New York Attorney-General outlines pattern of possible fraud at Trump business

The Attorney-General accused Trump's family business of repeatedly misrepresenting the value of its assets to bolster its bottom line. PHOTO: NYTIMES

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - The New York state Attorney-General, Ms Letitia James, accused Mr Donald Trump's family business late Tuesday (Jan 18) of repeatedly misrepresenting the value of its assets to bolster its bottom line, saying in court papers that the company had engaged in "fraudulent or misleading" practices.

The filing came in response to Mr Trump's recent effort to block Ms James from questioning him and two of his adult children under oath as part of a civil investigation of his business, the Trump Organisation.

Ms James' inquiry into Mr Trump and the company is ongoing, and it is unclear whether her lawyers will ultimately file a lawsuit against them.

Still, the filing marked the first time that the Attorney-General's office levelled such specific accusations against the former president's company.

Her broadside ratchets up the pressure on Mr Trump as he seeks to shut down her investigation, which he has called a partisan witch hunt. Ms James is a Democrat.

The filing outlined what Ms James' office termed misleading statements about the value of six Trump properties, as well as the "Trump brand."

The properties included golf clubs in Westchester County, New York, and Scotland, as well as flagship buildings such as Trump Tower and 40 Wall Street in Manhattan.

Ms James' filing argued that the company misstated the value of the properties to lenders, insurers and the Internal Revenue Service.

Many of the statements, the filing argued, were "generally inflated as part of a pattern to suggest that Trump's net worth was higher than it otherwise would have appeared."

Lawyers for Mr Trump and his company could not immediately be reached for comment.

Because Ms James' investigation is civil, she can sue Mr Trump and his company but cannot file criminal charges.

Her inquiry is running parallel to a criminal investigation led by the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, which is examining some of the same conduct.

Lawyers from Ms James' office are working on that separate investigation, which is continuing. Mr Bragg, also a Democrat, inherited the inquiry from his predecessor after taking office Jan 1.

In early December, Ms James issued a subpoena for Mr Trump as well as for Mr Donald Trump Jr and Ms Ivanka Trump, seeking to question them as part of her civil inquiry. Ms James already questioned another of Mr Trump's sons, Mr Eric Trump, in October 2020.

After receiving the subpoenas, lawyers for Mr Trump filed a federal lawsuit seeking to halt Ms James' civil investigation and to bar her office from participating in the district attorney's criminal investigation.

The lawsuit, which accused Ms James of violating Mr Trump's constitutional rights, argued that her investigation was politically motivated and cited a long list of her public attacks on Mr Trump.

This month, Mr Trump's lawyers also filed court papers in New York state seeking to block Ms James' subpoenas, prompting her filing Tuesday.

Ms James, who is running for reelection this year, has investigated Mr Trump's business practices since March 2019.

In previous filings, she described the properties she was scrutinising and said that her investigators were looking into whether Mr Trump had inflated the value of various properties across the country in order to secure loans and obtain economic and tax benefits.

In Tuesday's filing, she went further, giving specific examples in which she said the former president's business had misrepresented the worth of its properties and showing how those misrepresentations had benefited the company, allowing it to receive favourable loans, insurance coverage and tax benefits.

Mr Trump's company is already under indictment in Manhattan. In July, then-District Attorney Cyrus Vance charged the company and its longtime chief financial officer with carrying out a 15-year scheme to dole out off-the-books luxury perks to certain executives.

That case is scheduled to head to trial later this year.

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