Will Prez-Elect Trump Now Settle His Federal Racketeering Charges?

Popular Economics Weekly

Donald Trump, among his many court battles, has three civil lawsuits that accuse him, his eponymous school, the university’s former president, and an LLC behind the venture of fraud, breach of contract, false advertising and racketeering, a pattern of illegal activity — specifically mail and wire fraud — designed to defraud the public.

Judge Gonzalo Curiel, the U.S. judge overseeing two of the lawsuits against President-elect Donald Trump and his Trump University told both sides they would be wise to settle the case “given all else that’s involved,” reports Reuters.

Given that he is now President-elect, some are wondering why he doesn’t settle before the November 28 trial, which would reveal in detail that Trump University was a shell game—literally. It was a university in name only that didn’t confer degrees, for example, and Donald Trump is accused of running a criminal organization under RICO, The Federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

The latest development from a source familiar with the discussions says the White House-bound mogul’s legal team wants a global settlement that would end all three complaints, including a lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, according to the New York Daily News.

But “We are not going to settle this case out cheaply,” Patrick Coughlin, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told reporters last Thursday. So Trump’s allegedly fraudulent behavior could seriously damage his pocketbook, as well as he reputation.

The Trump University fraud trials have a 6-year history. Lawyers for the president-elect are squaring off against students who claim they were lured by false promises to pay up to $35,000 to learn Trump’s real estate investing “secrets” from his “hand-picked” instructors. 

Instead, they were lured into maximizing their credit cards in what was characterized as a classic Bait and Switch scheme. Instead of professional courses in real estate investing that were personally supervised by Donald Trump, they were handed materials copied from other courses, and taught by instructors with no record of success, or any other qualifications.

And Donald Trump walked away with $millions. The underlying civil lawsuit names Trump as a defendant and claims his now-defunct Trump University defrauded students out of $40 million in course fees. The case was first filed in 2010 and covers a class of some 7,600 students in New York, Florida and California–that included veterans, retired police officers and teachers–but Trump personally received approximately $5 million of it, despite his claim, repeated in the Time Magazine interview, “that he started Trump University as a charitable venture.”

So Trump has good reason to fear the lawsuits over Trump University: They put a lie to a central plank of his campaign. The disappointed students suing him argue that Trump is not a wildly successful entrepreneur or a canny dealmaker but rather a fraudster who made promises he couldn’t keep, said Time Magazine. The legal proceedings have already revealed the details of the Trump University scam. Thanks to an order from Curiel, they could also reveal a closely guarded secret: Trump’s net worth.

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Graph: Time Magazine

And now President-elect Trump is asking for Top-Secret clearances for his two sons and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who are being tasked to run his more than 200 business connections. No conflict of interest there? And when President, he will be in a position to appoint the next IRS Director, while his tax returns are being audited.

USA TODAY reports the overall ugly picture of his business practices that emerges goes far beyond Trump’s use of bankruptcy court, where debts can be forgiven or restructured depending on their category and type of federal bankruptcy filing. What’s most provocative about USA Today’s reporting, is how Trump has a longstanding pattern of ignoring his bills and walking away from debts owed contractors and employees.

“At least 60 lawsuits, along with hundreds of liens, judgments and other government filings reviewed by the USA Today Network, document people who have accused Trump and his businesses of failing to pay them for their work,” the newspaper wrote recently. “Among them: a dishwasher in Florida. A glass company in New Jersey. A carpet company. A plumber. Painters. Forty-eight waiters. Dozens of bartenders and other hourly workers at his resorts and clubs, coast to coast. Real estate brokers who sold his properties. And, ironically, several law firms that once represented him in these suits and others.”

It’s almost two weeks before his trial on the RICO charges is scheduled to begin on November 28. Trump probably will attempt to stall it into his Presidency, though Judge Curiel has said he is not inclined to do so. So we will get to see in more detail the sordid portrait of this man that some 60 million have elected to be our next President, or we may not, if he agrees to a settlement before then.

Either way, we hope it provides some justice to the 7,600 plaintiffs—many of whom lost valuable life savings—in chasing his con game.

Harlan Green © 2016

Follow Harlan Green on Twitter: https://twitter.com/HarlanGreen

About populareconomicsblog

Harlan Green is editor/publisher of PopularEconomics.com, and content provider of 3 weekly columns to various blogs--Popular Economics Weekly and The Huffington Post
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