Mary Trump Sues Her Uncle—the President—for Fraud

Pilar Melendez, Lachlan Cartwright
·7 min read

Mary Trump, the president’s niece whose tell-all book has roiled the Trump family, is suing the commander-in-chief and his siblings, accusing them of committing fraud in an attempt to deprive her of millions of dollars associated with the family’s real estate empire.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in a New York court and obtained by The Daily Beast, names Donald Trump, his federal judge sister Maryanne Trump Barry, and their late brother Robert Trump, in the alleged fraud and civil conspiracy.

“For Donald J. Trump, his sister Maryanne, and their late brother Robert, fraud was not just the family business—it was a way of life,” the lawsuit, first reported by The New York Times, begins.

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Mary Trump alleges in the suit that, since the '80s, Donald Trump and his siblings have “exploited” the real estate empire left by their father, Fred Trump Sr., and used “it to enrich themselves.”

The scheme, which allegedly included cheating on taxes, swindling business partners, and jacking up rents on their low-income tenants, was brought “closer to home” after Mary Trump’s father, Fred Trump Jr., died in 1981, when Mary was 16.

“Rather than protect Mary’s interests, they designed and carried out a complex scheme to siphon funds away from her interests, conceal their grift, and deceive her about the true value of what she had inherited,” the lawsuit says.

Many of the allegations in the lawsuit are similar to those made in Mary Trump’s July book, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man. The Daily Beast first broke the news of the book, which was mired in legal battles before its release.

But the lawsuit goes into further detail than the book, stating that the Trump siblings “threatened to bankrupt Mary’s interests” and “terminated the health insurance that was keeping her nephew—an infant with cerebral palsy—alive.”

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“Then they presented her with a stack of fraudulent valuations and a so-called settlement agreement, and forced her to sign. All told, they fleeced her of tens of millions of dollars or more.”

The lawsuit, which seeks to recover the millions that Mary Trump claims to have lost, details three “fraudulent schemes against Mary” that were not only illicit on their own but also “build on one another.” The schemes are detailed in three sections in the suit: “The Grift,” “The Devaluing” and “The Squeeze-Out.”

“My father died when I was still a teenager, and my uncles Donald and Robert and aunt Maryanne were supposed to be protecting me as my trustees and fiduciaries,” Mary Trump said in a statement to The Daily Beast on Thursday.

“Recently, I learned that rather than protecting me, they instead betrayed me by working together in secret to steal from me, by telling lie after lie about the value of what I had inherited, and by conning me into giving everything away for a fraction of its true value. I am bringing this case to hold them accountable and to recover what is rightfully mine.”

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Thursday in response to the lawsuit, “The only fraud committed there was Mary Trump recording one of her relatives and she really discredited herself.”

Following the unexpected death of Mary Trump’s father in 1981, Mary and her brother had no knowledge of the value of the minority interests they had suddenly acquired in the Trump property empire, the lawsuit says.

Because of her age, a lawyer named Irwin Durben, who had been part of the Trump world for years, was appointed to act as a trustee on her behalf.

According to the lawsuit, however, Durben was “irredeemably conflicted” in his role as Mary’s trustee, often siding with other family members over her own interests. He “ultimately acquiesced” to the Trump siblings in their campaign “to squeeze her out of the family business entirely,” she alleges. Durben died in 2016.

By the '90s, the lawsuit states, Donald Trump and his siblings were “maneuvering to take control” of the family’s empire while Fred Sr. then approaching his nineties, was grappling with Alzheimer’s.

His decline presented the siblings with “an opportunity to position themselves to profit from his impending death,” the lawsuit alleges. “And while at first they competed with one another—with palace intrigue reminiscent of the HBO series Succession—ultimately [they] worked together to consolidate their power and advance their own interests at the expense of everyone else, including Mary.”

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>Donald Trump and his sister Maryanne Trump Barry.</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Ed Jones/AFP via Getty</div>

Donald Trump and his sister Maryanne Trump Barry.

Ed Jones/AFP via Getty

In 1991, the lawsuit says, Donald Trump secretly enlisted Durben to draft a codicil, or supplement to a will, that gave the future president “complete control” of his father’s estate. But, after the patriarch rejected the codicil, the lawsuit claims that Maryanne, now a federal judge, “finished the job” by securing a revised will that named her and her brothers as the executors of their father’s estate.

According to the lawsuit, that newfound power allowed them to devise and perpetrate the three schemes. The schemes included allegedly siphoning value from Mary Trump’s interests to entities they already owned, depressing the value of her interests by using fraudulent appraisals and financial statements, and allegedly pressuring their niece to sign a settlement after threatening to bankrupt her interests and cancel their healthcare policy.

The schemes were all allegedly executed after 1995, when Fred Trump Sr.’s will was to be executed, and were intended to give Trump and his siblings control of the real estate empire.

In one particularly jarring example of the siblings’ grab for power, the lawsuit describes a meeting Robert Trump had with his niece at the Drake Hotel in Manhattan in 1999. Robert Trump allegedly threatened to bankrupt Mary’s interests if she didn’t comply with the siblings’ demands, stating that they would “Leave you paying taxes on money you don’t have for the rest of your lives.”

Despite the threats, the lawsuit says Mary Trump and her brother, Fred Trump III, continued to fight the family. On March 23, 2000, the siblings filed a court challenge to their grandfather’s will. But, according to the latest lawsuit, it only “ratcheted up the pressure” from her aunt and uncles.

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The lawsuit states that, in “an act of unfathomable cruelty,” the family cut off health insurance payments to Mary Trump, at Maryanne’s suggestion. Eventually, as Mary Trump’s legal fees and the familial pressure began to grow, Donald Trump and his siblings “exploited the opportunity to squeeze [Mary] out of her interests altogether” by telling her they would not resolve the dispute unless she relinquished her interests.

Even then, the siblings still provided their niece with false financial statements and “valuations riddled with deliberate falsehoods” in an attempt to drive down the amount they had to pay to buy her out.

“Through each of these schemes, [the siblings] not only deliberately defrauded Mary out of what was rightfully hers, they also kept her in the dark about it—until now,” the lawsuit states.

Bitter splits within the Trump family have only deepened since Donald Trump became president. Robert Trump, who died in August, sued Mary Trump to stop the publication of her book, which sold more than one million copies in its first week.

The president called his niece “unstable.” In turn, Mary Trump, a clinical psychologist, released portions of secret recordings she made in 2018 and 2019 with Maryanne Trump Barry, in which the federal judge is heard criticizing the president.

Among the 15 hours of tape, Trump Barry said the president “has no principles” and “is cruel.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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