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Donald Trump ordered to pay $355M, barred from NY business in civil fraud case

A New York judge ordered that former President Donald Trump pay $355 million — and temporarily banned him from doing business in the state where he made his name — after finding Friday that he inflated his net worth by billions to dupe banks and insurers over the course of a decade.

Trump, 77, will be barred from serving as an officer or director of any company in New York for three years, under the ruling from Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron.

If it withstands an inevitable appeal, the decision could cause Trump to be stripped of control over Midtown’s Trump Tower and his other iconic New York properties.

Engoron also issued a two-year New York business ban against Trump’s two eldest sons and ordered them to pay $4 million each.

Trump lawyer Alina Habba called the ruling “manifest injustice” and said she was confident it would be overturned on appeal, thereby putting an “end this relentless persecution against my clients.”

“If this decision stands, it will serve as a signal to every single American that New York is no longer open for business,” she said.

The statement was echoed by Clifford Robert, the attorney for Eric and Donald Trump Jr., who called the ruling “a gross injustice.”

Another Trump attorney, Chris Kise, added: “The Court today ignored the law, ignored the facts, and simply signed off on the Attorney General’s manifestly unjust political crusade against the front-running candidate for President of the United States.”

The decision capped a three-month civil trial that put a dent in Trump’s carefully groomed image as a mogul who grew his father’s company into one of the world’s most famous real estate brands before entering politics.

It also delivered a fresh financial blow to the 2024 Republican presidential front-runner just weeks after he was slapped with an $83.3 million jury verdict in a defamation damages case in Manhattan federal court.

Trump propped up his business between 2011 and 2021 by goosing up the value of assets like his namesake Midtown tower and Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida on financial filings as if he lived in a “fantasy world,” Engoron wrote in a scathing pre-trial ruling.

Trump’s Big Apple penthouse and palatial Palm Beach estate were among more than a dozen properties he regularly overvalued to secure cushy interest rates that saved the Trump Organization hundreds of millions of dollars, according to accountants and real estate appraisers whom New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office called to the stand.

Trump’s business falsely claimed in the filings that the ex-president’s triplex at Trump Tower was 30,000 square feet — rather than its true size of 11,000 square feet, trial evidence revealed.

The company used the phony figures to pump up the pad’s value to $327 million in 2015 — more than four times the $80 million the company claimed the apartment was worth just four years earlier.

Trump’s tax broker also admitted in 2020 that Mar-a-Lago had a “market value” of just $27 million — even if someone would likely pay far more than that to buy it as a private home — because Trump instead called it a “social club” to score tax breaks.

Trump’s business nonetheless valued the property at $517 million on a financial filing, evidence revealed.

His former “fixer” Michael Cohen also testified that the 45th president strongly implied — speaking “like a mob boss” — that Cohen and ex-Trump Org financial honcho Allen Weisselberg should “reverse-engineer” the values of Trump’s holdings to meet his desired net worth goals.

“He would say, ‘I’m actually not worth $4.5 billion, I’m really worth more like 6 [billion],” Cohen testified during the Manhattan Supreme Court trial.

Trump, whose 1987 book “The Art of the Deal” helped build his reputation as a savvy negotiator, “thought he could get away with the art of the steal,” James said when she announced her September 2022 suit against Trump, his adult children, his business and executives Weisselberg and Jeffrey McConney.

Weisselberg and McConney were each permanently barred from holding top business office in New York, with the former also ordered to pay $1 million by Engoron.

In his ruling, the judge ripped Trump’s lack of remorse for not admitting his mistakes by quoting English poet Alexander Pope’s famed line, “To err is human, to forgive is divine” — concluding that the ex-president and other defendants were “of a different mind.”

“After some four years of investigation and litigation, the only error (‘inadvertent,’ of course) that they acknowledge is the tripling of the size of the Trump Tower Penthouse … Their complete lack of contrition and remorse borders on pathological,” Engoron wrote.

“They are accused only of inflating asset values to make more money. The documents prove this over and over again,” he continued.

“This is a venial sin, not a mortal sin. Defendants did not commit murder or arson. They did not rob a bank at gunpoint.

Donald Trump is not Bernard Madoff. Yet, defendants are incapable of admitting the error of their ways,” the judge wrote.

“Instead, they adopt a ‘See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’ posture that the evidence belies.”

The AG’s Office had urged Engoron to order the defendants to pay back $370 million reaped through “ill-gotten” interest rate perks and property deals, plus interest.

Testimony at the trial lasted for 11 weeks and featured the former commander-in-chief and kids Eric, 39, Ivanka, 42, and Donald Jr., 45, all taking the witness stand.

Trump’s lawyers argued that he should be cleared because all aspects of real estate valuation — including the square footage of an apartment — are inherently “subjective.”

The tripling of the size of his penthouse was merely a harmless “error in calculation,” one defense witness claimed.

Trump and his adult children also tried to pass off the blame for any inaccuracies contained in company financial filings to the accountants and lawyers who compiled them.

The ex-president took the stand in November and argued that the banks didn’t actually rely on the financial statements before deciding to lend him money. But he acknowledged that he helped assemble the documents.

“If somebody would ask me for an opinion, I would give it to them,” he testified, adding, “I think I’ve shown I know more about real estate than other people.”

His lawyers said the banks benefited from the loans and were all paid back in full. Even if the statements did include “errors,” James had weaponized a state fraud law — which doesn’t technically require someone to be “harmed” — to pursue “victimless” crimes, they claimed.

Yet the GOP presidential candidate’s legal arguments were at times overshadowed by his attacks on Engoron and James in rants from the witness stand, the courthouse hallway, and on social media.

The 11-week trial was marked by several clashes between Trump and Justice Arthur Engoron, who ordered the former president to pay $355 million.AP


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