Donald Trump and three of his children are accused of committing “staggering” financial fraud by New York attorney general Letitia James’s office, which sued them on Wednesday. Ivanka, Eric, and Donald Trump Jr. were named as defendants alongside their father, the Trump Organization, and two company executives — all of whom are accused of lying to insurers and banks about the value of properties over a decade in order to reap a fortune.
“This investigation revealed that Donald Trump engaged in years of illegal conduct to inflate his net worth, to deceive banks and the people of the great state of New York,” James said at a press conference unveiling the lawsuit. “Claiming you have money that you do not have does not amount to the art of the deal. It’s the art of the steal.”
The lawsuit alleges that misrepresentations in various financial statements were approved at the “highest levels of the Trump Organization,” including “by Mr. Trump himself.” Eric and Donald Jr. allegedly signed off on some statements, while Ivanka is also accused of inflating the value of her Trump penthouse on Park Avenue by around $12 million. In total, the defendants are accused of making more than 200 false and misleading valuations between 2011 and 2021, including several bogus filings submitted while Trump was president.
The lawsuit seeks $250 million in damages and a permanent bar against Trump and his children from running businesses in New York, among other penalties. An attorney for Trump said in a statement that James’s office “has exceeded its statutory authority by prying into transactions where absolutely no wrongdoing has taken place. 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.”
Although James said her office lacks the authority to file criminal charges in the case, she made a criminal referral to federal prosecutors in Manhattan saying Trump and the other defendants had “plausibly” violated federal laws regarding bank fraud and making false statements to a bank. (It is unclear if federal investigators have pursued this line of inquiry; the former U.S. Attorney leading that office, Geoffrey Berman, declined to answer whether it has looked into Trump’s finances in a recent interview with New York.)
The 222-page complaint is a sprawling catalogue of how the Trumps and their business empire allegedly inflated property values when applying for loans while lowballing their values at other times. For example, the lawsuit claims that Trump’s 40 Wall Street property was estimated at $200 million in value on a tax filing in 2010, though the next year it was said to be worth $524 million in a loan application.
Similar exaggerations were approved for filings for the former president’s condo in Trump Tower, which was inflated on paper by 20,000 square feet; for Trump Park Avenue, the value of which was inflated by 65 times; and for Mar-a-Lago, where development restrictions were cast aside to value the property at ten times more than its proper $75 million. Similar conduct is alleged regarding Trump properties in Chicago and Washington, D.C.
Last month, James and investigators from her office deposed Trump, who invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination 440 times in four hours. He had made several efforts to stop the three-year-long probe. Late last year, he filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that the Democratic attorney general was pursuing a politically motivated inquiry; this was dismissed by a judge in May. Last week, according to the New York Times, Trump’s lawyers proposed a settlement with the attorney general, whose office declined the offer.
The civil allegations come on top of criminal charges filed by the Manhattan district attorney’s office against the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, alleging they committed financial fraud. Weisselberg belatedly agreed to cooperate in the criminal probe of Trump’s business empire, and he is named as a defendant in the civil lawsuit alongside fellow executive Jeffrey McConney.
Trump is facing several criminal investigations across the country, including the federal inquiry into the handling of classified material that resulted in the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago in August. Not long after, the Department of Justice subpoenaed around 40 aides in its separate probe of Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election. In Georgia, the district attorney for Atlanta has empaneled a special grand jury to consider whether Trump broke the law in his attempt to swing the state’s Electoral College votes in his favor. In all instances, Trump has denied wrongdoing.