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caption: New York State Attorney General Letitia James, pictured in February, New York's Democratic Attorney General Letitia James filed a civil lawsuit on Wednesday against former President Donald Trump, saying he "falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself, to cheat the system."
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New York State Attorney General Letitia James, pictured in February, New York's Democratic Attorney General Letitia James filed a civil lawsuit on Wednesday against former President Donald Trump, saying he "falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself, to cheat the system."
Credit: AP

New York's attorney general sues Trump and his children for alleged fraud

Following a three-year investigation, New York's Democratic Attorney General Letitia James filed a civil lawsuit on Wednesday against former President Donald Trump.

"The complaint demonstrates that Donald Trump falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself, to cheat the system," James said at a press conference.

Updated September 21, 2022 at 12:13 PM ET

The lawsuit also targets members of Trump's longstanding executive team, including members of his family: Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump.

Responding to the lawsuit, Donald Trump Jr. used an expletive on Twitter next to a video of James: "The bullshit Dem witch-hunt continues!" he wrote.

During her press conference, James acknowledged she would face criticism that her lawsuit is partisan. She noted her three-year investigation of Trump "only started after Michael Cohen, his former lawyer, testified before congress about this conduct."

According to James, Trump's operation "repeatedly and consistently manipulated the value of assets" in order to win favorable loan terms from banks and to reduce tax payments.

"This conduct was all in violation of" New York state law," James said.

James is seeking roughly $250 million in penalties and also seeks to ban Trump, his children and members of their executive team permanently from operating businesses business in New York state.

The lawsuit also aims to bar Trump and his organization from buying commercial real estate in New York for five years.

This lawsuit is filed in civil court, but James also alleged that Trump's operation violated state and federal criminal laws. She said a "criminal referral" is being sent to the U.S. Justice Department.

"In short, he lied to gain massive financial benefits for himself," James said in a post on Twitter.

During the press conference, James noted that when testifying under oath during the investigation, Trump repeatedly invoked his 5th amendment rights to avoid testifying.

She also noted that prior to Wednesday's announcement, her office had rejected a settlement offer from Trump and his organization.

James detailed Trump's business practices which she claims was fraudulent, including "representing that Mr. Trump had cash on hand that he did not have," while also "egregiously" inflating the market value of his real estate holdings in New York state and in Florida.

According to James, the behavior clearly represented "fraud" and not a "mistake."

This story is developing and will be updated as more information becomes available. [Copyright 2022 NPR]