New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a civil fraud suit against former President Donald Trump on Wednesday, accusing him at a press conference of a “staggering” model of financial fraud.
In the lawsuit, James accuses Trump of fraudulently inflating his wealth in several “financial condition statements” by listing his net worth that he raised from 2011 to 2021. The goal of this, James says, was “to obtain advantageous financial terms from credit institutions and insurers. ”The suit also names his children, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, and Ivanka Trump; other prominent employees of the Trump organization; and Trump’s own company as defendants.
James claims in the lawsuit that he estimates the financial benefits of this “fraudulent scheme” to be $ 250 million. He wants Trump to forgo these benefits and be permanently banned from serving as an officer in any New York business entity and ban the Trump Organization from buying commercial real estate in the state for five years.
The lawsuit claims that these misrepresentations by Trump and his employees “violated a number of state criminal laws” and “plausibly violate federal criminal law.” However, this is a civil case, not a criminal one. James’s office does not have the authority to file criminal charges in this matter.
It had once appeared that the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, which has that authority and has thoroughly investigated Trump’s business practices (including these exact issues), may have filed such allegations. But after a leadership change in that office earlier this year, the criminal investigation stalled and two senior prosecutors resigned.
Then, James said he will file a referral to federal prosecutors at the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, setting out his findings so they can decide whether the criminal charges are well founded. It is not clear at this point what will result.
As for James’ civil suit, she will likely be mired in the courts for some time, potentially for years to come. In a press conference on Wednesday, James said her office had rejected a Trump settlement proposal earlier this year.
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