The attorney general for New York filed a lawsuit accusing Donald Trump’s Trump University of engaging in illegal business practices. The suit seeks restitution of at least $40 million.
The New York Times reports that the lawsuit accuses Trump, the Trump Organization and others involved with the school of running it as an unlicensed educational institution from 2005 to 2011 and making false claims about its classes in what was described as “an elaborate bait-and-switch.”
According to a statement, Eric Schneiderman, the attorney general for New York, said Trump appeared in advertisements for the school making “false promises” to persuade more than 5,000 people around the country — including 600 New Yorkers — “to spend tens of thousands of dollars they couldn’t afford for lessons they never got.”
Fox News reports that Schneiderman says many of the students who paid up to $35,000 thought they would at least meet Trump but instead all they got was their picture taken in front of a life-size picture of "The Apprentice" TV star.
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"Trump University engaged in deception at every stage of consumers' advancement through costly programs and caused real financial harm," Schneiderman said. "Trump University, with Donald Trump's knowledge and participation, relied on Trump's name recognition and celebrity status to take advantage of consumers who believed in the Trump brand."
However, Trump's attorney accused Schneiderman of trying to extort campaign contributions from the real estate mogul through his investigation of Trump. Attorney Michael D. Cohen told The Associated Press on Saturday that Schneiderman's lawsuit was filled with falsehoods. Cohen said Trump and his university never defrauded anyone.
Cohen reportedly said Trump University provided nearly 11,000 testimonials to Schneiderman from students praising the program and said 98 percent of students in a survey termed the program "excellent."
"The attorney general has been angry because he felt that Mr. Trump and his various companies should have done much more for him in terms of fundraising," Cohen said. "This entire investigation is politically motivated and it is a tremendous waste of taxpayers' money."
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State Board of Elections records show Trump has spent more than $136,000 on New York campaigns since 2010. He contributed $12,500 to Schneiderman in October 2010, when Schneiderman was running for attorney general, records show.
Andrew Friedman, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office, told The New York Times that although Schneiderman had accepted a contribution from Trump in the past, “the fact that he’s still brave enough to follow the investigation wherever it may lead speaks to Mr. Schneiderman’s character.”