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President Donald Trump with children

Then-President-elect Donald Trump, Eric Trump, left, Ivanka Trump, and Donald Trump Jr., listen during a press conference at Trump Tower in New York, N.Y. on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017. (Photo:

NY AG Sues Trump and Children Over 'Staggering' Criminal Fraud

"There aren't two sets of laws for people in this nation: Former presidents must be held to the same standards as everyday Americans," said Letitia James.

Julia Conley

This post has been updated.

New York Attorney General Letitia James on Wednesday announced that following a three-year investigation into former President Donald Trump and his real estate empire, the state is filing a civil lawsuit against the ex-president, accusing him and his family members of "staggering" fraud.

James said the probe that culminated in her 220-page legal filing in the New York State Supreme Court showed that Trump systematically overvalued his assets with the help of his children, Donald Jr., Ivanka, and Eric Trump.

"We found that Trump, his family, and the Trump Organization used fraudulent and misleading asset valuations over 200 times in 10 years on his annual financial statements," the attorney general said on social media. "These statements were then used to obtain hundreds of millions of dollars in loans and insurance coverage."

In a statement, James called the former president one of "the most egregious examples" of the kind of misconduct seen among "powerful, wealthy people" who operate "as if the rules do not apply to them."

"With the help of his children and senior executives at the Trump Organization, Donald Trump falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself and cheat the system," she said. "In fact, the very foundation of his purported net worth is rooted in incredible fraud and illegality. Mr. Trump thought he could get away with the art of the steal, but today, that conduct ends."

James called on the court to permanently prohibit Trump and his three eldest children from ever serving as officers or directors at any company in New York and from acquiring real estate in the state for five years. The attorney general is also seeking $250 million from the Trumps, saying they wrongfully gained that amount via "persistent fraudulent practices."

On social media, James noted that the former president's alleged crimes "are not victimless."

"When the well-connected and powerful break the law to get more money than they are entitled to, it reduces resources available to working people, small businesses, and taxpayers," she said.

The attorney general gave several examples of Trump's fraudulent practices, including his use of "objectively false numbers to calculate property values" like that of his triplex at Trump Tower in New York.

"Mr. Trump's own triplex apartment in Trump Tower was valued as being 30,000 square feet when it was 10,996 square feet," said James. "As a result, in 2015 the apartment was valued at $327 million in total, or $29,738 per square foot. That price was absurd given the fact that at that point only one apartment in New York City had ever sold for even $100 million."

Trump's resort in Florida, Mar-a-Lago, was also valued at $739 million "based on the false premise that it was unrestricted property and could be developed and sold for residential use, even though Mr. Trump himself signed deeds donating his residential development rights, sharply restricting changes to the property," said the attorney general's office.

The property should actually have been valued at only about $75 million.

Trump's overvaluing of his assets violated both state and federal law, James said, noting that the case is being referred to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

"There aren't two sets of laws for people in this nation: Former presidents must be held to the same standards as everyday Americans," said James.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) applauded James' extensive investigation and lawsuit and expressed hope that the U.S. Department of Justice will bring "criminal charges as well" if it sees fit.

"Allegations of repeated fraudulent acts are extremely serious," said Noah Bookbinder, president of CREW, adding that the lawsuit "alleges a systemic and recurring lawlessness, which is consistent with the lawless way that Donald Trump conducted his presidency."

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