The judge overseeing Donald Trump’s civil fraud trial may soon decide on the size and scale of the penalty against the former president.
Judge Arthur Engoron has previously indicated that he hopes to come to a decision by Wednesday, January 31, on how the former president and his real estate company, The Trump Organization, should be punished over the fraud allegations put forward by New York Attorney General Letitia James.
Trump is accused of filing fraudulent financial statements for years, which inflated the value of his properties and assets in order to obtain perks such as improved loans or tax breaks. The former president has long denied any wrongdoing and claims the case against him is a politically motivated “witch hunt.”
Ahead of the start of the civil trial in New York, Engoron ruled that Trump had committed fraud in his financial statements and that the proceedings were mainly to determine the size of the penalty, as well as six other claims, including conspiracy, falsifying business records and insurance fraud which feature in James’ lawsuit.
What Penalty Is Trump Facing?
In September 2022, James filed her lawsuit against Trump and his business following a lengthy investigation, seeking $250 million in financial penalties. In early January, James’ office argued that the former president, his co-accused and the company should pay $370 million in penalties over claims Trump’s financial statements overvalued his net worth by billions of dollars down the years.
In addition, James is seeking Trump to be barred from operating any business in the state of New York. Trump is also at risk of having his properties removed from his control.
The state is also pushing for Trump and the other defendants, which include his sons Eric and Donald Trump Jr., to be banned from applying for any loans in New York for five years and for The Trump Organization’s entities, which make up the company to be prohibited from making any commercial real estate acquisitions in New York for five years.
Engoron previously ordered Trump’s business certificates be canceled after ruling he was liable for fraud for misstating the value of his properties and assets, including his Mar-a-Lago resort and his triplex apartment in Manhattan’s Trump Tower. The business certificates ruling is currently on hold pending appeal.
Trump is also expected to appeal any further decision from Engoron in the fraud case.
Would Trump Be Able to Pay the Fine?
Trump’s estimated net worth is $2.6 billion as of October 2023, which includes $426 million in cash and liquid assets, according to Forbes. The publication said Trump would use this available cash to pay any financial penalty handed down by Engoron in the civil fraud case.
Trump has also recently been ordered by a civil trial jury to pay writer E. Jean Carroll more than $83 million for defaming the former Elle columnist in 2019 while denying that he sexually assaulted her in the 1990s.
The combined $435 million penalties in the fraud and defamation civil trials would obliterate the Republican’s liquid assets, with Bloomberg recently reporting they dip into his total net worth by as much as 15 percent.
What Has Trump Said About the Case?
Trump, the frontrunner in the Republican presidential primary, has long denied all wrongdoing and claimed James’ investigation is a partisan attempt to hinder his chances of winning the 2024 election.
Trump has also frequently maintained that his valuations of his properties such Mar-a-Lago resort, which was based on the assumption the Florida resort could be resold as selling a private residence when it can only be listed a social club, are accurate.
“Judge Engoron valued Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, at $18 Million when it was worth, according to the Top Brokers, 50 to 100 times that amount,” Trump posted on Truth Social on January 28.
“He did this in order to justify the Attorney General’s Lawsuit against me in an attempt to lower my Values, likewise, other Properties. My Financial Statement is very conservative (the exact opposite of what the Attorney General said). Everyone paid, No Victims (except me!), only SUCCESS. This Case should have been dismissed long ago. It is a Political Persecution. The State should get No Damages whatsoever!”
In a statement issued ahead of the trial’s closing arguments on January 11, James said: “Before this trial began, the Court ruled in our favor and found that Donald Trump engaged in years of significant financial fraud and unjustly enriched himself and his family.
“Throughout this trial, we revealed the full scale and scope of that fraud. I am proud of the case we presented, and I am confident that the facts and the rule of law are on our side.”