Judge Engoron fines Trump more than $350M, bars him from running businesses in N.Y. for 3 years

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The judge who presided over a civil business fraud trial against Donald Trump on Friday ordered the former president, his sons, business associates and company to pay more than $350 million in damages and temporarily limited their ability to do business in New York.

Judge Arthur Engoron ordered the former president and the Trump Organization to pay over $354 million in damages, and barred Trump “from serving as an officer or director of any New York corporation or other legal entity in New York for a period of three years,” including his namesake company.

New York Attorney General Letitia James, who’s office brought the case, said that with pre-judgment interest, the judgment totals over $450 million, an amount “which will continue to increase every single day” until the judgment is paid.

“Donald Trump is finally facing accountability for his lying, cheating, and staggering fraud. Because no matter how big, rich, or powerful you think you are, no one is above the law,” James said in a statement, calling the ruling “a tremendous victory for this state, this nation, and for everyone who believes that we all must play by the same rules — even former presidents.”

The ruling also bars Trump and his company from applying for any bank loans for three years.

In his first public remarks after the ruling, Trump said, “We’ll appeal and we’ll be successful.”

Speaking to reporters at Mar-a-Lago on Friday night, Trump bashed the ruling as “a fine of 350 million for a doing a perfect job.” He also repeated previous attacks by calling the judge “crooked” and the attorney general “corrupt.”

Trump did not take any questions from reporters after speaking for about six minutes.

The judge’s decision is a potential blow to both Trump’s finances and persona — having built his brand on being a successful businessman that he leveraged in his first run for president. Trump is currently running for the White House for a third time. This case is just one of many he is currently facing, including four separate pending criminal trials, the first of which is scheduled to begin on March 25.

Engoron also ordered the continued “appointment of an Independent Monitor” and the “the installation of an Independent Director of Compliance” for the company.

In posts on his social media platform Truth Social, Trump called the ruling “an illegal, unAmerican judgment against me, my family, and my tremendous business.”

“This ‘decision’ is a complete and total sham,” he wrote.

During the trial, Trump and executives at his company, including his sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, attempted to blame exaggerated financial statements that were the heart of New York Attorney General Letitia James’ fraud case on the accountants who compiled them. Engoron disagreed.

“There is overwhelming evidence from both interested and non-interested witnesses, corroborated by documentary evidence, that the buck for being truthful in the supporting data valuations stopped with the Trump Organization, not the accountants,” he wrote.

No remorse

In explaining the need for a monitor, the judge cited the lack of remorse by Trump and his executives after the fraud was discovered.

“Their complete lack of contrition and remorse borders on pathological. They are accused only of inflating asset values to make more money. The documents prove this over and over again. 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,” Engoron wrote.

“Defendants’ refusal to admit error — indeed, to continue it, according to the Independent Monitor — constrains this Court to conclude that they will engage in it going forward unless judicially restrained,” he added.

The ruling also bars the Trump sons — who’ve been running the company since their father went to the White House — “from serving as an officer or director of any New York corporation or other legal entity in New York for a period of two years.” Both were fined over $4 million, plus interest, for their roles in the scheme.

Donald Trump Jr. posted on the social media site X that “We’ve reached the point where your political beliefs combined with what venue your case is heard are the primary determinants of the outcome; not the facts of the case! It’s truly sad what’s happened to our country.”

In a statement, Eric Trump called the judge “a cruel man.”

“He knows that every single witness testified to that fact that I had absolutely NOTHING to do with this case (as INSANE as the case truly is),” Eric Trump said.

He also attacked the ruling as “political vengeance by a judge out to get my father.”

 Trump attorney Alina Habba called the verdict “a manifest injustice — plain and simple.”

“Given the grave stakes, we trust that the Appellate Division will overturn this egregious verdict and end this relentless persecution against my clients,” she said in a statement.

A spokesperson for Trump Organization called the ruling “a gross miscarriage of justice. The Trump Organization has never missed any loan payment or been in default on any loan.”

High legal costs

An appeal in the case would likely take years, but Trump could have to post a bond for the full amount if he does so.

Read more: Trump faces about $400 million in legal penalties. Can he afford it?

The judgment is the second this year against Trump after he was hit last month with an $83.3 million verdict in writer E. Jean Carroll’s defamation case against him. Trump has said he plans to appeal that verdict as well, but would have to post a bond for that amount as well.

James had been seeking $370 million from Trump, his company and its top executives, alleging “repeated and persistent fraud” that included falsifying business records and financial statements. James had argued those financial statements were at times exaggerated by as much as $2.2 billion.

James contended the defendants used the inflated financial statements to obtain bank loans and insurance policies at rates he otherwise wouldn’t have been entitled to and “reaped hundreds of millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains.”

Trump had maintained his financial statements were conservative, and has called the AG’s allegations politically motivated and a “fraud on me.”

“This is a case that should have never been brought, and I think we should be entitled to damages,” Trump told reporters when he attended closing arguments in the case on Jan. 11.

Trump testimony knocked

The monthslong civil trial included testimony from Trump and his oldest children. The former president was combative in his day on the stand, blasting James as a “hack” and calling the judge “extremely hostile.”

Trump repeatedly complained about Engoron before and throughout the trial, and the judge slapped him with a partial gag order after he started blasting the judge’s law clerk as well. Trump’s complaints led to a flood of death threats against the clerk, as well as Engoron, court officials said, and Trump was fined $15,000 for twice violating the order.

Among the examples cited as fraud by the attorney general’s office during the trial was Trump valuing his triplex home in Trump Tower in New York City at three times its actual size and value, as well as including a brand value to increase the valuation of his golf courses on the financial statements, which explicitly said brand values were not included.

Another example pointed to by the attorney general clearly got under his skin — a dispute over the value of Mar-a-Lago, his social club and residence in Florida. Trump’s financial statements from 2011 to 2021 valued Mar-a-Lago at $426 million to $612 million, while the Palm Beach County assessor appraised the property’s market value to be $18 million to $27 million during the same time frame. Trump had also fraudulently puffed up the value of the property by saying it was a private residence, despite having signed an agreement that it could only be used as a social club to lower his tax burden.

Trump maintained during the trial the property was worth much, much more.

“The judge had it at $18 million, and it is worth, say, I say from 50 to 100 times more than that. So I don’t know how you got those numbers,” Trump testified, adding later that he thinks it’s actually worth “between a billion and a billion five.”

In his ruling Friday, Engoron said he didn’t find Trump to be a credible witness.

“Overall, Donald Trump rarely responded to the questions asked, and he frequently interjected long, irrelevant speeches on issues far beyond the scope of the trial. His refusal to answer the questions directly, or in some cases, at all, severely compromised his credibility,” the judge wrote.

Michael Cohen testimony ‘credible’

James’ investigation into the former president’s business began in 2019 as a result of congressional testimony from his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, who told the House Oversight Committee that Trump would improperly expand and shrink values to fit whatever his business needs were.

Cohen testified during the trial about his role in the scheme, and said while Trump didn’t explicitly tell him and then-Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg to inflate the numbers in the financial statement, he was like a “mob boss” who tells you what he wants without directly telling you.

Trump claimed Cohen’s testimony exonerated him while also painting him as an untrustworthy liar because he admitted having previously lied under oath.

In his ruling, Engoron called Cohen an “important witness” and said he found his testimony “credible.” “This factfinder does not believe that pleading guilty to perjury means that you can never tell the truth. Michael Cohen told the truth,” the judge wrote.

Former CFO ‘evasive’

Engoron was less forgiving about former Trump CFO Weisselberg, who previously pleaded guilty to carrying out tax fraud at the company.

Weisselberg’s “testimony in this trial was intentionally evasive, with large gaps of ‘I don’t remember.’”

“There is overwhelming evidence that Allen Weisselberg intentionally falsified hundreds of business records during his tenure” at the company, the judge wrote. “Weisselberg understood that his assignment from Donald Trump was to have his reported assets increase every year irrespective of their actual values. The examples of Weisselberg’s intent to falsify business records are too numerous to itemize,” he added.

The judge permanently barred Weisselberg “from serving in the financial control function of any New York corporation or similar business entity operating in New York State,” and ordered him to pay the $1 million he’s already received from his $2 million separation agreement from the company as “ill-gotten gains.”

AG initially sought less

James filed her suit seeking $250 million in damages from Trump in 2022, and the judge appointed a monitor to oversee the company’s finances that November.

In a summary judgment ruling the week before the trial started, Engoron found Trump and his executives had repeatedly engaged in fraud. The “documents here clearly contain fraudulent valuations that defendants used in business, satisfying [the attorney general’s] burden to establish liability as a matter of law against defendants,” the judge wrote, while denying Trump’s bid to dismiss the case.

Engoron summarized the Trump defense as “the documents do not say what they say; that there is no such thing as ‘objective’ value; and that, essentially, the Court should not believe its own eyes.”

The order, which Trump appealed, held that Trump’s business certificates in New York should be canceled, which could have wreaked havoc on Trump’s company and forced the sell-off of some assets.

Engoron backed off of that decision in his ruling Friday, saying the addition of the “two-tiered oversight” of the monitor and the compliance director makes that move “no longer necessary.”

Trump had complained about the summary judgment ruling while he was on the witness stand. “He said I was a fraud before he knew anything about me, nothing about me,” Trump said. “It’s a terrible thing you did.”

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