President Donald Trump's three eldest children were deeply involved in a scam promoted on "The Apprentice" reality TV show, according to a lawsuit filed by four former clients.
The group filed an amended complaint Thursday that expanded fraud claims against Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump related to the ACN Inc. marketing firm they endorsed, reported the Detroit News.
The president's children appeared repeatedly with ACN co-founders on the NBC television show, as well as in social media and other promotional materials, according to the lawsuit that was originally filed in October.
The four plaintiffs, who say they paid tens of thousands of dollars for bogus marketing opportunities, seek to remain anonymous to avoid backlash from the president.
The Trump family received millions of dollars in secret payments from 2005 to at least 2015 to promote ACN to potential customers who hoped to get rich selling a "doomed" desktop video phone service.
"Trust me, it’s changing everything," Trump said, according to one of the plaintiffs. "The absolute truth is that this technology will be present in every home within the next several years.”
The video phone, however, could connect calls only between other ACN customers and was quickly overtaken by Skype and the development of smart phones.
The lawsuit blames shows like "Celebrity Apprentice" for making Trump and the products he endorsed, including ACN, falsely appear to be more valuable.
Trump's children exploited his TV celebrity to promote a company they knew was ripping off customers, the former investors say.
“Defendants concocted a further scheme to use the rehabilitated Trump brand, their national celebrity, and their platform, as well as their casual willingness to make false and misleading statements, to defraud consumers who were inspired by Trump’s apparent wealth and success,” the plaintiffs argued in the complaint.
“In the eyes of the victims, defendants and ACN legitimized each other through their cross-branding in these appearances,” the complaint adds.
The complaint singles out Ivanka Trump, who boasted in her book that the family's investment partners "love the fanfare and the positive spillover" that comes from doing business with her celebrity businessman father.
The Trumps have asked U.S. District Judge Lorna Schofield to dismiss the complaint, and their lawyers have claimed the president had nothing to do with any alleged fraud.
Although he served as a celebrity spokesman for the company for nearly a decade before launching his presidential bid, lawyers say Trump never owned or controlled the company.