New York’s attorney general has sued former US president Donald Trump and his company, alleging business fraud involving some of their most prized assets, including properties in Manhattan, Chicago and Washington, DC.
Attorney General Letitia James’s lawsuit, filed in state court in New York, is the culmination of the Democrat’s three-year civil investigation into Mr Trump and the Trump Organisation.
Mr Trump’s three eldest children, Donald Jr, Ivanka and Eric Trump, were also named as defendants, along with two long-time company executives, Allen Weisselberg and Jeffrey McConney.
The lawsuit seeks to strike at the core of what made Mr Trump famous, taking a blacklight to the image of wealth and opulence he has embraced throughout his career — first as a real estate developer, then as a reality TV host on The Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice, and later as president.
Ms James, a Democrat, announced details of the lawsuit at a news conference on Wednesday.
The case was listed on a court docket on Wednesday morning.
“Donald Trump falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself, and cheat the system, thereby cheating all of us,” Ms James said at the news conference.
Today, I filed a lawsuit against Donald Trump for engaging in years of financial fraud to enrich himself, his family, and the Trump Organization.
There aren't two sets of laws for people in this nation: former presidents must be held to the same standards as everyday Americans.
— NY AG James (@NewYorkStateAG) September 21, 2022
The goal, the attorney general’s office has said, was to burnish Mr Trump’s billionaire image and the value of his properties when doing so gave him an advantage, while playing down the value of assets at other times for tax purposes.
Ms James is seeking to remove the Trumps from businesses engaged in the alleged fraud and wants an independent monitor appointed for no less than five years to oversee the Trump Organisation’s compliance, financial reporting, valuations and disclosures to lenders, insurers and tax authorities.
She is seeking to replace the current trustees of Mr Trump’s revocable trust, which controls his business interests, with an independent trustee, to bar Mr Trump and the Trump Organisation from entering into commercial real estate acquisitions for five years, from obtaining loans from banks in New York for five years and permanently bar Mr Trump and his three eldest children from serving as an officer or director in any New York corporation or similar business entity registered and/or licensed in New York State.
She also seeks to permanently bar Mr Weisselberg and Mr McConney from serving in the financial control function of any New York corporation or similar business entity registered and/or licensed in New York State.
Ms James said her investigation uncovered potential criminal violations, including falsifying business records, issuing false financial statements, insurance fraud, conspiracy and bank fraud.
She said her office was referring these findings to federal prosecutors and the Internal Revenue Service.
Alina Habba, a lawyer for Mr Trump, said the lawsuit “is neither focused on the facts nor the law — rather, it is solely focused on advancing the attorney general’s political agenda”.
“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,” Ms 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.”