken place,” Habba said. “We are confident that our judicial system will not stand for this unchecked abuse of authority, and we look forward to defending our client against each and every one of the attorney general’s meritless claims.”