Trump fraud civil suit starting Monday threatens to end his business career

New York attorney general Letitia James will argue Trump owes at least $250m in profits made from false financial statements

Just a few miles south of Trump Tower in New York City, a judge on Monday will hear allegations of fraud within the Trump Organization in a trial that could see Donald Trump and his family business paying hundreds of millions of dollars in damages and that has already threatened to end his business career in the city where it started.

The New York attorney general, Letitia James, has accused Trump of using false and misleading financial statements from 2011 to 2021 to make himself and his businesses wealthier, helping him broker deals and obtain financing. Based on her office’s three-year investigation, James is arguing that Trump owes at least $250m for committing fraud.

During the three-year investigation, James found that Trump had exaggerated the value of 23 of his properties and assets to the tune of hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars. Trump used these financial statements to obtain favorable loans and make his net worth appear higher than it actually was.
Trump said he will appear in court on Monday. “I’m going to Court tomorrow morning to fight for my name and reputation,” he said on his Truth Social account on Sunday.

The trial is a bench trial, meaning there will be no jury. The New York supreme court justice Arthur Engoron, who is presiding over the case, will be the sole decider. Because this is a civil trial, Trump will not be sent to prison if he’s found guilty nor does he have to make an appearance in court.

Things have not gone well for the Trump camp so far. Last Tuesday, Engoron found Trump guilty of fraud, saying that documents submitted as evidence showed persistent use of faulty financial statements. Trump, he said, was working within a “fantasy world, not a real world”.

Engoron said in his ruling that the attorney general’s office will have to provide evidence of “some component of intent and materiality” in Trump’s fraudulent financial statements – meaning proof that he intentionally inflated his assets for financial gain.

The judge delivered a dramatic punishment to Trump, along with his adult sons, Donald Trump Jr and Eric Trump, who will see their business certificates canceled. This will make it nearly impossible for them to continue doing business in New York.

What could make things even worse is a hefty fine. The attorney general’s office will have to prove that there should be a disgorgement of profits from the Trump family, meaning they should have to give up the profits they made off their fudged financial statements. James’s office is arguing that Trump received loans using those fraudulent statements to purchase properties like the Trump golf club in Miami, Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago and the Old Post Office building in Washington DC. Any profits from those, the attorney general is arguing, were made off lies.

While Trump and three of his children, including Ivanka Trump, are on the witness list, it is unclear whether they will be called to take the stand. Even if called, they can choose not to appear, though the judge can use that against them when making his decision.

The trial is scheduled to go until 22 December , though it will likely not last that long as the judge’s pre-trial ruling settled a major question: whether Trump indeed committed fraud. Now the case is focused on how much he will have to pay for it.