Maryland Judge Emily Daneker has ruled that real estate firms Westminster Management and JK2 — the latter of which was owned in large part by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner — “violated Maryland’s consumer protection laws numerous times at Baltimore-area properties by collecting debts without the required licenses, charging tenants improper fees, and misrepresenting the condition of rental units,” The Baltimore Sun reports. Daneker concluded that the Kushner firms’ violations of consumer protection laws were “widespread and numerous.”
Westminster is described as the “successor” to JK2 by the Sun. Problems under consideration in Daneker’s ruling include issues from well before Trump’s election. The new ruling emerged this week following a 2019 lawsuit from Maryland state Attorney General Brian Frosh, who alleged a slew of manipulative violations of the law on the Kushner-affiliated firms’ part — not all of which Daneker upheld. She, for instance, concluded that the companies had not, based on the case before her, “violated the law by misrepresenting their ability to provide maintenance services,” the Sun explains.
Nevertheless, there were many issues. In one particular instance of the Kushner-affiliated companies’ illegal charges to consumers, the judge observed that the “circumstances do not support a finding that this was the result of isolated or inadvertent mistakes,” because illegal fees were imposed thousands of times. Another issue is the fact that prospective tenants were repeatedly shown model apartments and then placed in units with serious structural and sanitation problems when move-in time arrived.
Overall, Daneker added that she found no evidence to support the allegation from the Kushner family business that Frosh’s case was based in political animus towards those with connections to the Trumps. As she put it:
‘The evidence does not establish differential treatment or selective enforcement based on any politically motivated basis, as opposed to motivation to protect Maryland consumers.’
As for the penalty for Daneker’s finding that Kushner’s company is guilty of illegally victimizing consumers, the Sun notes that, following Daneker’s ruling, “[an] official with the Consumer Protection Division will issue a final order, which could address penalties and restitution.” It’s not immediately clear where exactly liability for the criminal conduct might fall. The Kushner family side and state authorities, if they wish, have 30 days to deliver responses to Daneker’s ruling, and there’s also an opportunity for an appeal of the eventual Consumer Protection Division order outlining consequences for those who the judge has concluded violated the law.