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Trump, sons face civil fraud trial in New York, posing threat to business empire

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Former US President Donald Trump, alongside his sons Eric and Don Jr., is set to appear in a New York courtroom today as a pivotal civil fraud trial gets underway. This high-profile case not only places Trump’s business empire in jeopardy but also looms over his ambitions to return to the White House.

Judge Arthur Engoron, presiding over the case, has already ruled that Trump and his sons engaged in fraudulent practices by inflating the value of real estate and financial assets belonging to the Trump Organization over an extended period.

New York Attorney General Letitia James is seeking substantial penalties, amounting to $250 million, and aims to remove Trump and his sons from managing the family’s sprawling business empire.

Trump, age 77, expressed his intention to attend the trial on Monday morning, vehemently defending his reputation via his Truth Social platform. He denounced the entire case as a “sham.”

This civil trial is just one of several legal battles Trump faces in the coming months. He is slated to appear before a federal judge in Washington to address charges related to his alleged attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in favor of Joe Biden. Subsequently, Trump will return to a New York state court to confront criminal charges linked to hush money payments, and later, a Florida federal court will host proceedings regarding alleged mishandling of classified documents during his post-presidential period. Additionally, Trump faces state charges in Georgia concerning his alleged efforts to manipulate the state’s 2020 election results.

In the New York civil case, Judge Engoron found that Trump, his two eldest sons, and other Trump Organization executives engaged in a systematic deception of tax authorities, lenders, and insurers. This scheme reportedly inflated property values by a staggering $812 million to $2.2 billion between 2014 and 2021. As a result, Judge Engoron revoked business licenses for certain Trump Organization properties in New York, which could have significant implications for Trump’s business operations in the state.

Legal experts, including Will Thomas, a professor of business law at the University of Michigan, suggest that enforcing such penalties would deal a “major blow” to Trump’s ability to conduct business in New York, potentially putting flagship properties like Trump Tower on 5th Avenue at risk.

Attorney General James alleges that Trump’s own apartment in Trump Tower was fraudulently overvalued, appearing three times larger than its actual size. Moreover, the 40 Wall Street property was allegedly overvalued by $200-$300 million in financial disclosures, as per James’s complaint. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, central to the classified documents controversy, and several other Trump Organization golf clubs are also mentioned in the complaint.

This trial is expected to feature numerous high-profile witnesses, including Trump himself, former Trump Organization financial director Allen Weisselberg (previously convicted of tax fraud in a separate case), and Trump’s children Eric and Don Jr., who are likely to present their own testimonies. Notable figures like Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen, now a vocal critic, and officials from financial institutions linked to Trump’s affairs are also anticipated to testify.

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