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Donald Trump fraud verdict: $364 million penalty in civil fraud case

Feb 16, 2024, 1:19 PM | Updated: 3:36 pm

former president trump shown, his fraud case just ended...

FILE - Former President Donald Trump attends the closing arguments in the Trump Organization civil fraud trial at New York State Supreme Court in the Manhattan borough of New York, Jan. 11, 2024. A verdict is expected Friday in Donald Trump's New York civil fraud trial, adding to a monumental week on the former president's legal calendar. (Shannon Stapleton/Pool Photo via AP, File)

(Shannon Stapleton/Pool Photo via AP, File)

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NEW YORK (AP) — A New York judge ruled Friday against Donald Trump, imposing a $364 million penalty over what the judge ruled was a yearslong scheme to dupe banks and others with financial statements that inflated the former president’s wealth.

Judge Arthur Engoron issued his decision after a 2½-month trial that saw the Republican presidential front-runner bristling under oath that he was the victim of a rigged legal system.

The stiff penalty was a victory for New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, who sued Trump over what she said was not just harmless bragging but years of deceptive practices as he built the multinational collection of skyscrapers, golf courses and other properties that catapulted him to wealth, fame and the White House.

Trump’s lawyers had said even before the verdict that they would appeal.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

NEW YORK (AP) — A verdict is expected Friday in Donald Trump’s New York civil fraud trial, adding to a consequential week on the former president’s legal calendar.

Trump could be hit with millions of dollars in penalties and other sanctions in the decision by Judge Arthur Engoron, who has already ruled that the former president inflated his wealth on financial statements that were given to banks, insurers and others to make deals and secure loans.

New York Attorney General Letitia James is seeking $370 million and a ban on Trump and other defendants from doing business in the state. A penalty like that could potentially wound the real estate empire that helped Trump craft his image as a savvy billionaire businessman and vaulted him to fame and the White House.

Engoron is set to rule after 2½ months of testimony from 40 witnesses, including Trump. Closing arguments were held Jan. 11. The judge is deciding the case because juries are not allowed in this type of lawsuit and neither James’ office nor Trump’s lawyers asked for one.

Engoron is expected to release his decision Friday, barring unforeseen circumstances that would necessitate a delay, court officials said.

It has already been a big week in court for Trump. On Thursday, a different New York judge ruled that Trump will stand trial March 25 on charges that he falsified his company’s records as part of an effort to buy the silence of people with potentially embarrassing stories about alleged infidelity. Trump says he is innocent.

If the schedule holds, it will be the first of his four criminal cases to go to trial.

Also Thursday, a judge in Atlanta heard arguments on whether to remove Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis from Trump’s Georgia election interference case because she had a personal relationship with a special prosecutor she hired.

James’ office has estimated that Trump exaggerated his wealth by as much as $3.6 billion. State lawyers contend Trump used the inflated numbers to get lower insurance premiums and favorable loan terms, saving at least $168 million on interest alone.

Trump has denied wrongdoing and his lawyers have said they’ll appeal if Engoron rules against him.

The Republican presidential front-runner testified Nov. 6 that his financial statements actually understated his net worth and that banks did their own research and were happy with his business. During closing arguments in January, he decried the case as a “fraud on me.”

Engoron is deciding six claims in James’ lawsuit, including allegations of conspiracy, falsifying business records and insurance fraud. State lawyers alleged that Trump exaggerated his wealth by as much as $3.6 billion one year.

Before the trial, Engoron ruled on James’ top claim, finding that Trump’s financial statements were fraudulent. As punishment, the judge ordered some of his companies removed from his control and dissolved. An appeals court has put that on hold.

Because it is civil, not criminal in nature, there is no possibility of prison time.

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Donald Trump fraud verdict: $364 million penalty in civil fraud case