An appeals court in New York has rejected former President Donald Trump’s bid to delay a civil fraud trial against him.
Attorney General Letitia James has accused Trump, his adult sons and the Trump Organization of inflating property values to meet the needs of their businesses.
The decision by the state’s intermediate appeals court clears the way for Judge Arthur Engoron to preside over a non-jury trial that begins Monday in Manhattan.
Judge Engoron had ruled earlier this week that Trump had committed years of fraud while building his real estate empire, according to the attorney general.
Trump’s legal team had tried to delay the case while his lawyers challenged earlier rulings.
Former US President Donald Trump addresses auto workers as he skips the second GOP debate, in Clinton Township, Michigan, US, September 27, 2023
New York Attorney General Letitia James attends a press conference on gun violence prevention and public safety on July 31, 2023
James found that Trump and his company deceived banks, insurers and others by massively overvaluing his assets and exaggerating his wealth with the paperwork used in closing deals and securing financing.
She said he has increased valuations by as much as $2 billion, boosting the value of signature assets including the Mar-a-Lago club where he now resides and his Manhattan penthouse apartment in Trump Tower.
Trump, his company and key executives repeatedly lied about them in his annual financial statements, reaping rewards such as favorable loan terms and lower insurance premiums, Engoron found.
The tactic crossed a line and broke the law, the judge said, rejecting Trump’s claim that a disclaimer on the financial statements would absolve him of any wrongdoing.
Engoron’s ruling, in a phase of the case known as summary judgment, resolves the main claim in James’ lawsuit, but six others remain.
The judge cited discrepancies calculated by James’ office between what the company claimed and what assets are worth.
“A discrepancy of this magnitude, where a real estate developer has estimated his own living space for decades, can only be considered fraud,” he said – pointing to Trump’s estimates of his 30,000-square-foot Trump Tower penthouse, as he was actually 30,000 square meters in size. there were 11,000.
Engoron also issued a ruling that the various corporate certificates in New York State be canceled and ordered the parties to find trustees to “manage the dissolution” of the canceled corporations.
But in court Wednesday, the judge wasn’t quite ready to answer questions about whether the assets would be sold.
“I’m not prepared to make a statement right now, but we’ll bring that up in different contexts, I’m sure,” Engoron said.
Prosecutors in Manhattan had considered filing a criminal case over the same conduct but declined to do so, leaving James to sue Trump and seek penalties that could disrupt his and his family’s ability to do business in the state.
Judge Arthur Engoron ruled that Trump committed fraud for years while building the real estate empire that catapulted him to fame and the White House
Trump told Truth Social it was ‘a very sad day for the New York State justice system’
James is seeking $250 million in fines and a ban on Trump doing business in New York, his home state. The process could last until December, Engoron said.
Trump has denied wrongdoing, arguing that some of his assets are worth far more than what appears in the annual financial statements that Engoron said he used to secure loans and close deals.
Responding to Engoron’s ruling earlier this week, Trump told Truth Social it was “a very sad day for the New York State justice system.”
“This is the judicial behavior that forces thousands of businesses to flee New York for other locales, while virtually none return to the city or state.”
The civil trial could last until the end of the year as Trump continues to lead the Republican presidential nominee.
Tuesday’s ruling came in a civil lawsuit filed by James, even as Trump faces multiple criminal charges in multiple jurisdictions related to his election efforts and other matters.
Former US President Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a political rally on July 29, 2023 in Pennsylvania
Trump has long accused James and other prosecutors in New York of coming after him in what he described as a “witch hunt.”
During his questioning, the former president also compared his golf and real estate empire to the Mona Lisa and other priceless works of art.
Trump made this extraordinary claim when describing his decision to hand over control of his company to his adult sons Don Jr. and Eric during his tenure as president — as New York AG Letitia James sat across from him in a Manhattan courthouse for a deposition.
“We have the Mona Lisas of property,” Trump told the prosecutor in the April deposition released Wednesday.
Then he bragged about his golf course in Turnberry, Scotland. ‘I could sell that. That’s like selling a painting. A painting on the wall that sells for $250 million,” he continued.
“I have great assets,” Trump gushed – raving about Mar-a-Lago and his property at 40 Wall Street, which he believes is “the best location,” he told prosecutor Kevin Wallace in James’ office.
Prosecutors allege he has increased his net worth by between $812 million and $2.2 billion every year over the past decade.
James claims Trump inflated his valuations as he sought loans. Trump’s lawyers are asking a judge to dismiss the case, calling it a “crusade” over long-ago loans.
“You have no case and you need to drop this case,” Trump told James.