April 17, 2024

When a crime has no victims

In Other Words

The definition of a victimless crime refers to an act that is considered illegal by law but does not have an identified victim. We’re hearing a lot about this no-victim concept since Donald Trump and his sons were fined millions of dollars for committing fraud against the state of New York.

They were found guilty of overvaluing their properties for the purpose of borrowing money, then undervaluing their assets to reduce tax liabilities. The Trump Organization maintains there were no victims because they repaid all their loans in full.

For actions to be illegal, they don’t necessarily require a victim. Something as ordinary as trespassing is illegal without anyone actually being harmed. Gambling, prostitution, drug possession and public intoxication are all examples of victimless crimes. However, the law generally makes them illegal because they are all examples of activities that degrade the values of our society.

Lying about the value of one’s properties in order to borrow huge sums of money also degrades the values of our society. Most of us tell the truth when we fill out financial statements. Most of us never lie to someone giving us a loan. Most would find it hard to sleep at night if we did such a thing even once, let alone do it for decades.

There’s something about Trump’s personal and financial habits that go beyond mere aggressiveness. It seems he always tries to gain an advantage, no matter who it might harm. He continues to claim the 2020 election was stolen from him when it’s obvious he knows it was not. His penchant for lying and exaggerating never stops, even when his falsehoods are routinely fact-checked and found to be false.

Trump’s financial history has been reported on extensively. Investigative reporters, Susan Craig, David Kay Johnson and David Fahrenthold studied his financial dealings and describe a history of fraud and tax evasion over several years. Dozens of books have been written about how Trump operates.

He grossly inflated the value of his properties when applying for loans, and, apparently, those financial institutions didn’t check his numbers very thoroughly. Even if he did repay all the loans, it’s not as victimless as some are claiming.

There’s a story repeated on social media of two men owning the same amount of assets, each wanting to borrow a large sum of money to expand their business operations. One man applied for a loan and accurately listed his assets as collateral. After deciding the man’s assets didn’t provide enough security to justify the amount he wanted to borrow, the bank denied his loan. He was never able to expand.

The second man provided a financial statement that greatly exaggerated his assets. He provided false documentation that inflated his worth and made him look really good on paper.

The bank accepted his financial statement and loaned him the money. The second borrower gained an unfair advantage over the first, simply by lying.

Trump was famous for overstating the value of his properties. He had a reputation in New York as a huckster and many New Yorkers are pleased to see him finally brought to justice. He blames President Biden and the Department of Justice for his legal problems, but his fraudulent and chaotic financial history in New York was well known and well documented - long before Biden became president.

A few examples: Trump’s casinos went bankrupt. His sham Trump University was closed and he had to pay $25 million to students who had been fleeced. The Trump Charitable Foundation was dissolved because it was a slush fund for the Trump family’s own use. Constant lawsuits have always been his mode of operation.

Trump’s business and political shenanigans have been popular subjects for writers. They predicted this day would eventually come for the Trump Organization, but, unfortunately, many voters bought into the false image Trump had created for himself.

For the past two years, much of the money raised through donations has gone to his enormous legal expenses. He was required to post a $464 million bond to appeal his conviction in New York, plus another $83 million settlement to the woman he sexually assaulted and defamed.

He’s already arranged with the Republican National Committee to share some of their donors’ contributions to help pay his fines.