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“We are holding him accountable for lying, cheating, and a lack of contrition...because there cannot be different rules for different people in this country, and former presidents are no exception.” – New York Attorney General Letitia James (photo, left)

By Miriam Raftery

February 18, 2024 (New York, NY) – Donald Trump has been ordered to pay a $354.1 million penalty for fraudulently inflating his net worth and the value of his real estate holdings in order to obtain bank loans. In the New York civil trial, Judge Arthur Engoron also barred Trump from running a business in New York for two years and ordered that a monitor oversee Trump Organization’s business dealings. Two of his sons, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., were each fined $4 million and prohibited from running the company for three more years.

This is not the first time that Trump has been found to have committed fraud.  His family charity and Trump University both shut down after separate courts found them to have engaged in fraud.

Trump has claimed the New York fraud trial was politically motivated. After the verdict, he ranted on social media, calling the judge “corrupt” without any such evidence and slamming the attorney general as “crooked,” again with no apparent basis in fact.

Trump’s attorney, Chris Kise, called the ruling a “tyrannical abuse of power” and said Trump plans to appeal, Politico reports.

To file an appeal, however, Trump must pay the $355 million in full plus interest. In an April deposition, Trump testified that he had about $400 million in cash.

The verdict comes weeks after Trump was ordered to pay $83 million for defaming writer E. Jean Carroll,  after a judge found Trump sexually assaulted her. That means the former president and current presidential candidate owes over $443 million in legal judgments.

So it’s unclear how he would come up with the money needed for an appeal. One option is to sell some real estate assets, which include hotels and golf resorts. Trump also has an application in to sell his stake in his Trump Media & Technology Group, an action regulators have approved, but which could take months to close.

Reuters reports that it would be illegal for Trump to use campaign funds to pay for the judgement in this particular legal case, since Trump Organization’s fraud was unrelated to his campaign.

By contrast, Trump has used campaign contributions to fund his legal defense in some of the criminal cases against him, such as the upcoming trial over paying alleged hush money to a porn star to protect his image during his 2016 campaign. That criminal trial is slated to begin March 24. It will be the first of four criminal trials Trump is facing; others include allegations of failing to return classified documents, inciting rioters during the January 6 attack on the U.S.Capitol, pressuring Georgia election officials to alter results, and engaging in a conspiracy to send false electors to be counted in the 2020 election.

Attorney General Letitia James praised Judge Engoron’s ruling, though she did not get everything she sought. James had asked that Trump Organization be banned permanently from doing business in New York, and had sought higher fines on Trump’s sons.

Judge Engoron found Trump was “not credible” as a witness, refusing to answer many questions. Trump engaged in threats that resulted in gag orders that he twice violated,  drawing fines of $15,000. The judge also criticized Trump for refusing to accept responsibility for systematically engaging in fraud, such as claiming his residence at Mar al Lago had three times its actual square footage.

Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, testified that he’d been instructed  by Trump for years to wildly exaggerate his net worth.

Attorney General James has noted that the average American cannot inflate the value of their home to get a mortgage, and said Trump should be held to the same standard as anyone else.

She concluded at a press conference after the verdict “Donald Trump falsely, knowingly, inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself, his family, and to cheat the system. Donald Trump may have authored `The Art of the Deal,’ but he perfected `The Art of the Steal.’”




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