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Judge Arthur Engoron, issuing a ruling in the civil case brought by New York State Attorney General Letitia James, found that Trump and his associates deceived banks, insurers and others by massively overvaluing his net worth, chiefly by inflating the value of his real estate assets on paperwork for securing loans and making deals.
The judge ordered a handful of Trump’s business licenses to be revoked as punishment, which will make it nearly impossible for Trump to do business in New York where his real estate business started. Engoron also ruled he would continue to have an independent monitor oversee Trump Organization operations.
Unless successfully appealed, the ruling strips Trump of his decision-making ability on some key properties in the state, including Trump Tower and the Trump International Hotel in Manhattan.
In a series of posts on his social media site Truth Social, Trump railed against the decision, calling it “un-American.”
“My Civil rights have been violated, and some Appellate Court, whether federal or state, must reverse this horrible, un-American decision,” he wrote.
The former president, and current GOP frontrunner for the 2024 nomination, insisted his company had “done a magnificent job for New York State” and “done business perfectly,” calling it “A very sad Day for the New York State System of Justice!”
Trump attorney Christopher Kise said they would appeal, and called the decision “completely disconnected from the facts and governing law,” according to the Associated Press.
The ruling, which comes days before the start of a non-jury trial in the state’s lawsuit against Trump, may be the strongest official repudiation yet of the former president’s image as a shrewd, extremely wealthy businessman blessed with superhuman skills of persuasion and deal-making.
The former commander-in-chief regularly lied about his net worth on annual financial statements, Engoron found, allowing him greater access to favorable loan terms and cheaper insurance costs. The judge rejected Trump’s argument that a disclaimer on the financial statements he signed absolved him from any wrongdoing.
“In defendants’ world: rent-regulated apartments are worth the same as unregulated apartments; restricted land is worth the same as unrestricted land; restrictions can evaporate into thin air; a disclaimer by one party casting responsibility on another party exonerates the other party’s lies,” Engoron wrote in his 35-page ruling. “That is a fantasy world, not the real world.”
Manhattan prosecutors had looked into filing criminal charges against Trump, but declined to do so, leaving only James’ civil inquiry.
“Today, a judge ruled in our favor and found that Donald Trump and the Trump Organization engaged in years of financial fraud,” James said in a statement. “We look forward to presenting the rest of our case at trial.”
The civil lawsuit is just one of several legal headaches Trump is facing as he attempts to retake the White House. He has been indicted four times in the past six months, including in criminal cases in Georgia and Washington, D.C., that accuse him of illegally attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 election, which he lost to Joe Biden.
Additionally, the Trump Organization was convicted of tax fraud in an unrelated case for helping its executives dodge taxes on perks like apartments and cars. The company was fined $1.6 million and its longtime finance chief, Allen Weisselberg, served five months in jail.