Sept. 21 (UPI) — New York Attorney General Letitia James sued former President Donald Trump, three of his children and the Trump Organization on Wednesday, alleging an illegal scheme that amassed $250 million by fraudulently overvaluing assets.
The civil lawsuit, filed in New York State Supreme Court, seeks to recover $250 million that James said was received through deceptive practices. James also is seeking to bar Trump and his children Eric, Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr., from serving as officers or directors in any New York company. Trump also would be barred from entering any commercial real estate transactions or applying for loans for five years.
“I want to be clear, white-collar financial crime is not a victimless crime,” James said during a news conference. “When the well-connected break the law to take in more money than they are entitled to, it reduces resources to working people, to regular people, to small businesses and all taxpayers.
“Everyday people cannot lie to a bank about how much money they have in order to get a favorable loan to buy a home or to send their kid to college. And if they did, the government would throw the book at them. Why should this be any different?”
The lawsuit also names former Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg and longtime company executive Jeff McConney and includes 23 properties in the Trump Organization portfolio.
“The number of grossly inflated asset values is staggering, affecting most if not all of the real estate holding in any given year,” according to the lawsuit, which highlights “200 false and misleading valuations” over a 10-year period.
James is referring the case to the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York and the Internal Revenue Service for possible criminal violations.
“Claiming you have money that you do not have does not amount to the art of the deal,” James said. “It’s the art of the steal. And there cannot be different rules for different people in this country or in this state, and former presidents are no different. So, today we are making good on that promise, on our commitment because no one, no one is above the law.”
Trump lawyer Alina Habba called the allegations politically motivated and meritless, The Washington Post reported.
“Today’s filing is neither focused on the facts nor the law — rather, it is solely focused on advancing the attorney general’s political agenda,” Habba said in a statement. “We are confident that our judicial system will not stand for this unchecked abuse of authority, and we look forward to defending our client against each and every one of the attorney general’s meritless claims.”
The lawsuit is the culmination of a three-year investigation by James into the Trump Organization’s finances. James launched the investigation after Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen testified before Congress that Trump inflated the value of assets to get loans and insurance while undervaluing other assets for tax benefits.
In August, Trump asserted the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination under questioning in the investigation. Trump, who has denied wrongdoing and denounced the investigation, lost a court battle to avoid questioning.
Weisselberg pleaded guilty in August to charges including tax evasion.
Trump is the target of multiple investigations. Trump’s lawyers are pushing back against requests to explain their claims about documents marked as classified that were seized when the FBI raided Trump’s home at Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida in August.