In the ongoing $250 million civil fraud lawsuit against former President Donald Trump and his sons, a witness testified on Thursday that while the price of one of Trump’s properties was inflated, no fraud occurred.
After a month-long absence, Trump appeared in the New York courtroom, observing the legal proceedings accusing him and his sons of inflating their net worth and property values owned by the Trump Organization.
New York Attorney General Letitia James, who initiated the lawsuit and has been a regular presence in the courtroom, was notably absent from her usual front-row seat on Thursday.
Eli Bartov, a research professor of accounting at New York University’s Stern School of Business, served as a witness for Trump and had previously testified as an expert witness over 15 times.
According to eyewitness accounts, Bartov revealed that the estimated square footage of Trump’s New York penthouse was inflated to roughly three times its actual size. He pointed out that Trump had more than doubled the value of his triplex apartment on his financial statement, from $80 million to $180 million, between 2011 and 2012.
Bartov acknowledged that the triplex price was inflated but considered it an “error” commonly found in preparing a financial statement. He emphasized that there was no evidence of intentional concealment or fraudulent intent on the part of Trump and his company. If there had been a deliberate attempt to defraud someone, Bartov argued, more extraordinary efforts would have been made to hide it.
The witness ultimately blamed Trump’s external accounting firm, suggesting they failed to identify the error. Despite this, Bartov asserted that there was no evidence of accounting fraud or violations of generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP).
In a positive turn for the Trump camp, a New York appeals court ruled on Thursday to extend the stay of Judge Arthur Engoron’s order, which sought to revoke Trump’s business certificates. As a result, Trump’s businesses will be allowed to continue operating within the state.
The testimony provided by Bartov sheds light on the allegations surrounding Trump’s inflated property values. While acknowledging the errors, he argues against fraudulent intent, placing responsibility on the accounting firm. As the trial continues, further evidence and testimony will determine the outcome of this high-stakes lawsuit.