Trump appeals $355 million ruling in NY civil fraud case

By Thomson Reuters Feb 26, 2024 | 8:52 AM

By Jack Queen

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Donald Trump on Monday appealed a judge’s decision to impose $354.9 million in penalties on the former president and curtail his ability to do business in New York state for fraudulently exaggerating his net worth to secure better loan terms.

Trump asked an intermediate-level state appellate court to overturn Justice Arthur Engoron’s Feb. 16 ruling in a civil fraud lawsuit brought in 2022 by New York Attorney General Letitia James.

The penalties, along with sizable jury awards in two other civil cases, could become a drain on Trump’s cash reserves and hobble parts of his real estate empire as he pursues the Republican nomination to challenge President Joe Biden in the Nov. 5 U.S. election.

James, a Democrat, accused Trump in the lawsuit of overstating his net worth by as much as $3.6 billion in financial statements provided to banks. Trump has accused James and Engoron of political bias against him.

In addition to imposing the monetary penalties, Engoron’s decision barred Trump from running a corporation in New York or seeking loans with banks chartered or registered in the state for three years. The judge also enhanced the powers of a court-appointed financial watchdog at the Trump Organization, the umbrella entity for the former president’s business ventures.

The appeals court – formally called the Appellate Division, First Department – potentially could put the judge’s ruling on hold during an appeals process that could last a year or longer.

Trump denied wrongdoing. He is worth $2.6 billion, according to a Forbes estimate, but accounts of his worth vary greatly and it remained unclear how much cash he has on hand. Trump said in a deposition in April 2023 that he had roughly $400 million in liquid assets.

Engoron’s ruling followed a contentious three-month trial in Manhattan that began in October. It featured testimony by Trump, who conceded that his property valuations were not always accurate but said his lenders were on notice to independently verify them.

The judge also fined Trump’s sons Don Jr. and Eric $4 million each and barred them from running a New York corporation for two years. Both men have denied wrongdoing, and their lawyer has said they also will appeal.

The case is part of a maelstrom of legal troubles Trump faces – including criminal charges in four separate cases – though none have diminished his commanding lead in the race for the Republican nomination. Trump has used the cases to rally his base and raise money, telling supporters that he is being targeted for political reasons.

In one of the criminal cases, a New York judge has set a March 25 trial date for Trump on charges involving falsifying business records to conceal hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election that gave him the presidency.

Trump is also under indictment in Washington and Georgia over his efforts to reverse his 2020 election loss and in Florida over his handling of classified documents upon leaving office. He has pleaded not guilty in all four cases.

In another civil case, a jury in January found that Trump must pay writer E. Jean Carroll $83.3 million for defaming her by denying her claim that he raped her decades earlier. Trump has vowed to appeal. Another jury last year ordered Trump to pay Carroll $5 million in a separate case.

(Reporting by Jack Queen; Editing by Will Dunham and Noeleen Walder)