James: Trump Should Be Banned From New York Real Estate For 'Outrageous' Fraud

Letitia James

Letitia James

NEW YORK, January 5 (Reuters) - Donald Trump should be permanently barred from New York's real estate industry for "outrageous" fraud, the state's attorney general said in a court filing on Friday ahead of closing arguments in a civil case against the former U.S. president.

Attorney General Letitia James and lawyers for Trump and the other defendants filed their final briefs ahead of closing arguments scheduled for next Thursday in Manhattan in a case that threatens to strip him of prized real estate assets.

In their filing, Trump's lawyers accused the attorney general's office of overstepping its authority by trying to bar Trump from "any and all" business activity, a penalty "far more substantial than the mere loss of money."

Trump's lawyers said the state failed during the three-month trial last year to show any "real-world impact" from Trump's financial statements to banks, which according to the judge presiding over the case overstated his net worth by billions of dollars.

The attorney general's office in its filing said Trump's "myriad deceptive schemes" to "inflate asset values and conceal facts were so outrageous that they belie innocent explanation."

Trump is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden in this year's U.S. election.

Justice Arthur Engoron will hand down his verdict sometime after the closing arguments. Engoron already found Trump liable for fraudulently overstating his wealth to secure better loan terms.The trial focused on damages. James, an elected Democrat, is seeking at least $370 million in penalties from Trump and his co-defendants, as well as restrictions on Trump's ability to do business in the state.

Trump has denied wrongdoing and called the case a political witch hunt. He said in a social media post on Friday that there were "no victims" in the case.

Trump separately has been charged with crimes in four other cases, pleading not guilty in each. His maelstrom of legal troubles has not diminished his commanding lead over Republican rivals in the presidential race.

During defiant and meandering testimony in October, Trump boasted about his business acumen and railed against what he said was political bias against him by James and Engoron.

Three of his adult children -- Donald Jr., Eric, and Ivanka Trump -- also testified in the trial. They said they had little to no involvement with their father's financial statements while running the Trump Organization, an umbrella company for his wide-ranging business ventures. Unlike her brothers, Ivanka Trump is not a defendant.

Lawyers for Donald Jr. and Eric Trump said in their own filing on Friday that there was no evidence that either had "anything more than a peripheral knowledge or involvement in" the preparation of their father's financial statements.

The future of Trump's empire hangs in the balance after Engoron in September ordered the dissolution of companies controlling crown jewels of his New York portfolio, including Trump Tower and 40 Wall Street in Manhattan.

That order is on hold while Trump appeals. Some legal experts have said Engoron may lack the authority to issue such a sweeping order.

Trump is under indictment in Washington and Georgia for his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss to Biden, in Florida for his handling of classified documents after leaving office, and in New York over hush money paid to a porn star ahead of the 2016 election.

The first of his criminal trials is scheduled to begin in New York in March, but that is subject to change as Trump's crowded legal calendar complicates court schedules.

Reporting by Jack Queen; Editing by Will Dunham, Noeleen Walder, DanielWallis and Nick Zieminski


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