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February 25, 2017

Philly company sues over ownership of Trump Taj Mahal signs

A Philadelphia company has filed a lawsuit claiming ownership of two signs removed from the shuttered Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City.

Recycling of Urban Materials for Profit (RUMP) says after lawfully purchasing the signs and putting one set of the "TRUMP" letters up for sale on eBay, Eastern Sign Tech tried to reclaim the signs and said the sale didn’t get proper approval, causing eBay to take down the online auction.

According to the suit, filed Friday in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, two RUMP employees were driving past the casino on Feb. 16 when the "TRUMP" signs were being taken down.

RUMP specializes in marketing and recycling architectural artifacts, and the two employees saw potential value in the signs, which they thought may be thrown away.

They told an Eastern Sign employee they wanted to buy the signs. The worker told them they had been planning to dispose of the signs, adding that while driving to throw away another Trump sign the day before, he was subject to "rude gestures and insults" while traveling through the Atlantic City area, according to the suit.

President Donald Trump, the former owner of the casino, has had low approval ratings during his first month in his office, and his properties have been subject to protests since his electoral victory in November.

The Eastern Sign employee called his supervisor and got approval to sell the signs for $250 a piece, and the RUMP employees paid for them immediately, arranging for pickup of the signs, the suit claims.

After putting one of the signs up for auction on eBay, hundreds placed bids on it, driving the price up to $7,500. As media coverage of the signs increased, Eastern Sign then tried to repurchase the signs, claiming they were sold to RUMP “without authority.”

Additionally, a Taj Mahal security guard allegedly came forward and claimed the signs had been stolen, and attempted to get local police involved.

That same guard had approached the RUMP employees when they came back for pickup and was told they were buying the signs, the suit claims. The guard had wished them well at the time of pickup and told them they "had gotten a bargain," the suit says.

Because of the competing ownership claims, eBay took the online auction down, depriving RUMP of a potentially large profit, the suit claims. The company is seeking compensation in excess of $100,000, which the company says is fair market value for the signs, citing the value of Trump's name and brand.

Trump Taj Mahal was taken over by billionaire developer Carl Icahn in February 2016, two years after the casino filed for bankruptcy. The move extinguished the remaining 10 percent ownership stake then-presidential candidate Trump had left in the casino.

Icahn closed the casino in October because of a months-long workers strike over health care benefits and pensions.

Eastern Sign and Trump Taj Mahal Associates, both based in Atlantic City, are named as defendants in the suit. Attempts to reach phone numbers listed for both companies outside of business hours Saturday were not successful. An email request for comment to Eastern Sign was not immediately returned.