April 20, 2024

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 — who has repeatedly claimed that the case is a politically motivated “witch hunt” — 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.

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 exaggerated the value of assets like Mar-a-Lago and Trump Tower on financial filings, the judge found. AP

“The frauds found here leap off the page and shock the conscience,” the jurist wrote in a 92-page ruling.

All of the defendants, including the Trump Organization and some executives, in total were ordered to pay some $364 million, which with interest included, totals $450 million, according to New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office, which prosecuted the case.

Trump lawyer Alina Habba called the ruling “manifest injustice” and said she was confident it would be overturned on appeal, thereby ending “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 judgment “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 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.

New York Attorney General Letitia James urged the judge to order Trump to return $370 million in “ill-gotten gains.” POOL/AFP via Getty Images

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 barred from holding top business office in New York for three years, and banned for life from serving in financial management roles, with Weisselberg 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.

After the ruling, James said that Trump was “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.”

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

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.

In October, Trump was forced to pay a $15,000 fine after repeatedly flouting a court order by disparaging Engoron’s chief law clerk, Allison Greenfield, who sat next to the jurist on the bench during the trial.

The penalty was levied after Trump, in a surprise hearing where he was abruptly called to the stand, claimed he hadn’t slammed Greenfield as “biased” to news cameras outside the courtroom.

Justice Engoron and his law clerk Allison Greenfield received hateful antisemitic threats after Trump’s attacks on them. AP

Engoron deemed Trump “not credible” and scolded him for breaching a narrowly tailored gag order that barred him from ripping court staff.

After Trump harangued them on social media, Engoron and Greenfield were both flooded with daily, vicious phone calls and online attacks containing “harassing, disparaging comments and antisemitic tropes,” according to a sworn affidavit from a state court officer captain.

During his testimony, Trump veered away from the facts of the case to insult the judge and argue that Engoron and James, both Democrats, were conspiring against him.

“People don’t know how good a company I built! You know why? Because people like you try and demean me and hurt me, probably for political reasons,” he fumed.

Pointing at Engoron — who, like Trump, is a Queens native — the mogul yelled from the stand, “He called me a fraud and he didn’t know anything about me!”

Trump also delivered an unsanctioned tirade from the defense table as the trial wrapped up, speaking for five minutes and ignoring the judge’s demand that he stick to describing trial evidence.

“I did nothing wrong,” Trump proclaimed. “They should pay me for what we’ve had to go through.” 

Trump used the trial as a de facto campaign headquarters, observing testimony and blasting the case afterward. Gabriella Bass

Trump was not forced to attend the trial because it was a civil case rather than a criminal one. He treated the courthouse as a de facto campaign outpost when he did appear.

Throughout the proceedings, Trump was allowed to hold impromptu press conferences in the state courthouse’s third-floor hallway — an opportunity not typically afforded to defendants facing trial.

He repeated the same mantra he’s also embraced to push back on a civil jury’s finding that he sexually abused writer E. Jean Carroll in 1996 and to answer criminal charges of conspiring to overturn an election, hiding classified documents and concealing payments to a porn star to hide a sex scandal.

Trump was not forced to attend the trial because it was a civil case rather than a criminal one. Steven Hirsch for NY Post
According to Trump, his civil suits — and the 91 criminal charges he’s facing across four states — are all part of a politically motivated scheme to bring him down. LP Media
“Everything we did was absolutely right,” he maintained in the Manhattan court’s hallway after leaving the stand in November. Steven Hirsch for NY Post
Donald Trump stands in front of the 92-story Trump International Hotel & Tower during a news conference on construction progress in Chicago. ASSOCIATED PRESS
Donald Trump poses behind the model of his latest plans to develop the West Side on August 18, 1992 in New York City. Newsday RM via Getty Images
Donald Trump standing next to a model of Twin Towers II at a news conference in 2005. AFP via Getty Images

According to Trump, his civil suits — and the 91 criminal charges he’s facing across four states — are all part of a politically motivated scheme to bring him down.

“Everything we did was absolutely right,” he maintained in the Manhattan court’s hallway after leaving the stand in November.

Describing James’ business fraud case as a “witch hunt,” Trump gestured furiously with his hands to the press scrum that court officers had pinned behind metal barricades to allow him room to speak.

“I think it’s a very sad day for America,” Trump added, before ducking away with his lawyers into a side room away from the news cameras.