For some people, the first public appearance of Chump–currently the President–was hustling applicants seeking to rent his dad’s apartments in Brooklyn and Queens. It was also his first close encounter with federal government. In 1973, the U.S. Department of Justice charged him and the family company with civil-rights violations for refusing to rent to African-Americans–contrary to the Fair Housing Act, part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. [Public Law 90-284] That helped spark a lasting reputation as a commercial sleazebag.
There is strong synergy between Chump, as commercial sleazebag, and the late Sen. McCarthy of Wisconsin (1908-1957), as self-annointed prosecutor of leftists. The late lawyer Roy Cohn (1927-1986) was attack-dog for McCarthy during the viral phase of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, not long after which McCarthy died of alcohol abuse. Before dying of AIDS and liver cancer, Cohn was attack-dog for Chump, trying in the 1970s to countersue the government as a dodge around Fair Housing charges.
Cohn failed. The countersuit was dismissed, and Chump was forced into a consent agreement. It was a taste of what became usual Chump behavior: try to blame the victims, and call them insulting names. A reporter told it this way: “As [his] Hyatt [hotel] rose, so too did the hidden hand of his attorney Roy Cohn, always there to help with the shady tax abatements, the zoning variances, the sweetheart deals and the threats to those who might stand in the project’s way.”
Exploiting the rich: The Chump reputation from the early 1970s stuck through years of turning his dad’s real-estate fortune into glitzy Atlantic City casinos and resorts. Those businesses all failed under his clumsy and greedy management. As reported in the New York Times, he cheated hundreds of people and ran down his properties, while contriving to enrich himself. Quoted by the Times: “[the family] name does not connote high-quality amenities and first-class service.”
While his gambling businesses in Atlantic City were cratering during the 1990s, Chump stiffed investors, contractors and suppliers, and he turned to almost any source of ready cash. He shortchanged his family as well, borrowing “at least $413 million in today’s money…and never fully repaid his loans.” He drove his “businesses into bankruptcy by his mismanagement…[and] pillaging.”
Exploiting the poor: A problem gambler down on his luck at exploiting the rich turned to exploiting the poor. The main angle was a string of “get rich” games, feeding off notions that the chief card-shark was immensely rich–because of secret knowledge that he could impart, for a fee. Among the better-known games, “Chump University” and later “Chump Institute” were the glitzy upper-crust.
According to a New York Times report, the “secret knowledge” imparted at Chump Institute was actually handicraft of a lawyer and legal writer from Briarcliff Manor, NY. “She said she never spoke” to Chump but “drew on her own knowledge…and a speed-reading” of Chump’s ghost-written books. According to another report, Chump University charged students $1,495 or more a course and delivered “nothing” in return: “No certification. No keys to success. Just debt.”
Bottom-feeding Chump games are described in the recent complaint beginning a federal class-action lawsuit. Chump, three of his offspring and his ongoing business are charged with exploiting poor and middle-income people by vague promises aimed at suckering them into streams of fairly small payments–around $20 to $500–in hopes of future income. Chump and alleged conspirators are charged with federal RICO violations, under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization provisions of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970. [Public Law 91–452]
Chump suckered the public by pretending to be a self-made billionaire in a television series called The Apprentice, later The Celebrity Apprentice. According to the class-action complaint, “producers candidly acknowledged that their portrayal…was pure fiction.” [Class action complaint, page 23 of 164] Chump “has a long and storied history of wildly exaggerating his net worth.” [page 26 of 164] Chump’s “apparent wealth was largely an illusion.” [page 64 of 164]
Buyer beware: The main Chump games were recruiting lower-income people into becoming product resellers, particularly for a little-known outfit called American Communications Network (ACN). [Class action complaint, page 9 of 164]. On The Celebrity Apprentice, Chump displayed and touted ACN products. Offscreen, according to the complaint, he made “false and misleading statements indicating [he] was endorsing the company because he believed the ACN business opportunity offered a reasonable probability of commercial success.” [page 10 of 164]
Hidden from viewers and recruitment targets was many millions of dollars paid by ACN to Chump and alleged conspirators, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. According to a gushing story in the Boston Globe, Chump also licensed his “brand” to a Massachusetts promoter of “diet plans, energy aids and skin care” products–using a similar game of recruiting lower-income resellers.
The class-action complaint in Jane Doe v. Trump Corp. asserts that the four individual complainants in the lawsuit who were suckered into becoming product resellers each lost hundreds to thousands of dollars to deceptive Chump games. Their occupations suggest this would not be money they could afford to lose.
“Jane Doe” — hospice caregiver
“Luke Loe” — mechanic and handyman
“Richard Roe” — fast-food sales clerk
“Mary Moe” — retail sales clerk
If the class action and the use of RICO sanctions are upheld in U.S. District Court, many other victims of Chump games stand to be identified, and punitive damages plus legal costs can be assessed. Chump and alleged conspirators might become exposed to criminal RICO sanctions, including fines and prison terms of up to 20 years.
– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, October 30, 2018
Maggie Haberman and Benjamin Weiser, Trump persuaded struggling people to invest in scams, lawsuit alleges, New York Times, October 29, 2018
Jonathan O’Connell, Trump defrauded investors in marketing scheme, lawsuit says, Washington Post, October 29, 2018
Class action complaint filed under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) provisions of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970, Jane Doe et al. v. Trump Corporation et al,, Case no. 1:18-cv-09936, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, October 29, 2018
Alexandra Hutzler, Bill Maher asks Stormy Daniels how she could ever sleep with ‘sleazebag’ Donald Trump, Newsweek, October 27, 2018
David Cay Johnston, New York Times exposed Trump’s tax fraud, Daily Beast, October 2, 2018
David Barstow, Susanne Craig and Russ Buettner, Trump engaged in suspect tax schemes as he reaped riches from his father, New York Times, October 2, 2018
Margaret Sullivan, After a stunning news conference, there’s a newly crucial job for the American press, Washington Post, July 16, 2018
David Lombardo, New York attorney general sues Trump Foundation, Albany (NY) Times Union, June 14, 2018
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James V. Grimaldi and Mark Maremont, Donald Trump made millions from multilevel marketing firm, Wall Street Journal, August 13, 2015
Justin Elliott, Donald Trump’s racial discrimination problem, Salon, April 28, 2011
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Marylin Bender, The empire and ego of Donald Trump, New York Times, August 7, 1983
Craig Bolon, Election aftermath: recovery starting, work pending, Brookline Beacon, November 9, 2016
Craig Bolon, Chump disease: political virus, Brookline Beacon, October 2, 2016
Craig Bolon, Chump No. 2 returns as anti-Semite, Brookline Beacon, July 3, 2016
Craig Bolon, Chump No. 3, plain vanilla creep, Brookline Beacon, June 16, 2016
Craig Bolon, Chump No. 3 sounds like No. 2, Brookline Beacon, June 11, 2016