DemDaily: The Price of Fraud

February 20, 2024

In one of the largest civil fraud judgments in New York State's history, former President Donald Trump on Friday was fined $355 million for conspiring to falsely inflate his net worth by billions of dollars "to unjustly enrich himself and cheat the system.” With accumulated interest, the fines total $453.5 million and continue to accrue daily.

The penalty was delivered by New York Justice Arthur Engoron after his finding in favor of a lawsuit filed in September 2022 by New York Attorney General Letitia James. The suit charged the former president, his two adult sons, The Trump Organization, and others for their part in a "staggering" decade-long scheme to fraudulently overvalue assets to secure more favorable bank loans and taxation deals.

Justice Engoron, saying the defendant's "complete lack of contrition and remorse borders on pathological,” also barred Trump for three years from serving in top roles at any New York company, including his own, or applying for financing from any institution that does business in New York. A similar two-year ban was imposed on Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump -- who were also ordered to pay more than $4 million each.

In addition, the judge required the Trump Organization to hire a new compliance officer, and issued a three-year extension to the appointment of an independent monitor, a former federal judge, who has oversight authority and veto power over most Trump Organization actions.

Calling Engoron's ruling "a massive victory" in a post on X, Attorney General Letitia James wrote, "No matter how big, how rich, or how powerful you are, no one is above the law. Not even Donald Trump."

The stiff penalty is the second major judgment against Trump in the last month. On January 26, a jury ordered Trump to pay $83.3 million to writer E. Jean Carroll for his continued public verbal attacks against her after a jury last May awarded Carroll $5 million from Trump for sexual abuse and defamation.

Whether the former president will be able to pay the growing list of devastating financial penalties or be able to evade the courts as easily as he has prosecution for his now 91 felony counts, remains to be seen.

While Trump has claimed he’s worth over $10 billion, estimates by Forbes and Bloomberg place his wealth between $2.6 billion and $3.1 billion, with liquid assets, or cash and personal assets, at around $600 million.

As Trump plans to appeal both rulings, he first must produce the funds or secure a bond within 30 days of each verdict. James stated today that if Trump is unable to pay his $355 million civil fraud fee, she is prepared to seek "judgment enforcement mechanisms in court" to seize his assets.

A GoFundMe page created by a supporter to address Trump's legal expenses has raised over $700,000 online since Friday's judgment, and on Saturday Trump unveiled a line of golden "Never Surrender" High-Top Sneakers which retail for $399 a pair.

Although federal election law prohibits Trump from using campaign funds for his personal use, the former president has used his Save America political action committee and other vehicles to pay for roughly $76.7 million in legal fees over the last two years.

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Kimberly Scott

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Sources: AP, NPR, New York Times, The Hill, NBC News

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