Donald Trump to Face Fraud, Racketeering Claims in California Class Actions. New York Fraud Case Continues

A federal judge in two California cases has swatted away Donald Trump's efforts to defeat claims of fraud, financial elder abuse and racketeering.

In San Diego last week, Judge Gonzalo Paul Curiel held that California, New York and Florida residents who were students at Trump University could proceed as a class in their claims they were cheated out of as much as $35,000 each and that Trump especially targeted senior citizens in the school's sales pitch. In a parallel case, Curiel smacked down Trump's motion to dismiss claims the school violated federal racketeering laws.

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Both rulings are potentially major blows against Trump. Class certification is a critical hurdle for plaintiffs in class action lawsuits. After losing motions to dismiss, class action defendants often choose to settle cases rather than fight on.

Trump University (so-called -- it lacked accreditation) was a for-profit enterprise started in 2005, now operating as Trump Entrepreneur Initiative. Promotional letters "From the Office of Donald J. Trump" proclaimed:

If you're serious about making money and safeguarding your future, learn to invest in real estate. Trump University will teach you how. We'll give you the best training and the confidence to succeed. If you think you've got what it takes to be my next Apprentice, come prove it to me and my team.

The letters closed with "See you at the top!" and were signed, "Donald J. Trump, Chairman, Trump University." (Trump has since tried to distance himself from the school, arguing that the name is simply a "brand.") According to the students in the California case, however:

Trump University was represented as providing a year-long real estate education and mentorship, when in actuality, it was providing only a three-day long infomercial, designed to confuse, rather than educate, its students, and to persuade them to purchase even more Seminars.

The orders in the California cases came just weeks after Trump tweeted of a "tremendous victory" in a similar case in New York, where Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is also suing the belligerent billionaire for defrauding the school's students, seeking to recover $40 million in damages on their behalf.

Trump, who has claimed Schneiderman's action is politically motivated, boasted that the AG "got his ass kicked by Trump!" But in fact, while New York State Supreme Court Justice Cynthia Kern dismissed some of the claims, she authorized the case to go forward.

Fire Ant -- an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes-fatal sting -- covers public affairs, the environment and culture in Palm Beach County and elsewhere. Got feedback or a tip? Contact Fire.Ant@BrowardPalmBeach.com.

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