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Trump University lawsuit claiming fraud can move forward, court says

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during a campaign

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during a campaign stop in Myrtle Beach, S.C., on Feb. 19, 2016. Credit: AP

ALBANY

Donald Trump got a Super Tuesday surprise from a New York court that ruled that the lawsuit by the state accusing his Trump University of defrauding its students can go forward.

State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s office said the appellate court decision also allows the $40 million case to consider students and their loss dating back six years, instead of three as Trump’s attorneys had argued. Schneiderman said a three-year statute of limitation would have hindered his case. The attorney general’s office also said the decision means the state won’t have to prove an intent to commit fraud, just that a fraud had happened.

A state appellate court ruled Schneiderman is “authorized to bring a cause of action for fraud.”

Trump in recent days has tried to dismiss the fraud claims in civil suits by Schneiderman and some former students as baseless.

“Today’s decision is a clear victory in our effort to hold Donald Trump and Trump University accountable for defrauding thousands of students,” Schneiderman said. “Today’s decision means our entire fraud case can move forward.”

“We look forward to demonstrating in a court of law that Donald Trump and his sham for-profit college defrauded more than 5,000 consumers out of millions of dollars,” Schneiderman said.

Trump has criticized Schneiderman and said there is no merit to his case.

“This is just people wanting to get their money back,” Trump said while campaigning for president. “Most of these people signed a report card where they say how great it was, then they sue you years later to see if they can get their money back.”

Schneiderman has accused Trump University of being an unlicensed school using a bait-and-switch operation that misled students into thinking they would get a thorough education.

“We respectfully disagree with the court’s decision today and intend to file an appeal,” said Alan Garten, general counsel of The Trump Organization. “The decision effectively contradicts three of the court’s own decisions in other cases.”

Trump and his attorneys have repeatedly denied fraud or other wrongdoing by the for-profit school, which operated from 2005 to 2011, and they have responded by attacking their accusers in public and in court. Trump said that he refuses to settle the suit because it is baseless and that settling nuisance lawsuits only encourages more lawsuits.

Former students at Trump University accuse Trump and his school of using misleading advertising to dupe 5,000 individuals — 600 of them New Yorkers — to pay up to $35,000 for seminars and mentorships through the unlicensed, unaccredited “university.”

A judge in October 2014 threw out part of the lawsuit but ruled Trump and the school liable for some claims of restitution.

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