New York Attorney General Letitia James on Wednesday sued former President Donald Trump and his company on business fraud allegations involving some of their most prized assets, including properties in Manhattan, Chicago and Washington, D.C. Credit: New York Attorney General Office

State Attorney General Letitia James sued former President Donald Trump and three of his adult children Wednesday, alleging years of fraudulent business practices involving billions of dollars and real estate in New York City, Florida, Washington, D.C., and beyond. 

James, speaking at a news conference in Manhattan where she announced the lawsuit, alleged that Trump inflated his net worth and committed fraud by pumping up the appraisals of properties when he knew they were worth far less.

As a result, according to the 222-page suit filed in state Supreme Court, Trump got loans at terms more favorable than what he deserved, ballooning his empire and showering undeserved wealth on his family, in what she said is a "staggering" fraud against lenders, insurers and the public.

“Donald Trump falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself and to cheat the system, thereby cheating all of us,” James said. “He did this with the other defendants, his children, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump,” as well as two other senior executives of the Trump organization — Allen Weisselberg and Jeffrey McConney.

James, whose suit also appeared on the court docket Wednesday, said that criminal referrals were made to federal prosecutors in Manhattan as well as to the Internal Revenue Service.

Alina Habba, an attorney for Trump, who has reportedly been considering a third run for the presidency in 2024, said the lawsuit “is neither focused on the facts nor the law — rather, it is solely focused on advancing the attorney general’s political agenda.”

The suit seeks to bar the former president, his family and others named in the suit, from serving as an officer or director of any New York corporation, ban them from real estate transactions in the state for five years, and force repayment of an estimated $250 million.

From 2011 through 2021,  James's suit alleges, Trump exaggerated and falsified his net worth, claimed properties were bigger or more valuable than they were, and played other unlawful tricks at properties such as Mar-a-Lago, Trump Tower in Manhattan and a hotel in Washington, D.C.

The suit caps a three-year investigation by James’ office that began following testimony by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen. It attempts to dismantle an image long-cultivated by Trump of hard-fought success and gilded grandeur — a Queens real estate developer's son who made his billions in Manhattan, became a TV reality show host, and the president of the United States.

Trump's alleged fraud, according to James' office, was to enhance that image — boosting the value of the real estate he owned when it gave him an advantage, minimizing the value when it helped him.

In one example James cited, after a bank-ordered appraisal valued his 40 Wall St. building at $220 million, Trump then put the value various numbers around $527 million.

"Even more egregiously, those increased valuations were attributed to information obtained from the same professional appraiser who valued the building at just over $200 million," the office said in a news release.

Another example mentioned by James' office: the alleged overvaluation of rent-regulated apartments on Park Avenue — a status that makes the properties less valuable because state law sets a ceiling on the rent that can be charged — Trump's company boosted the value sixfold.

“This investigation revealed that Donald Trump engaged in years of illegal conduct to inflate his net worth, to deceive banks and the people of the great state of New York," James said at the news conference. “Claiming you have money that you do not have does not amount to the art of the deal. It’s the art of the steal."

Habba, the Trump lawyer, disagreed, accusing James's office of exceeding "its statutory authority by prying into transactions where absolutely no wrongdoing has taken place."

"We are confident that our judicial system will not stand for this unchecked abuse of authority," she said, "and we look forward to defending our client against each and every one of the attorney general’s meritless claims.”

On his social media platform, Trump accused James of having a political vendetta against him but he did not directly address the lawsuit's allegations.

Lawyers for Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and Eric Trump couldn't be reached for comment. 

James' lawsuit against Donald Trump adds to his legal troubles. During the summer, the FBI raided his Mar-a-Lago residence over his handling of classified government documents. In October, his eponymous Trump Organization is scheduled to go on criminal trial over allegations that the company plotted to award untaxed benefits to several senior executives, including Weisselberg, who got more than $1.7 million in those perks and pleaded guilty Aug. 18.

With AP

State Attorney General Letitia James sued former President Donald Trump and three of his adult children Wednesday, alleging years of fraudulent business practices involving billions of dollars and real estate in New York City, Florida, Washington, D.C., and beyond. 

James, speaking at a news conference in Manhattan where she announced the lawsuit, alleged that Trump inflated his net worth and committed fraud by pumping up the appraisals of properties when he knew they were worth far less.

As a result, according to the 222-page suit filed in state Supreme Court, Trump got loans at terms more favorable than what he deserved, ballooning his empire and showering undeserved wealth on his family, in what she said is a "staggering" fraud against lenders, insurers and the public.

“Donald Trump falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself and to cheat the system, thereby cheating all of us,” James said. “He did this with the other defendants, his children, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump,” as well as two other senior executives of the Trump organization — Allen Weisselberg and Jeffrey McConney.

James, whose suit also appeared on the court docket Wednesday, said that criminal referrals were made to federal prosecutors in Manhattan as well as to the Internal Revenue Service.

Alina Habba, an attorney for Trump, who has reportedly been considering a third run for the presidency in 2024, said the lawsuit “is neither focused on the facts nor the law — rather, it is solely focused on advancing the attorney general’s political agenda.”

The suit seeks to bar the former president, his family and others named in the suit, from serving as an officer or director of any New York corporation, ban them from real estate transactions in the state for five years, and force repayment of an estimated $250 million.

From 2011 through 2021,  James's suit alleges, Trump exaggerated and falsified his net worth, claimed properties were bigger or more valuable than they were, and played other unlawful tricks at properties such as Mar-a-Lago, Trump Tower in Manhattan and a hotel in Washington, D.C.

The suit caps a three-year investigation by James’ office that began following testimony by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen. It attempts to dismantle an image long-cultivated by Trump of hard-fought success and gilded grandeur — a Queens real estate developer's son who made his billions in Manhattan, became a TV reality show host, and the president of the United States.

Trump's alleged fraud, according to James' office, was to enhance that image — boosting the value of the real estate he owned when it gave him an advantage, minimizing the value when it helped him.

In one example James cited, after a bank-ordered appraisal valued his 40 Wall St. building at $220 million, Trump then put the value various numbers around $527 million.

"Even more egregiously, those increased valuations were attributed to information obtained from the same professional appraiser who valued the building at just over $200 million," the office said in a news release.

Another example mentioned by James' office: the alleged overvaluation of rent-regulated apartments on Park Avenue — a status that makes the properties less valuable because state law sets a ceiling on the rent that can be charged — Trump's company boosted the value sixfold.

New York Attorney General Letitia James at a news conference announcing...

New York Attorney General Letitia James at a news conference announcing her suit Wednesday in Manhattan.

Credit: Marcus Santos

“This investigation revealed that Donald Trump engaged in years of illegal conduct to inflate his net worth, to deceive banks and the people of the great state of New York," James said at the news conference. “Claiming you have money that you do not have does not amount to the art of the deal. It’s the art of the steal."

Habba, the Trump lawyer, disagreed, accusing James's office of exceeding "its statutory authority by prying into transactions where absolutely no wrongdoing has taken place."

"We are confident that our judicial system will not stand for this unchecked abuse of authority," she said, "and we look forward to defending our client against each and every one of the attorney general’s meritless claims.”

On his social media platform, Trump accused James of having a political vendetta against him but he did not directly address the lawsuit's allegations.

Lawyers for Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and Eric Trump couldn't be reached for comment. 

James' lawsuit against Donald Trump adds to his legal troubles. During the summer, the FBI raided his Mar-a-Lago residence over his handling of classified government documents. In October, his eponymous Trump Organization is scheduled to go on criminal trial over allegations that the company plotted to award untaxed benefits to several senior executives, including Weisselberg, who got more than $1.7 million in those perks and pleaded guilty Aug. 18.

With AP

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