If you ask New York authorities, folks attending Donald Trump's investment courses might as well be buying some swamp land down in Florida.
The real-estate mogul is facing a $40 million lawsuit filed on Saturday by the New York State attorney general alleging his for-profit, unlicensed Trump Entrepreneur Institute duped people out of their money by making "false promises" about what they were getting.
Per the lawsuit filed on Saturday in New York, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman accused Trump of an "elaborate bait and switch," in which the latter purportedly used his name and rep in a series of ads to mislead consumers into signing up for a three-day $1,500 seminar that claimed they would learn investment techniques "from Donald Trump's handpicked instructor" in order to get rich.
In actuality, the attorney general said a probe revealed Trump had "little or no role" in developing the curricula, let alone selecting instructors, and that many of the seminar's claims went unfulfilled.
Per the complaint, the Institute stated, among its many purported misrepresentations, that students would earn big bucks within the first 30 days of the seminar after learning Trump's real-estate strategies, and instructors would insinuate that Trump would make a personal appearance at the seminar. Instead, students were given an opportunity to take pictures with a life-size photo of the celebrity businessman.
Schneiderman alleged instructors also used the three-day classes to "upsell" consumers to pay anywhere from $10,000 to $35,000 to join costly "Trump Elite" mentorship programs, leaving many feeling like they had been victims of fraud.
And lastly, the school—which began operating in 2005—was forced to change its original name, "Trump University," in 2010 after lacking the appropriate charter under state law to call itself a university. It also was unlicensed as an educational institution.
"More than 5,000 people across the country who paid Donald Trump $40 million to teach them his hard-sell tactics got a hard lesson in bait-and-switch," the attorney general said in a statement. "No one, no matter how rich or popular they are, has a right to scam hardworking New Yorkers. Anyone who does should expect to be held accountable."
Trump has adamantly denied the allegations, attacking Schneiderman as a "lightweight" on both Twitter and on Monday's Today show. He also suggested the lawsuit was politically motivated, accusing the AG of extorting him for campaign contributions.
"I was totally involved," The Donald told Today when asked about his behind-the-scenes role in the Institute. "I was involved to a very high degree. Obviously it's not my main business, but applications and resumes, I met with people…I had a lot to do with what they discussed."
Trump continued: "The school was terrific. It had a 98 percent approval. Harvard or the Wharton School doesn't have a 98 percent approval."
When the anchor pointed out that the latter institutions are actual universities and that the state of New York barred him from using the term, the Apprentice star said he abided by the law. He then went on to insist that those students who enrolled "knew exactly what they were doing" and, "if they listened to me, they would have made a lot of money."
When asked what evidence he had about Schneiderman targeting him for campaign funds, Trump responded by claiming the politician asked for money while his office was investigating the Trump organization.
The brash entrepreneur ended his Today phone interview sounding a conspiratorial note, insinuating that Schneiderman had met with President Barack Obama in Syracuse on Thursday, just two days before filing his suit.