NEW YORK — A judge ruled on Tuesday that former President Donald Trump committed fraud while building his real estate empire, years before he ascended to the White House.
Ruling in a civil lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James, Judge Arthur Engoron said that Trump and his company deceived banks, insurers and others by overvaluing his assets and exaggerating his net worth, The Associated Press reported.
Engoron’s decision in a Manhattan court precedes a trial scheduled to begin on Monday, The New York Times reported. It narrows the issues that will be heard in the case, according to the newspaper.
The bench trial will now focus on allegations that include falsifying business records and providing false financial statements, Bloomberg reported. It will also address the state of New York’s demand for $250 million in restitution.
The judge also ordered sanctions against Trump’s attorneys, fining each of them $7,500 for making arguments that Engoron had rejected, the Times reported.
Engoron ruled that Trump, his company and its key executives lied about Trump’s purported riches on his annual financial statements, the AP reported. The statements helped Trump and his company enjoy rewards such as favorable loan terms and lower insurance premiums, the judge said.
Trump can still delay Monday’s trial or even undercut it, the Times reported. Trump has sued Engoron, and an appeals court is expected to rule on the lawsuit this week. If Trump loses his appeal, he will have to fight the remainder of the case during a trial, according to the newspaper.
On Trump’s Truth Social account, the former president wrote that the ruling “failed to acknowledge the fact that murder and all other forms of violent crime have reached record levels in New York State.”
“Can you imagine ruling against me for having done work perfectly, and yet letting people go on a rampage on the sidewalks of New York?” Trump wrote. “A very sad Day for the New York State System of Justice!”
James sued Trump, his real estate company and his two adult sons in September 2022, accusing them of inflating the value of Trump’s biggest assets from 2011 to 2021 in order to receive better terms from banks and insurers, according to Bloomberg.
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