Donald Trump’s Business Empire Faces Danger as New York Fraud Trial Opens

Donald Trump’s Business Empire Faces Danger as New York Fraud Trial Opens
Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Brendan McDermid

Former President Donald Trump and his two sons, Eric, and Don Jr., are facing a serious trial that could have far-reaching consequences for Trump's economic empire. Judge Arthur Engoron of New York has already determined that they committed fraud by increasing the worth of the Trump Organization's real estate and financial assets over time. The New York Attorney General, Letitia James, is seeking $250 million in penalties as well as the removal of Trump and his sons from running businesses in New York as well as a five-year commercial real estate ban on Trump and the Trump Organization, per Reuters.

Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Michael M. Santiago
Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Michael M. Santiago

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The trial, which Trump has denounced as a "sham" and a "witchhunt," threatens to cast a long shadow over his ambitions to recapture the presidency. The Trump Organization is accused of engaging in a scheme to defraud tax collectors, lenders, and insurers by misrepresenting the worth of their properties by astonishing sums ranging from $812 million to $2.2 billion from 2014 to 2021, per Livemint. The judge's decision withdrew the Trump Organization's business licenses, which allowed it to operate some of its properties in New York. 

Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Brendan McDermid
Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Brendan McDermid

 

Will Thomas, a University of Michigan professor of corporate law, has pointed out to AFP that enforcement of such penalties would be “a major blow to Donald Trump’s ability to do business in the State of New York going forward.” Trump may someday lose control of many of his company's landmark assets, including the Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Democrat Attorney General Letitia James has said that even Trump's personal unit in Trump Tower was overpriced, being listed at three times its real size. Another property, 40 Wall Street, is said to have been overpriced by hundreds of millions of dollars. Trump's opulent Mar-a-Lago property in Florida was the site of the secret documents controversy, and several Trump Organization golf clubs have also been called into question.

Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Michael M. Santiago
Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Michael M. Santiago

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As the trial progresses, more high-profile witnesses, including Trump, are likely to testify. Notably, Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization's former financial director who served time in prison after pleading guilty to tax evasion in a separate case, is likely to deliver testimony. Eric, Don Jr., and Ivanka Trump are also expected to testify.

Trump has dismissed the charges as part of a larger plot. He's called Attorney General James "racist" and Judge Engoron "deranged." Trump's rhetoric has been magnified on his own social media network, Truth Social, where he has asserted that he has done nothing illegal in his business operations. On the other hand, the prosecution claims that these are not victimless crimes, citing the alleged overvaluation of assets and the financial implications that may have resulted. Kevin Wallace, an attorney with the Attorney General's office, stressed that these measures are far from routine. The prosecution claims that Trump exaggerated his worth by up to $2.2 billion, claiming no intent to cheat.

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The trial is being presided over by Judge Engoron, who has already found Trump responsible for fraud in a ruling. Engoron has described himself as a legal generalist. It will be a trial with over 150 prospective witnesses, including Michael Cohen, Trump's former lawyer and fixer who has turned on his former employer.

Aside from this civil case, Trump is facing a slew of criminal proceedings. He is expected to appear before a federal judge in Washington on March 4 on charges connected to his efforts to reverse the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. Following that, he will appear in a New York state court to face criminal hush money charges, as well as a federal court in Florida to answer allegations of mishandling confidential documents after leaving office. In addition, Trump is facing state charges in Georgia for alleged attempts to tamper with the 2020 election results.

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