New York Attorney General Letitia James on Wednesday accused former President Donald Trump of massive fraud in a civil lawsuit following a three year inquiry into the finances of the family business.
James said Trump “falsely inflated his wealth by billions of dollars” to enrich himself and his family.
“There aren’t two sets of laws for people in this nation,” James said. “Former presidents must be held to the same standards as everyday Americans.”
James said she has referred some of the allegations to federal authorities, including the Manhattan U.S Attorney’s Office and the IRS.
The extraordinary lawsuit, which also names children Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump, seeks $250 million in penalties; a permanent ban on the Trumps from running businesses in New York; while attempting to block Trump and the Trump Organization from purchasing commercial real estate in New York for five years.
James described an “astounding” pattern of fraud that allegedly represented a “violation of the law.”
Last month, Trump repeatedly invoked the Fifth Amendment during a deposition as part of James’ civil fraud investigation into the Trump Organization’s finances.
Trump’s attempt to shield himself from possible criminal jeopardy recalled his remarks during a 2016 campaign stop when he compared those who have invoked their constitutional right against self-incrimination to mobsters: “The mob takes the Fifth. If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?”
James’ investigation was launched more than three years ago after former Trump attorney Michael Cohen told federal lawmakers that the former president regularly inflated the value of his properties and net worth to get better insurance and loan rates.
In May, the attorney general signaled the inquiry was nearing an end and that investigators had amassed substantial evidence that could support legal action, such as a lawsuit, against Trump, his company or both.
The attorney general’s action is related to one of several investigations targeting the former president:
Trump is in the midst of challenging the seizure of tranches of classified documents from his Mar-a-Lago, Florida, estate, as part of a federal inquiry into possible obstruction, the mishandling of government records and violations of the Espionage Act.
Separately, former Trump administration officials have been called to testify before a federal grand jury investigating attempts to overturn the 2020 election.
And in Atlanta, a local district attorney is conducting a wide-ranging criminal probe that includes Trump’s efforts to pressure Georgia officials to reverse President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory there. So far, more than a dozen people, including Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, have been notified that they are targets of that investigation.