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Trump Scammed Inexperienced Investors Through Endorsement Deals, Lawsuit Claims

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In 2014, a financially struggling hospice caregiver in California decided to invest in a video phone marketing company by the name of ACN.

She knew little about business and even less about telecommunications, but a video heavily featuring Donald Trump’s endorsement of the company as “one of the best businesses” played at an ACN “training event” she attended allayed her fears.

The woman bought in, paying ACN a $499 “registration fee” to join the company, then forking over thousands more to attend “training events” all over the country over the next two years. 

Trump photos and the Trump video featured heavily in every seminar and twice-monthly meetings ― a fixture seemingly designed to ease questions of legitimacy and coax members to continue forking over cash. (For the thousands she put in, by the time the woman quit ACN, she had got back just $38.)

And according to a lawsuit filed in federal court in Manhattan on Monday, ACN, along with two other Trump-endorsed “business opportunities,” amounted to little more than predatory schemes that deliberately preyed on inexperienced, financially distressed investors. The suit, filed on behalf of four people who lost money in the get-rich-quick schemes, seeks class action status on behalf of thousands of similarly treated individuals. 

Copies of the Trump University's <i>How to Build Wealth</i>&nbsp;at a Barnes &amp; Noble store in&nbsp;2005 in New York City.


Scott Gries via Getty Images

Copies of the Trump University’s How to Build Wealth at a Barnes & Noble store in 2005 in New York City. A lawsuit has accused Donald Trump and the Trump Organization of defrauding investors.

The lawsuit claims ACN secretly paid Trump millions of dollars for his endorsement (Trump claimed in his ACN promo that his endorsement was “not for any money”) in exchange for his falsely portraying ACN and several other schemes as legitimate business opportunities.

In addition to ACN, the suit mentions the Trump Network, which peddled bogus “personalized” vitamin regimens, and the Trump Institute, which, like the similarly legally embroiled Trump University, charged attendees as much as $35,000 to attend multiday seminars on Trump’s real estate “secrets,” as examples of other similar schemes. (The Trump Institute also reportedly plagiarized some of its course materials and received an F rating from the Better Business Bureau.) 

The suit describes the Trump endorsements together as “a pattern of racketeering activity.”

Donald Trump, the Trump Organization, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump are listed as co-defendants in the suit.

“The Trumps conned each of these victims into giving up hundreds or thousands of dollars ― losses that many experienced as devastating and life altering,” the suit claims. “Surely the Trumps dismissed these amounts (and the lives they wrecked) as trivial. But by defrauding so many for so long, the Trumps made millions.”

In a statement to The New York Times, which first reported the story, the Trump Organization dismissed the suit as a “completely meritless” attempt to push a political agenda:

Read the full 160-page filing, below:



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Here Are Some Of The Most Outrageous Perks Cities Offered Amazon

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Did Amazon successfully trick cities and states around the country into a bidding war that gave it leverage to negotiate with the two cities ― New York City and Arlington, Virginia ― it planned to launch in all along?

The company will probably never say, but the range of perks that so many places offered hints at just how much control Amazon, a company headed by the richest man in the world, wielded in this year-long game. 

Not all governments have released the details of their bids, but those that have showed just how much they were willing to put on the line. Aside from the billions in tax incentives most locales offered, here’s a look at five of the most outrageous things governments brought to the table ― often at the expense of taxpayers. 

Free Pets, Hotel Rooms, Aquarium Memberships And More

Dallas is perhaps the best instance of a city’s willingness to sweeten the deal with extravagant perks, offering up taxpayer dollars to provide free things to Amazon employees. 

That offer included free one-year memberships to the Dallas Zoo, Dallas Children’s Aquarium, Dallas Arboretum, Texas Discovery Gardens and the Trinity River Audubon Center for any employee hired between 2019 and 2021, and waived pet adoption fees at the Dallas Animal Services adoption center for Amazon employees until 2022. 

One of the pricier perks offered was an estimated $1.5 million in free rides on “shuttles, pedicabs, courtesy carts, or other quick transit solutions” to help HQ2 employees get around while the city improves its transit system. 

Additionally, Dallas offered the company 2,000 free nights at a city-owned hotel and 100 free days of event space. 

Renaming Public Property For Amazon

The state of Georgia said Amazon would have the opportunity to rename streets around a future campus in Atlanta.

Suggestions included Amazon Lane, Alexa Way, Prime Place and Kindle Rd. 

“Simply put, Atlanta has a long history of Amazon love,” the state said in its attempt to woo the company.

It also promised to explore the possibility of turning one of Atlanta’s MARTA transit cars into a vehicle for transporting Amazon products around the metropolitan area. 

Notice If The Media Is Looking Into Amazon

It wasn’t just the helicopter landing pad that helped Virginia win over a slice of the new Amazon headquarters. As part of its offer, the state will notify the company within two days of receiving any Freedom of Information Act requests about Amazon “to allow the Company to seek a protective order or other appropriate remedy.”

FOIA requests are often filed by members of the media to obtain previously unreleased information or documents controlled by the U.S. government. For example, it was through a FOIA request that The Daily Beast revealed last month that Amazon had met with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to pitch the agency on its facial recognition surveillance technology.

A Say In How Taxes Would Be Spent

Fresno, California, offered Amazon the chance to be the “ultimate corporate citizen,” as Fresno Mayor Lee Brand described it to KQED, by letting Amazon have joint say with the city in how the taxes the company paid would be spent. 

The deal would have established a so-called Amazon Community Fund for Amazon’s tax money to be managed by five people: two elected officials, one community representative and two Amazon appointees.

“I’ve never seen a proposal to give a company formal control,” Greg LeRoy, executive director of the economic development nonprofit Good Jobs First, told KQED. “That’s really off the charts.”

A ‘Blank Check’ For Transit Projects

While many bids include promises to make transit easier for HQ2 employees, Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn took things a step further in the state’s bid.

“Our statement for HQ2 is we’ll provide whatever is necessary to Amazon when they need it,” he told state senators during a hearing on his department’s budget. “For all practical purposes, it’s a blank check.”

That amount, he continued, “could be more or could be less” than the $2 billion in unspecified transportation upgrades already laid out in the state’s formal bid. 



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Here Are Some Of The Most Outrageous Perks Cities Offered Amazon

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Did Amazon successfully trick cities and states around the country into a bidding war that gave it leverage to negotiate with the two cities ― New York City and Arlington, Virginia ― it planned to launch in all along?

The company will probably never say, but the range of perks that so many places offered hints at just how much control Amazon, a company headed by the richest man in the world, wielded in this year-long game. 

Not all governments have released the details of their bids, but those that have showed just how much they were willing to put on the line. Aside from the billions in tax incentives most locales offered, here’s a look at five of the most outrageous things governments brought to the table ― often at the expense of taxpayers. 

Free Pets, Hotel Rooms, Aquarium Memberships And More

Dallas is perhaps the best instance of a city’s willingness to sweeten the deal with extravagant perks, offering up taxpayer dollars to provide free things to Amazon employees. 

That offer included free one-year memberships to the Dallas Zoo, Dallas Children’s Aquarium, Dallas Arboretum, Texas Discovery Gardens and the Trinity River Audubon Center for any employee hired between 2019 and 2021, and waived pet adoption fees at the Dallas Animal Services adoption center for Amazon employees until 2022. 

One of the pricier perks offered was an estimated $1.5 million in free rides on “shuttles, pedicabs, courtesy carts, or other quick transit solutions” to help HQ2 employees get around while the city improves its transit system. 

Additionally, Dallas offered the company 2,000 free nights at a city-owned hotel and 100 free days of event space. 

Renaming Public Property For Amazon

The state of Georgia said Amazon would have the opportunity to rename streets around a future campus in Atlanta.

Suggestions included Amazon Lane, Alexa Way, Prime Place and Kindle Rd. 

“Simply put, Atlanta has a long history of Amazon love,” the state said in its attempt to woo the company.

It also promised to explore the possibility of turning one of Atlanta’s MARTA transit cars into a vehicle for transporting Amazon products around the metropolitan area. 

Notice If The Media Is Looking Into Amazon

It wasn’t just the helicopter landing pad that helped Virginia win over a slice of the new Amazon headquarters. As part of its offer, the state will notify the company within two days of receiving any Freedom of Information Act requests about Amazon “to allow the Company to seek a protective order or other appropriate remedy.”

FOIA requests are often filed by members of the media to obtain previously unreleased information or documents controlled by the U.S. government. For example, it was through a FOIA request that The Daily Beast revealed last month that Amazon had met with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to pitch the agency on its facial recognition surveillance technology.

A Say In How Taxes Would Be Spent

Fresno, California, offered Amazon the chance to be the “ultimate corporate citizen,” as Fresno Mayor Lee Brand described it to KQED, by letting Amazon have joint say with the city in how the taxes the company paid would be spent. 

The deal would have established a so-called Amazon Community Fund for Amazon’s tax money to be managed by five people: two elected officials, one community representative and two Amazon appointees.

“I’ve never seen a proposal to give a company formal control,” Greg LeRoy, executive director of the economic development nonprofit Good Jobs First, told KQED. “That’s really off the charts.”

A ‘Blank Check’ For Transit Projects

While many bids include promises to make transit easier for HQ2 employees, Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn took things a step further in the state’s bid.

“Our statement for HQ2 is we’ll provide whatever is necessary to Amazon when they need it,” he told state senators during a hearing on his department’s budget. “For all practical purposes, it’s a blank check.”

That amount, he continued, “could be more or could be less” than the $2 billion in unspecified transportation upgrades already laid out in the state’s formal bid. 



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New York Taxpayers Are Buying A Helipad For The Richest Man In The World

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New Yorkers, take note: While you commute in dilapidated and decaying subways, know that Jeff Bezos will be able to rely on a more upscale mode of transit to get to Amazon’s forthcoming New York City headquarters in Queens.

That’s because New Yorkers are buying a helipad for Bezos, the richest man in the world.

Buried in the 32-page, $1.5 billion agreement between New York’s various economic development agencies and Amazon is a promise by the city to help the company secure rights to a helipad on, “or in reasonable proximity to,” the company’s new site in Long Island City.

(Amazon’s other recently announced headquarters, in Virginia, also includes a clause for a helipad).

For its part, Amazon agreed to limit landings on the pad to no more than 120 a year, restrict it to “corporate use” only and agree to fly “exclusively over water or the Development Sites.”

In a prepared statement Tuesday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged to make sure the area has the transportation infrastructure it needs. Lacking additional detail, however, Queens residents should brace for the chaos sure to follow an expected 25,000 Amazon employees who will be commuting to and from the neighborhood on a regular basis.



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