By Sheryl Estrada
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is under fire for allegedly seeking a donation from Trump instead of seeking justice for residents who claimed they were defrauded by Trump. Veterans, laid-off workers, retired police officers, teachers and seniors living on fixed income were among those who enrolled in Trump University and claimed it was a fraud.
“I [was] never, nor was my office, investigating him. Never. I would never lie. I would never take money. I’ve been obviously devastated over this,” Bondi said in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times/Herald last week.
An Associated Press report published June 6 indicated that Bondi, who endorsed Trump in March, personally solicited the money from the presumptive Republican presidential nominee instead of joining a New York State lawsuit against the “university.”
In 2013, New York State’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a $40 million civil suit against the non-accredited, Web-based school, which operated from 2005 through 2010. It offered a series of adult-education classes with the claim that Trump’s “handpicked instructors” would teach real estate investing methods and secrets.
Many students, who paid $1,495 to $34,995 for courses, claimed no distinctive Trump methods were provided, nor were training materials and personalized instruction delivered. Many also claimed they were pressured to pay.
An Orlando Sentinel article published in 2013 indicated Bondi was deliberating taking action, until she received the donation from Trump.
The article states:
“On Sept. 14, the Sentinel quoted a spokeswoman for Bondi who said that Florida’s attorney general was studying the New York lawsuit to see whether she wanted to take action here as well.
“Three days later, on Sept. 17, Trump’s foundation cut a $25,000 check to a committee associated with Bondi’s campaign. It was one of the largest checks that the ‘And Justice for All’ committee has received.”
Marc Reichelderfer, a former Bondi campaign consultant, said her request for a donation was between August and September of 2013.
“It wasn’t just Donald Trump. She was actively campaigning for re-election and asking for support from friends and supporters,” Reichelderfer said in an interview with CNN last week.
According to AP, the money came from a Trump family foundation in apparent violation of rules surrounding political activities by charities. And thousands of pages of records indicate a “reservoir” of unhappy Trump University customers.
One of the people seeking help from Bondi wrote, “I was laid off work for the first time in my life and really need this money to support my family. $1,400 is so much money for my family.” The student was promised a refund but never received it.
Last week, Florida Democrats called for an independent investigation into Bondi’s practices.
In April, a New York judge decided the case against Trump University would go to trial. Schneiderman said in a statement, “thousands of Mr. Trump’s alleged victims have been waiting years for relief from his fraud.”
Trump and the school’s president, Michael Sexton, are expected to be called as witnesses.
Statement on our case against Trump University: pic.twitter.com/KremZXyxH7
Eric Schneiderman (@AGSchneiderman) April 26, 2016
U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel is presiding over two of the three lawsuits in San Diego against Trump University. He ordered on May 31 to unseal materials in reference to the case, which indicated salespeople were to suggest potential students “rely heavily on credit card debt or retirement funds to pay for the classes,” according to NBC News.At a campaign rally in San Diego the same day, Trump verbally attacked Curiel, who was born in Indiana, calling him a “hater” and making reference to his Mexican heritage.
Trump said, “I think Judge Curiel should be ashamed of himself. I think it’s a disgrace that he’s doing this. The judge, who happens to be, we believe, Mexican I think the Mexicans are going to end up loving Donald Trump.
This week, Trump’sattorneysfiled a motionasking Curiel to prevent videos of Trump testifying, in a deposition late last year and early this year regarding Trump University, from entering the public court record.
Trump Also Faces Fraud Claims in Florida for Separate Business
U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth Marra set the first possible trial date for August 15 in a case involving dozens of aggrieved members of the former Ritz Carlton Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida.
According to The Palm Beach Post, in a lawsuit filed in 2013, club members accused Trump of breaching their contracts when he bought the club (now Trump National Golf Club, Jupiter) in 2012 for $5 million.
They claim their memberships were canceled and owners refused to return their deposits within the time required. Court records show the deposits were worth anywhere between $41,000 and $117,000.
The Post reports attorneys representing about 60 ex-club members said at least $6 million is at stake.
A key piece of evidence in the case is a letter Trump sent to club members on Dec. 17, 2013.
According to The Post:
“In that letter, Trump said Ritz members could ‘opt in’ to his new club, in exchange for agreeing their memberships were nonrefundable. If members weren’t interested in opting in, and they remained on a club resignation list, Trump said he didn’t want them anyway.
‘You’re probably not going to be a very good club member you’re out,’ Trump wrote in the letter. ‘As the owner of the club, I do not want them to utilize the club nor do I want their dues.'”
The likely witnesses in the trial will be Trump and his son Eric, who oversees his golf operations.