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Judge orders Trump to pay $355 million for lying about his wealth in staggering civil fraud ruling

A New York judge ordered Donald Trump on Friday to pay $355 million in penalties, finding that the former president lied about his wealth for years in a sweeping civil fraud verdict that pierces his billionaire image but stops short of putting his real estate empire out of business.

Judge Arthur Engoron’s decision after a trial in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ lawsuit punishes Trump, his company and executives, including his two eldest sons, for scheming to dupe banks, insurers and others by inflating his wealth on financial statements. It forces a shakeup at the top of his Trump Organization, putting the company under court supervision and curtailing how it does business.

The decision is a staggering setback for the Republican presidential front-runner, the latest and costliest consequence of his recent legal troubles. The magnitude of the verdict on top of penalties in other cases could dramatically dent Trump’s financial resources and damage his identity as a savvy businessman who parlayed his fame as a real estate developer into reality TV stardom and the presidency. He has vowed to appeal and won’t have to pay immediately.

Trump’s true punishment could be far costlier because under state law he is also required to pay interest on the penalties, which James said puts him on the hook for a total of more than $450 million. The amount, which would be paid to the state, will grow until he pays.

The judge made clear, however, that the Trump Organization will continue to operate, backing away from an earlier ruling that would have dissolved Trump’s companies.

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. AP

Engoron, a Democrat, concluded that Trump and his company were “likely to continue their fraudulent ways” without the penalties and controls he imposed. Engoron concluded that Trump and his co-defendants “failed to accept responsibility” and that experts who testified on his behalf “simply denied reality.”

“This is a venial sin, not a mortal sin,” Engoron wrote in a searing 92-page opinion. “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.”

He said their “complete lack of contrition and remorse borders on pathological” and “the frauds found here leap off the page and shock the conscience.”

Trump said the decision was “election inference” and “weaponization against a political opponent,” complaining to reporters at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida that he was being penalized for “having built a perfect company, great cash, great buildings, great everything.”

Source: Gulf Today