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Judge orders Trump to pay more than $350 million after civil fraud trial

NEW YORK — A judge on Friday ordered former president Donald Trump to pay more than $350 million in penalties, plus interest, following a civil fraud trial, finding that he and others had carried out a years-long scheme to use “blatantly false financial data” to borrow money at lower rates.

New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron issued a deluge of punishments, including years-long bans on Trump and his adult sons taking top jobs in companies in the state, and he did so with biting language, castigating defendants as stubbornly unwilling to admit fault or acknowledge reality.

“Their complete lack of contrition and remorse borders on pathological,” Engoron, who heard the case without a jury, said in a written decision.

Engoron’s decision was a stinging loss for Trump, and it marked the latest legal and financial defeat he has suffered over the last year. Over that span, Trump has been charged in four criminal cases, including one set to go to trial in Manhattan next month, and juries have ordered him to pay nearly $90 million to a writer who sued him for defamation. He is also fighting court battles seeking to stay on some states’ ballots in the upcoming presidential election, all while seeking another term in office.

Trump, in a statement, called the decision “a Complete and Total SHAM,” while his attorneys pledged to appeal what they called “a draconian and unconstitutional fine.” Engoron ordered Trump to pay more than $354 million in penalties.

The case stemmed from a lawsuit filed in 2022 by New York Attorney General Letitia James (D), who sued Trump, his namesake company, some of his adult children and certain company executives, accusing them of participating in an expansive financial fraud. Because this case was civil, not criminal, none of the defendants faced any time behind bars.

In her lawsuit, James accused the defendants of falsely inflating the values of assets in financial documents to secure better terms from lenders and insurers.

She accused Trump of purposefully inflating his net worth by as much as $2.2 billion annually, and said he and other defendants “engaged in numerous acts of fraud and misrepresentation” while preparing Trump’s annual financial statements dealing with “at least the years 2011 through 2021.”

James praised Engoron’s decision Friday, saying that “white-collar financial fraud is not a victimless crime.”

“Today, we are holding Donald Trump accountable,” she said. “We are holding him accountable for lying, cheating, and a lack of contrition and for flouting the rules that all of us must play by.”

The decision Friday means Trump has been hit with more than $440 million in combined penalties and judgments following civil trials in New York courthouses over the last nine months — and the final tally will probably be much higher, since Engoron’s decision also ordered him to pay interest. According to James’s office, the interest in the case adds up to nearly $100 million.

Trump has long denied wrongdoing in the case and accused James of being politically motivated, a claim he and his attorneys reiterated Friday. Speaking briefly after Engoron’s decision was released, Trump defended his business practices and insisted no fraud took place.

“The banks all got their money, a hundred percent,” Trump said. “They love Trump.”

Trump also claimed, without evidence, that he was only sued because of his presidential campaign.

James’s lawsuit and her court case portrayed a brazen scheme on the part of Trump and the other defendants, in which basic facts were discarded at will. During the trial, Kevin Wallace, an attorney with James’s office, said the defendants used “knowing and intentional lies” in their financial statements. In one example in the lawsuit, Trump’s Trump Tower triplex apartment was described as “being 30,000 square feet when it was 10,996 square feet.”

Trump’s attorneys in the case said that nothing illegal took place and that real estate values are subjective. They have also noted that no complaints were made over any of the loans at issue in the case.

“There was no illegality, there was no fraud, there are no victims,” Christopher Kise, an attorney for Trump, said during the trial. He later said James was trying “to pursue a victimless fraud and impose the corporate death penalty.”

Engoron already ruled before the trial that Trump and his company broadly committed fraud. The trial, which began in October, was held to determine whether any illegal acts occurred during the commission of the fraud and what, if any, penalties should be handed down to the defendants.

More than a month after the trial’s proceedings concluded, Engoron on Friday released his decision and laid out penalties — and not just for Trump.

Two of his adult children — Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, who were also defendants in the case — were fined $4 million each. Both men were blocked from serving as an officer or a director for any New York corporation for two years.

Clifford S. Robert, an attorney for the two men, called the decision “a gross injustice” and said the trial failed to provide any evidence that “remotely suggested” either of his clients or their father was involved in preparing the financial statements at issue in the case.

Trump and two former top financial officials with his company — Allen Weisselberg, the former chief financial officer, and Jeffrey McConney, who reported to him — were all blocked from working as directors or officers for any New York corporation for three years.

Weisselberg and McConney were given lifetime bans from working in “the financial control function” of any New York company, and Weisselberg was also found to be liable for $1 million. Trump and his company were also blocked from seeking loans from financial institutions in New York for three years.

“The frauds found here leap off the page and shock the conscience,” Engoron wrote.

In addition, Engoron said more layers of supervision were needed at the Trump Organization.

He ordered the appointment of an independent director of compliance, and said that former federal judge Barbara Jones, an independent monitor already overseeing the Trump Organization’s financial disclosures, will continue in that role for at least three years.

She will take on additional duties, Engoron wrote, “as her observations over the past 14 months indicate that still more oversight is required.” Jones wrote in a status report last month that she had identified “certain deficiencies in the financial information that I have reviewed.”

Her comments prompted an irritated response from Robert, the attorney, who wrote on behalf of all defendants in this case that Jones was trying to “manipulate innocuous accounting items into a narrative favoring her continued receipt of millions in excessive fees.”

Engoron in his decision Friday also revisited a pretrial ruling he issued in the case in September, in which he ordered the cancellation of certificates related to New York-based Trump entities. Experts have debated what the order might mean for Trump’s business empire, and it was expected that Engoron’s decision could offer more guidance.

Engoron said Friday that since there will be “two-tiered oversight” in the form of Jones and the compliance director, he was no longer requiring the cancellations. Instead, Jones and the compliance director would determine the certificates’ futures.

The trial appeared to madden Trump, who has long touted himself as a pillar of business success. He attended the trial a number of times across 10 weeks of testimony, frequently pausing on his way in and out of the courtroom to deliver remarks excoriating the case to journalists and cameras nearby.

Engoron at one point issued a narrow gag order blocking Trump from commenting on his staff, after he posted about the judge’s law clerk on social media, then fined him twice for violating it.

Trump’s commentary on the case did not end at the courtroom’s door. When Trump took the stand in November, he clashed with Engoron, belittled James and defended his companies and his net worth. Then, when closing remarks were delivered in the case in January, Trump made an extended speech in the courtroom, accusing the judge of having “your own agenda” and saying that Trump should himself be paid “for what we’ve had to go through,” not fined.

In his decision Friday, Engoron was critical of Trump’s performance on the stand, saying he “rarely responded to the questions asked, and he frequently interjected long, irrelevant speeches on issues far beyond the scope of the trial.”

“His refusal to answer the questions directly, or in some cases, at all, severely compromised his credibility,” Engoron added.

Engoron took a withering look at the defense and defendants in the case. Trump and others “submitted blatantly false financial data” to accountants, he wrote, leading to the flawed financial statements.

“When confronted at trial with the statements, defendants’ fact and expert witnesses simply denied reality, and defendants failed to accept responsibility or to impose internal controls to prevent future recurrences,” Engoron said.

He also expressed bafflement at the defendants’ insistence on not acknowledging any wrongdoing, saying they only admitted one error — the size of the Trump Tower apartment.

Defendants, Engoron wrote, were accused of inflating asset valuations to make some money, not committing murder.

“Yet, defendants are incapable of admitting the error of their ways,” Engoron said.

Berman reported from Washington. Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey, Jonathan O’Connell and Azi Paybarah in Washington, and Wesley Parnell in New York contributed to this report.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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