A major loss Tuesday in former President Trump’s New York civil fraud case raises the potential for him to lose control of some of his famed properties and ability to do business in the state.
A New York judge ruled Tuesday that state Attorney General Letitia James (D) proved core elements of her far-reaching case, narrowing the scope of the trial that is set to begin as soon as Monday.
The decision finds Trump, two of his adult children — Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. — and their businesses liable for fraud after James’s office sued them last September. They have denied any wrongdoing and vowed to appeal.
Here are five things to know about Trump’s big loss:
Judge finds Trump overvalued his real estate empire
At its core, Justice Arthur Engoron’s decision found Trump committed “repeated and persistent fraud” on his financial statements, known as SFC’s, by overvaluing properties that enabled Trump’s company to rise to a worldwide brand.
“That is a fantasy world, not the real world,” Engoron wrote.
Trump listed his residence at Trump Tower on New York’s 5th Avenue at 30,000 square feet, despite it only being 10,996 square feet. It led to an overvaluation of between $114 million and $207 million, Engoron ruled.
“A discrepancy of this order of magnitude, by a real estate developer sizing up his own living space of decades, can only be considered fraud,” Engoron wrote.
At Trump Park Avenue, also in Manhattan, Engoron ruled the former president inflated the value of various units based on the “false premise” that they were not subject to the city’s strict rent control regime. Trump’s attorneys had countered that the units could potentially become unrestricted down the road.
“However, the SFCs are required to state ‘current’ values, not ‘someday, maybe’ values,” Engoron wrote.
Engoron’s ruling went on to find that Trump, by hundreds of millions of dollars, overvalued Trump Seven Springs, located in New York’s tony Westchester County, and Lower Manhattan’s 40 Wall Street. Trump also fraudulently valued his golf courses in the U.S. and one in Scotland, Engoron ruled.
Trump plans to appeal
Trump’s legal spokeswoman said Tuesday night that the former president intends to “immediately” appeal Engoron’s ruling.
Alina Habba, a Trump spokesperson who was previously one of his attorneys in the case, called the decision “fundamentally flawed at every level” and an “affront to our legal system,” particularly calling out the court’s assessment of the former president’s Mar-a-Lago home.
“It is important to remember that the Trump Organization is an American success story,” Habba said in a statement.
Mitchell Epner, a former federal prosecutor who is now a member of Rottenberg Lipman Rich in New York City, said that the process of liquidating Trump Organization’s assets would begin within 10 days, unless an appeals court steps in.
“If this order stands, Donald Trump will see his ‘empire’ replaced by a pile of cash,” Epner said. “That cash will be the proceeds of the forced sale of the assets, less payment in full to all creditors, and an enormous tax bill.”
An emergency motion filed in New York’s Appellate Division could be seen as “soon as today,” he added.
Judge strips Trump’s business licenses
If allowed to stand, Engoron’s ruling effectively strips Trump of his ability to do business in New York.
Engoron ordered the cancellation of state business certificates filed by Trump, his two adult sons and the other defendants in the case, meaning the former president will potentially lose control of his famed New York properties.
John Moscow, a longtime financial crimes prosecutor in Manhattan, said such a step is rare and typically only occurs when owners of a company are irrevocably split.
“The purpose of the order was to keep him out of New York. He isn’t allowed to — basically, the control is being taken from him,” said Moscow, who is now senior counsel at Lewis Baach Kaufmann Middlemiss.
The parties were ordered to recommend independent receivers to manage the “dissolution of the canceled LLCs.” Moscow noted that whoever is selected will have to grapple with trying to collect the assets while Trump — who regularly attacks individuals involved in his legal battles — proceeds on appeal.
“Trump still has sufficient clout to cause people to threaten death and injury to people by what he says on social media,” Moscow said. “It’s going to be a fascinating job, as to who wants that.”
Prosecutors’ attempt to recover a $250 million penalty in the case won’t be determined until trial.
Trump, sons lash out at Mar-a-Lago valuation
Trump, his adult sons and their attorneys have responded to the ruling by taking aim in particular at Engoron’s findings about Mar-a-Lago.
Engoron noted that the county assessor had appraised Mar-a-Lago’s market value at between $18 million and $27.6 million, while Trump simultaneously valued the property between $426 million and $612 million.
In a Truth Social post Tuesday, Trump said Mar-a-Lago was the “most spectacular and valuable property” in Palm Beach, Fla., and could be worth “almost 100 times” the county’s valuation.
“Mar-a-Lago is speculated to be worth we’ll over a billion dollars making it arguably the most valuable residential property in the country. It is all so corrupt and coordinated,” Eric Trump wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.
“If Mar-a-Lago is worth $18 million… I’ll take 10 please!!!” Donald Trump Jr. posted.
Engoron pointed to agreements Trump signed in exchange for tax benefits limiting how he can use the property, including limitations on dividing the property or using it for any purpose other than a social club.
Engoron rejected Trump’s arguments that he could ignore the restrictions in the valuations because he would likely be able to fight the restrictions in court.
“This argument is wholly without merit. At the time in which the defendants submitted the SFCs, the restrictions were in effect, and any valuations represented to third-parties must have incorporated those restrictions; failure to do so is fraud,” Engoron wrote.
Trump lawyers sanctioned
Engoron also granted James’s request to sanction several Trump lawyers for reiterating arguments already dismissed in court.
James’s office requested sanctions for Trump, his two adult sons and their legal team after they repeated arguments on motions to temporarily pause and dismiss the case.
“Because Defendants and their counsel were previously admonished by the Court that their conduct in raising previously-rejected arguments was frivolous and sanctionable, and because ‘sophisticated defense counsel should have known better,’ the Court should impose sanctions against Defendants and their counsel in the maximum allowable sum,” special litigation counsel Andrew Amer wrote in a Sept. 5 court filing.
In his Tuesday ruling, Engoron did not sanction Trump, his sons or any other co-defendants. But five of Trump’s lawyers were ordered to pay a $7,500 fine each.
“We are way beyond the point of ‘sophisticated counsel should have known better,’” Engoron wrote in the ruling. “We are at the point of intentional and blatant disregard of controlling authority and law of the case. This Court emphatically rejected these arguments, as did the First Department. Defendants’ repetition of them here is indefensible.”