Alleging a widespread effort to manipulate property valuations by former President Donald Trump, three of his children, and their eponymous company, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Wednesday her office is suing them, seeking $250 million and an end to their operations in the state.
James' office alleged in a 221-page complaint filed Wednesday that Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump, as well as others who have served as company executives at the Trump Organization engaged in a yearslong scheme to enrich themselves by inflating the values of a wide swath of properties, stretching across his international real estate empire.
"Claiming that you have money that you do not have does not amount to the art of the deal, it's the art of the steal," James said at a news conference Wednesday. She added that the investigation involved interviews with more than 65 witnesses.
During the press conference, James said she was seeking to dissolve Trump's company, but later clarified that dissolution is not among the remedies being sought by her office.
James' office is asking a judge to revoke the Trump Organization's business certificate, effectively barring it from doing business in New York. Her office is seeking to permanently bar Trump and his children named in the suit from serving as officer or director of any business entity in New York, including their family's company. It is also requesting a five-year ban on Trump and the company from acquiring real estate in New York or applying for loans from any New York-based company.
In a statement to CBS News, Alina Habba, an attorney for Donald Trump, said "today's filing is neither focused on the facts nor the law – rather, it is solely focused on advancing the Attorney General's political agenda."
"It is abundantly clear that the Attorney General's Office has exceeded its statutory authority by prying into transactions where absolutely no wrongdoing has taken place," Habba said. "We are confident that our judicial system will not stand for this unchecked abuse of authority, and we look forward to defending our client against each and every one of the Attorney General's meritless claims."
The complaint accuses the company of more than 200 instances of false asset valuations. In one instance highlighted in the complaint, James' office said Trump's company said a dozen rent stabilized apartments in Trump Park Avenue were listed on corporate paperwork as being worth more than $49.5 million. In fact, James' office said, they had been appraised at a combined $750,000.
James' office launched its civil probe in 2019 after Michael Cohen, Trump's former lawyer, testified to Congress, raising questions about whether the Trump Organization "had issued fraudulent financial statements," according to court filings related to the investigation. The initial focus of the investigation was on whether the Trump Organization inflated the valuations of assets while seeking loans and insurance coverage and deflated the value of other assets to reduce tax liability.
It grew into a sweeping probe of dozens of Trump properties and years of Trump Organization finances. Investigators for James' office examined more than a million pages of documents, according to and issued subpoenas to dozens of current and former executives working for the Trump Organization and other companies with relationships to it. Ultimately, in August, Trump and two of his children — Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. — sat for depositions after a nearly yearlong fight.
Trump invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, and refused to answer hundreds of questions.
The investigation played out as a "special proceeding," in which a New York judge presided over years of contentious disputes over subpoenas and other challenges in often public filings and hearings.
The proceedings made public developments that might otherwise have remained confidential, such as a letter sent to the company in February by its longtime accounting firm, Mazars USA, cutting ties with the Trump Organization and saying a decade's worth of its financial statements "should no longer be relied upon."
In court, attorneys for James' office described an effort to untangle finances at properties from Los Angeles to Scotland. They repeatedly said their investigation was uncovering evidence that Trump and his company "fraudulently" valued multiple assets and "misrepresented" those values to financial institutions they partnered with.
Attorneys for the Trump Organization decried the effort in hearings and filings as an unprecedented "fishing expedition."
The company repeatedly tried to halt the investigation and shield the Trumps from depositions but they were rebuffed each time by New York courts that ruled the investigation and its subpoenas were legal.
Trump and his company have repeatedly denied all allegations of wrongdoing, calling it a "witch hunt" and "a political crusade." Attorneys for Trump did not immediately reply to requests for comment.
The lawsuit comes as Trump and the company face mounting legal peril. The Trump Organization is being prosecuted in a criminal trial on Oct. 24 in Manhattan, where it will fight charges of fraud and tax evasion. The company has entered a not guilty plea in the case.
Trump is at the center of at least two federal investigations – a grand jury probe into his alleged role in the events leading up to the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol and a separate investigation into his handling of documents labeled "Top Secret" found at his home in Florida. He is also the focus of a grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia, which is investigating Trump's conduct after he lost the 2020 election.