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The Hill
The Hill
16 Feb 2024
Ella Lee


NextImg:Trump ordered to pay $355M in New York fraud case

A New York judge on Friday ordered former President Trump to pay nearly $355 million in penalties in a civil fraud case that has dealt a stark blow to his family’s business empire.

Judge Arthur Engoron’s 92-page decision came just weeks after closing arguments in the case capped a months-long trial during which Trump frequently lambasted the judge and the prosecutor who brought the case. 

New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) sued Trump in 2022, alleging he falsely altered his net worth on key financial statements to receive tax and insurance benefits. The documents, which detailed the value of the Trump Organization’s various assets, were sent to banks and insurers to secure loans and deals, which the state purports is evidence of fraud.

With interest, the figure Trump and his business must pay could surpass $450 million, according to the New York attorney general’s office. 

Engoron found Trump, the Trump Organization and several top executives, including his adult sons, liable for fraud before the trial began. The verdict is at the sole discretion of Engoron, because there was no jury at the trial.

The fine is some $16 million less than the $370 million the attorney general’s office asked the judge to force Trump to pay. It also blocks Trump from participating in New York business for three years.

Former President Donald Trump appears during a court hearing at Manhattan criminal court, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, in New York. (Brendan McDermid/Pool Photo via AP)

Trump’s adult sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, were ordered to pay more than $4 million each, and were both barred from serving as officers or directors of any New York corporation or other legal entity for two years.

Former Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg was ordered to pay $1 million. Weisselberg was also blocked from New York business for three years, and both he and former controller Jeffrey McConney were barred for life from serving “in the financial control function” of any New York corporation or business entity.

And, the judge said the independent monitor he installed to oversee Trump’s business would continue operating for three years, in addition to the installation of an “Independent Director of Compliance.”

However, the judge reversed a decision ahead of the trial that ordered the cancellation of the defendants’ business certificates, though he said the order could be renewed. 

In a statement, James called the ruling a “tremendous victory for this state, this nation and for everyone who believes that we must all play by the same rules – even former presidents.”

“When powerful people cheat to get better loans, it comes at the expense of honest and hardworking people,” James said.

“Now, Donald Trump is finally facing accountability for his lying, cheating and staggering fraud,” she added. “Because no matter how big, rich or powerful you think you are, no one is above the law.”

James will hold a press conference at 6 p.m. 

In a statement to The Hill, Trump lawyer Alina Habba called the ruling a “manifest injustice” and the culmination of a “multi-year, politically fueled witch hunt that was designed to ‘take down Donald Trump.’” 

Chris Kise, Trump’s lead lawyer in the case, called the case an “unjust political crusade against the front-running candidate for President of the United States.”  

“Hard to imagine a more unfair process and hard to believe this is happening in America,” Kise said in a statement. “Make no mistake, the sobering future consequences of this tyrannical abuse of power do not just impact President Trump.

“When a Court willingly allows a reckless government official to meddle in the lawful, private, and profitable affairs of any citizen based on political bias, America’s economic prosperity and way of life are at extreme risk of extinction,” he continued.

Kise said the former president will “of course appeal.”

The trial spanned more than two months, with testimony — sometimes tempestuous — from 40 witnesses, including ex-Trump fixer Michael Cohen, top Trump Organization executives, Trump’s adult children and the former president himself.

Trump’s lawyers have maintained their argument that there was no fraud. Their most robust defense came from Deutsche Bank executives, who testified that the banks wanted to work with the Trump Organization, did their own due diligence and found no fraud.

Engoron’s early ruling on Trump’s fraud liability established a contentious rapport between the former president and the judge, who clashed repeatedly throughout the trial.  

When Trump took the witness stand in November, he lobbed attacks at the judge and James, calling them “frauds,” “political hacks” and “Trump haters” while repeating the familiar refrain that his legal issues are “political witch hunts” aimed at keeping him from a second term in the White House.

At one point, Engoron chastised a Trump lawyer over the former president’s conduct, telling him to “control” his client.

“This is not a political rally,” Engoron said.

Trump’s financial standing could take a brutal hit after the $354.8 million judgement, and another $83.3 million judgement against him for defaming writer E. Jean Carroll after denying her accusation he sexually assaulted her decades earlier.

Forbes estimates the former president’s wealth at $2.6 billion, and the Bloomberg Billionaires Index deemed him worth $3.1 billion. After the colossal decisions, Trump stands to lose 13 percent or more of his estimated net worth — if the estimations of his wealth are accurate. 

Legal fees also continue to mount, as Trump’s criminal cases heat up and appeals in his civil cases begin.

In 2023, Trump’s fundraising committees spent roughly $50 million on legal consulting, including more than $18 million combined for Kise, Habba and Clifford Robert, who represented Trump and his business in the fraud case. The lawyers have also handled other matters for the former president.  

Updated at 5:15 p.m. ET