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Judge Rules That Donald Trump Committed Fraud While Building Real Estate Empire

The ruling allows a civil trial against Trump and his adult sons to move forward next week, and orders that some of the former president's companies be dissolved

James Devaney/GC Images Donald Trump leaves Trump Tower in Manhattan on March 9, 2021
James Devaney/GC Images Donald Trump leaves Trump Tower in Manhattan on March 9, 2021

A New York judge ruled on Tuesday that Donald Trump lied on financial statements about the value of the properties in his real estate portfolio and was therefore able to secure favorable loan terms and lower insurance premiums.

In a 35-page ruling, Judge Arthur Engoron said that Trump and his organization had overvalued several of it's properties, including the members-only Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida.

In court filings, Trump has pegged the property's worth at between $426.5 million and $612.1 million. But Engoron cited a Palm Beach County assessor who appraised Mar-a-Lago's market value to be between $18 million and $27.6 million — at least 2,300 percent less than what the former president has claimed.

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In the ruling, the judge adds that some of the former president's defenses — such as arguing that square footage is "subjective" — are "absurd." The ruling further sanctions Trump's attorneys $7,500 each for continuing to make legal arguments that had already been rejected in court twice, and requires that some LLCs associated with Trump be dissolved.

Tuesday's ruling allows a civil trial into the outstanding claims (to be decided by the judge, with no jury) to begin next week.

©Trump Hotels Eric, Donald Jr., Donald, and Ivanka Trump at the ground-breaking ceremony for Trump Hotel Washington, D.C.
©Trump Hotels Eric, Donald Jr., Donald, and Ivanka Trump at the ground-breaking ceremony for Trump Hotel Washington, D.C.

The ruling came as part of a fraud case brought against the former president, his adult sons Eric Trump and  Donald Trump Jr., and their company the Trump Organization, by New York State Attorney General Letitia James.

“Today, a judge ruled in our favor and found that Donald Trump and the Trump Organization engaged in years of financial fraud,” James said in a statement. “We look forward to presenting the rest of our case at trial.”

James has accused the Trumps and their company of fraudulently inflating the former president's fortune by as much as $2.2 billion since 2011. The lawsuit aims to have Trump banned from doing business in New York and pay $250 million.

Engoron's ruling alleges that the inflation of Mar-a-Lago's worth is akin to fraud. From the ruling: "A discrepancy of this order of magnitude, by a real estate developer sizing up his own living space of decades, can only be considered fraud."

Related: Donald Trump Has Overstated His Fortune by as Much as $2.2B, Says New York Attorney General in Court Filing

Joe Raedle/Getty Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida
Joe Raedle/Getty Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida

An earlier court filing alleges that “correcting for these and other blatant and obvious deceptive practices engaged in by Defendants reduces Mr. Trump’s net worth by between 17-39% in each year, or between $812 million to $2.2 billion, depending on the year."

The filing accused Trump of valuing several of his properties “at amounts that significantly exceeded professional appraisals of which his employees were aware and chose to ignore.” In one alleged instance, he valued his leased property on Wall Street at more than twice the amount of the appraised value.

Trump and his sons have both fired back at the recent ruling regarding the worth of Mar-a-Lago, with Eric claiming on Twitter: "Mar-a-Lago is speculated to be worth we'll [sic] over a billion dollars."

Trump himself also disputed the ruling, writing an angry missive on his social media site Truth Social in which he accused the judge of being "a Deranged, Trump Hating Judge, who RAILROADED this FAKE CASE through a NYS Court at a speed never seen before, refusing to let it go to the Commercial Division, where it belongs, denying me everything, No Trial, No Jury."

Related: The Cases Against Trump: What to Know About the Various Investigations Surrounding the 45th U.S. President

Trump added that Mar-a-Lago is "WORTH POSSIBLY 100 TIMES" what Engoron cited in his ruling, adding: "My actual Net Worth is MUCH GREATER than the number shown on the Financial Statements, a BIG SURPRISE to him & the Racist A.G., Letitia James, who campaigned for office on a get Trump Platform."

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Since leaving office in January 2021, Trump's post-White House prestige has been overshadowed by intensifying investigations on various fronts, including into his political conduct and business affairs.

So far, four of those investigations have led to indictments — the first one making him the only U.S. president to face criminal charges, and the next two further distinguishing him as the only president to face federal charges.

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Read the original article on People.