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Trump ordered to pay over $355M for fraudulent business practices in New York

Former U.S. President Donald Trump and his lawyers Christopher Kise and Alina Habba attend the closing arguments in the Trump Organization civil fraud trial at New York State Supreme Court on January 11, 2024 in New York City.
Shannon Stapleton
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Former U.S. President Donald Trump and his lawyers Christopher Kise and Alina Habba attend the closing arguments in the Trump Organization civil fraud trial at New York State Supreme Court on January 11, 2024 in New York City.

Updated February 16, 2024 at 5:02 PM ET

A New York judge has ordered former President Donald Trump and executives at the Trump Organization to pay over $364 million in a civil fraud case, handing a win to New York Attorney General Letitia James, who sued Trump and his associates after a three-year investigation.

The Friday decision from Judge Arthur Engoron orders Trump and his flagship organization to pay the bulk of that amount: almost $355 million. Trump's two sons and co-defendants, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., are each liable for $4 million. Allen Weisselberg, a former Trump Organization executive, is liable for $1 million. The total is even higher with interest — more than $450 million overall, according to the attorney general's office.

"Their complete lack of contrition and remorse borders on pathological. They are accused only of inflating asset values to make more money. The documents prove this over and over again. This is a venial sin, not a mortal sin," Engoron wrote in the court filing. "Yet, defendants are incapable of admitting the error of their ways."

Trump himself called the decision a "Complete and Total SHAM" in an emailed statement and repeated his accusation that the justice system overall is politically biased against him.

James, however, declared that "justice has been served."

"This is a tremendous victory for this state, this nation, and for everyone who believes that we all must play by the same rules — even former presidents," the state attorney general said in a statement.

Additional consequences

The judge also decided to limit Trump and his co-defendants' ability to do business in the Empire State. Trump and his companies are prohibited from serving as an officer or director of any New York business or applying for loans for three years. His sons are limited from similar leadership roles for two years.

Jeffrey McConney, ex-controller of the Trump Organization and also a defendant, was not ordered to pay any amount, but he and Weisselberg are permanently barred from serving in the financial control function of any New York corporation or similar business entity registered or licensed in New York state.

"This Court is not constituted to judge morality; it is constituted to find facts and apply the law. In this particular case, in applying the law to the facts, the Court intends to protect the integrity of the financial marketplace and, thus, the public as a whole," Engoron wrote.

The ruling comes at a crucial time for Trump, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination. Engoron's decision comes a day after another judge set the date for what could be Trump's first criminal trial, related to hush money payments issued during the 2016 election.

He is facing a combined 91 state and federal charges, including several related to his role to stay in office after he lost the 2020 presidential election to Joe Biden. But the charges have done little to dent Trump's popularity among his base. Instead, the charges appear to have bolstered his credentials, potentially setting up a rematch with Biden.

The facts of the case

Trump and his two older sons are accused of knowingly committing fraud by submitting financial statements that inflated the value of their properties and other assets. The lawsuit alleges that from 2011 to 2021, Donald Trump and his organization created more than 200 false valuations to inflate his net worth by billions of dollars with the goal of getting better business, insurance and banking deals.

Engoron had already determined that there was fraud and that the former president, his sons and other executives were liable.

Throughout the trial, legal teams argued whether the value of notable Trump properties, such as Manhattan's Trump Tower and 40 Wall Street, were inflated deliberately.

Documents shown during trial ranged from spreadsheets to signed financial statements. In one example, the attorney general's legal team showed that Trump's triplex in his eponymously named Manhattan building was marked as being almost 11,000 square feet in 1994 and later as 30,000 square feet. A Forbes magazine article in 2017 originally shed light on the discrepancy.

The former president and three of his children, Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka, who is not a defendant, all took the stand to testify about the valuation process and their involvement in the Trump Organization. Testifying in November, Trump argued that the estimated property values were actually conservative, and he said that he relied on others to compile the statements. His sons also testified that they relied on others, including their accounting firm, to come up with the numbers — even as emails and documents showed the Trumps ultimately approved them.

In closing briefs, Trump's team doubled down on the argument that the three members of the Trump family did not have knowledge or involvement in the creation, preparation or use of the fraudulent financial statements.

Who else testified

Witnesses included former Trump allies such as Michael Cohen and Weisselberg, who was also a defendant.

Cohen testified that it was his responsibility, along with that ofWeisselberg, "to reverse-engineer the very different asset classes, increase those assets in order to achieve the numbers" Trump had asked for.

Weisselberg, however, testified that he couldn't remember whether he discussed the financial statements with Trump as they were finalized.

The decision on Friday comes as Trump continues to campaign for the presidency. He will likely appeal this ruling, as he has in the other cases where he has suffered legal setbacks. It may take years before he parts with any money in the case.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ximena Bustillo
Ximena Bustillo is a multi-platform reporter at NPR covering politics out of the White House and Congress on air and in print.