New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Wednesday that she has filed a civil lawsuit against former President Donald Trump and his three eldest children over his long-running alleged tax-dodging scheme.
James hopes to convince a court to take steps to bar Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump from conducting business in the state of New York, along with making them pay a financial penalty and limiting access to loans.
“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 at a press conference outlining Trump’s alleged misconduct.
Prosecutors in New York have been looking into Trump’s real estate business practices for several years following reports that he routinely undervalued and overvalued assets to avoid paying his fair share of taxes. James said that “a comprehensive three-year investigation” involved millions of documents and interviews with 65 witnesses.
Her office is also making criminal referrals to federal prosecutors and the IRS, believing the Trumps to have violated federal law.
By shifting the valuation of his assets, Trump was allegedly able to convince banks to lend money to the Trump Organization on more favorable terms, to secure more favorable insurance arrangements and to pay lower taxes.
“White collar financial crime is not a victimless crime. When the well-connected break the law to take in more money than they are entitled to, it reduces resources to working people, to regular people, to small businesses and to all taxpayers,” she said.
James gave several examples: One asset in New York had been listed as being worth over 60 times what an appraiser had valued it. Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s South Florida golf resort, was estimated to be worth $75 million, but James said it had been “valued as high as $739 million” on documents her office reviewed.
“All told, we uncovered more than 200 examples of false and misleading asset valuations that were used on his statements,” James said, calling the pattern an “astounding” one.
She added: “It was a scheme that by its very nature became more profitable over time.”
The hefty lawsuit is around 280 pages long and contains details on 23 assets that were misvalued at various times.
Trump and his eldest children had all been deposed as part of James’ investigation, although Trump invoked his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination more than 400 times.
The Trump camp was reportedly anticipating civil legal action, according to Bloomberg.