New York, USA – In a significant moment during the closing arguments of Donald Trump’s fraud trial, the judge interrupted proceedings to ask the New York attorney general’s lawyer how the alleged fraud compared to Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron posed the question, seeking to understand the scale of the fraud being alleged in this case. The lawyer for the attorney general’s office responded by saying that while the fraud was smaller in terms of the number of people affected, both cases demonstrated a sense of entitlement.
Throughout the three-month trial, Justice Engoron made it clear that he prioritizes enforcing the law over enforcing morality. However, he acknowledged that cases like this may warrant considering ethical aspects. Kevin Wallace, one of the lead lawyers representing New York Attorney General Letitia James, highlighted the smaller number of victims in Trump’s fraud compared to Madoff’s scheme, which defrauded over 24,000 investors. Wallace also emphasized the significance of the dollar amounts involved in Trump’s case.
Letitia James contends that Trump inflated his net worth by as much as $3.6 billion annually through falsified financial statements sent to banks over a decade. While it is acknowledged that the scope of Madoff’s and Trump’s frauds differs, Wallace raised the question of whether both fraudsters shared a sense of entitlement. He argued that if someone is wealthy enough, they believe they can get away with their actions.
Wallace also addressed Trump’s defense, stating that it relies on claims that have already been rejected by the judge or dismissed on appeal. These claims include arguments about subjectivity in valuations, Trump’s wealth, and the repayment of loans. The trial testimony revealed a conspiracy led by Trump to inflate his net worth, according to Andrew Amer, another assistant attorney general.
Justice Engoron intends to deliver a verdict by the end of January. The attorney general seeks $370 million in financial penalties and a permanent ban on Trump running a business in New York. Additionally, there are requests for shorter bans on his ability to buy or sell real estate in the state. Engoron previously found, based on pre-trial evidence, that Trump engaged in persistent fraud, and he ordered the dissolution of Trump’s New York business charters and the sale of impacted assets.
While the penalty remains stayed on appeal, it may signify the potential demise of the Trump Organization, the former president’s real estate and golf resort empire. As the trial nears its conclusion, the question of whether Trump’s alleged fraud compares to Madoff’s Ponzi scheme remains at the forefront, raising moral and legal considerations.