President Donald Trump, his company, and three of his children face a new lawsuit alleging they used the Trump name to lure vulnerable people into investment opportunities with bogus companies, according to The New York Times.
Filed in federal court in Manhattan on Monday, the lawsuit comes just days before the midterm elections, raising questions about whether its timing is politically motivated. It is being underwritten by a nonprofit whose chairman has been a donor to Democratic candidates.
The allegations take aim at the heart of Mr. Trump’s personal narrative that he is a successful deal-maker who built a durable business, charging he and his family lent their name to a series of scams.
The 160-page complaint alleges that Mr. Trump and his family received secret payments from three business entities in exchange for promoting them as legitimate opportunities, when in reality they were get-rich-quick schemes that harmed investors, many of whom were unsophisticated and struggling financially.
Along with Donald Trump and the Trump Organization, Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and Eric Trump are named in the lawsuit as well, brought by four plaintiffs who are named only by psuedonyms.
The businesses involved are “ACN, a telecommunications marketing company that paid Mr. Trump millions of dollars to endorse its products; the Trump Network, a vitamin marketing enterprise; and the Trump Institute, which the suit said offered 'extravagantly priced multiday training seminars' on Mr. Trump’s real estate 'secrets,'” The Times wrote.
Trump Organization attorney Alan Garten dismissed the lawsuit as baseless and born of a political agenda:
“This is clearly just another effort by opponents of the President to use the court system to advance a political agenda,” the spokesman said. He noted the plaintiffs’ lawyers have longstanding and deep ties to the Democratic Party and waited to file until just before the election. “Their motivations are as plain as day.”
Trump has been accused of fraudulent behavior at least twice before, most notably regarding his now-defunct Trump University.
Shortly after his election in November 2016, he agreed to pay $25 million to settle a series of lawsuits, including one by New York State’s attorney general, that alleged unscrupulous practices by Trump University, another venture that claimed to sell access to his real estate secrets. Mr. Trump settled without acknowledging fault or liability, his lawyer said at the time.
And in June, the New York attorney general’s office filed a lawsuit seeking to dissolve the Donald J. Trump Foundation, claiming the charity had engaged in self-dealing and other violations. The foundation’s lawyers called the suit a political attack.
This latest lawsuit alleges Trump harmed thousands of people with schemes involving three other companies, which it characterizes as “a pattern of racketeering activity”.
Roberta A. Kaplan and Andrew G. Celli Jr., two lawyers for the plaintiffs, said in a statement that they were not aware of “any prior case against the Trumps alleging consumer fraud on this scale.”
“This case connects the dots at the Trump Organization and involves systematic fraud that spanned more than a decade, involved multiple Trump businesses and caused tremendous harm to thousands of hardworking Americans,” the statement said.
Asked about the suit’s timing, Ms. Kaplan and Mr. Celli said their firms — Kaplan, Hecker & Fink and Emery, Celli, Brinckerhoff & Abady — had conducted a lengthy investigation and the plaintiffs were eager to file. “The case is being brought now because it is ready now,” the lawyers said.