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Trump sues over Fla. casino deal

Donald Trump has filed a lawsuit against the Cordish Co. of Baltimore and its partners in an Indian casino project in Florida, claiming the developers fraudulently represented themselves as Trump associates to land the lucrative deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Trump spent three years and "great expense" trying to negotiate a casino development deal with the Seminole Tribe, but was told by former confidant Richard T. Fields that such a deal "would not be possible," according to the lawsuit. Then, the lawsuit alleges, Fields left Trump's organization and formed a partnership with Cordish Co. officials David S. Cordish and Joseph Weinberg, who conspired to mislead the Seminole Tribe by creating the impression that Trump was still behind their development efforts.

The Cordish team later negotiated contracts to build Hard Rock Hotel and Casino complexes on Seminole reservations in Tampa and Hollywood, Fla., that are estimated to earn the developers $1.3-billion over the next decade.

Cordish, who was out of the country Wednesday, issued a statement denying the claims in the lawsuit as a "ludicrous work of fiction," and said the suit had been filed in the name of a Trump company "that is literally in bankruptcy." Trump's hotel and casino company, which includes three resorts in Atlantic City, N.J., and casino operations in Indiana and California, filed for bankruptcy reorganization in November.

"The defendants will not only completely prevail in the litigation, but will also recover substantial damages against Donald Trump," said the statement, issued on behalf of Cordish and Weinberg through the firm's lawyer in Baltimore.

A spokesman for Fields said Trump abandoned the Seminole project voluntarily and called the lawsuit "baseless and without merit." He said Fields is preparing a counterclaim against Trump.

The lawsuit, filed in Broward Circuit Court, seeks unspecified damages. But Trump's attorney said the veteran casino developer thinks he is entitled to all of the profits that Cordish and Fields stand to earn from the Seminole Tribe deal. He also said Trump hopes to renew his old relationship with the Seminoles and replace Cordish as the tribe's casino partner.

Cordish is regarded as one of the country's premier developers of urban entertainment projects, but had never built an Indian casino before the Seminole project. In his lawsuit, filed late last month but which the defendants had not seen until recently, Trump suggested that their lack of experience is apparent.

A preliminary IRS ruling last month invalidating the tax-exempt bonds issued to build the Hard Rock complexes _ a move that could force the tribe to compensate the federal government for about $233-million in lost taxes _ is evidence of the Cordish team's "incompetence and inexperience" with such deals, the lawsuit says.

"We would expect that we would be entitled to any of the profits that Fields and Cordish have arranged. That's essentially what this is all about," said Robert I. Reardon Jr., a Connecticut attorney representing Trump.

"And I would think that the tribe might reconsider its decision to go with the Cordish Co., given what's happened to the tax-exempt bonds they arranged to finance the facilities," Reardon said. "I think it shows they don't have the experience necessary for these kinds of very complicated Indian development deals."

Trump, who is busy planning his third wedding to Slovenian model Melania Knauss, declined to comment.