Trump Tied to the Mafia? Russian Money Laundering?

YCHEM6U46AI6RNQLDSEX6F7BQU.jpgNew York Mayor Ed Koch stands between Donald Trump, left, and Roy Cohn at the Trump Tower opening in October 1983. (Sonia Moskowitz/Getty Images)

It actually appears so. As a New York builder and contractor, you can’t help but see the many connections. So many that it is undeniable. Let’s start with an article by the Washington Post that explains many of the ties. (Article can be seen here)

This would not have been news to Trump, whose early political mentor and personal lawyer was Roy Cohn, consigliere to such dons as Fat Tony Salerno and Carmine Galante. After Cohn guided the brash young developer through the gutters of city politics to win permits for Trump Plaza and Trump Tower, it happened that Trump elected to build primarily with concrete rather than steel. He bought the mud at inflated prices from S&A Concrete, co-ownedby Cohn’s client Salerno and Paul Castellano, boss of the Gambino family.
Trump moved next into the New Jersey casino business, which was every bit as clean as it sounds. State officials merely shrugged when Trump bought a piece of land from associates of Philadelphia mob boss “Little Nicky” Scarfo for roughly $500,000 more than it was worth. However, this and other ties persuaded police in Australia to block Trump’s bid to build a casino in Sydney in 1987, citing Trump’s “Mafia connections.”

But an even more accommodating laundromat came along: luxury real estate — yet another mob-adjacent field in which the Trump name has loomed large. Because buyers of high-end properties often hide their identities, it’s impossible to say how many Russian Mafia oligarchs own Trump-branded condos. Donald Trump Jr. gave a hint in 2008: “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets.”

For instance: In 2013, federal prosecutors indicted Russian mob boss Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov and 33 others on charges related to a gambling ring operating from two Trump Tower condos that allegedly laundered more than $100 million. A few months later, the same Mr. Tokhtakhounov, a fugitive from U.S. justice, was seen on the red carpet at Trump’s Miss Universe pageant in Moscow.

Obviously, this doesn’t make Trump guilty of anything but when it comes to the mafia, things often that look fishy are. There’s more. Trump’s wiseguy persona comes from Queens where the mafia is notorious. Much of his language is adapted from there. From a Newsweek article seen here:

To be sure, Trump’s upbringing in Queens, where the Mafia was ubiquitous, helped form his wiseguy persona. So did an apparent behavioral disorder that caused him to buy switchblades and start fights in school. But it’s also evident that by the time he was 30, the future president was on the FBI’s radar as someone the Mafia might turn to in a pinch. And by the time he was 70, with a business trajectory studded with mobsters, it should’ve come as no surprise that he was paying hush money to women, allegedly offering a secret hotel deal to Vladimir Putin, calling his longtime former lawyer Michael Cohen a “rat” or denouncing prosecutors for pressuring his associates to “flip.”

This was the life he had chosen.

Some of Cohn’s Mafia clients controlled New York’s construction unions, whose blessings Trump needed to complete his projects. So he “hired mobbed-up firms to erect Trump Tower and his Trump Plaza apartment building in Manhattan, including buying ostensibly overpriced concrete from a company controlled by Mafia chieftains Anthony ‘Fat Tony’ Salerno and Paul Castellano,” Pulitzer Prize winner David Cay Johnston wrote in Politico in 2016. Village Voice investigative reporter Wayne Barrett, who chronicled Trump’s deals in books and articles through the years, wrote that Trump probably met Fat Tony through Cohn. “This came at a time when other developers in New York were pleading with the FBI to free them of mob control of the concrete business,” Johnston wrote.

One benefit of such connections was that workers tearing down the Bonwit Teller building where Trump Tower was planned could take allegedly illegal shortcuts around strict city regulations for disposing of construction waste. According to a Newsweek source who asked not to be identified because his family is well-known in the construction business, the asbestos and concrete were dumped near abandoned docks in Brooklyn and other discrete places instead of prescribed sites farther away—saving time and money. The White House referred Newsweek to the Trump Organization, which did not respond to an inquiry.

“On paper,” as one of several news accounts put it, the demolition workers were members of Local 95, a Genovese-controlled union. But in reality, they were undocumented workers from Poland and South Korea. Ronald Fino, son of a Buffalo, New York, Mafia capo, told Newsweek they were known as “the sneaker brigade” for “remov[ing] the asbestos illegally.” (Through the years, Trump denied knowing about the illegal workers, but in 1998, after years of litigation, he quietly paid a total of $1.38 million “to settle the case, with $500,000 of it going to a union benefits fund and the rest to pay lawyers’ fees and expenses,” The New York Times revealed in 2017.)

But by 1988, Trump was feeling so comfortable associating with Mafiosi that he did his first name-licensing deal with a luxury limo rental company owned by John Staluppi, a made member of the Colombo crime family, according to William Bastone, founding editor of The Smoking Gun website. And by that time, Trump was deep into his quest for an Atlantic City fortune.

But early on, Trump relied on his associations with underworld characters to open his grandiose (and ultimately bankrupt) gambling dens on the boardwalk. One of the more interesting characters back then was Daniel Sullivan, “a 42-year-old giant of a man with great charm and a criminal record,” who “dealt with labor problems at Trump’s construction sites,” according to O’Harrow’s deep-dive story. Trump went into a drywall manufacturing business with Sullivan, which was “among the firms implicated in a racketeering scheme involving the carpenters’ union and the Genovese crime family” represented by Cohn, O’Harrow wrote. Sullivan also brought Trump into an Atlantic City land-leasing deal with Kenneth Shapiro, whom law enforcement authorities had identified as a financier and agent for Philadelphia mobster Nicodemo “Little Nicky” Scarfo.

Let’s face it, folks. Trump runs his presidency much like a mafia don. In fact, many jokingly call him “The Don.”  His constant use of mafia-style language grouped with his connections truly make even the most dedicated supporter scratch their heads.  So whether he was ever part of the “families” or just an innocent man in the wrong circles, the connections cannot be denied.

Then we must talk about Russian Money Laundering.  In another article by the Washington Post seen here, it states:

Let’s go back to 1984, when David Bogatin, an alleged Russian gangster who arrived in the United States a few years earlier with $3 in his pocket, sat down with Trump and bought not one but five condos, for a total of $6 million — about $15 million in today’s dollars. What was most striking about the transaction was that at the time, according to David Cay Johnston’s “The Making of Donald Trump,” Trump Tower was one of only two major buildings in New York City that sold condos to buyers who used shell companies that allowed them to purchase real estate while concealing their identities. Thus, according to the New York state attorney general’s office, when Trump closed the deal with Bogatin, whether he knew it or not, he had just helped launder money for the Russian Mafia.

And so began a 35-year relationship between Trump and Russian organized crime. Mind you, this was a period during which the disintegration of the Soviet Union had opened a fire-hose-like torrent of hundreds of billions of dollars in flight capital from oligarchs, wealthy apparatchiks and mobsters in Russia and its satellites. And who better to launder so much money for the Russians than Trump — selling them multimillion-dollar condos at top dollar, with little or no apparent scrutiny of who was buying them.

Over the next three decades, dozens of lawyers, accountants, real estate agents, mortgage brokers and other white-collar professionals came together to facilitate such transactions on a massive scale. According to a BuzzFeed investigation, more than 1,300 condos, one-fifth of all Trump-branded condos sold in the United States since the 1980s, were shifted “in secretive, all-cash transactions that enable buyers to avoid legal scrutiny by shielding their finances and identities.”

The Trump Organization has dismissed money laundering charges as unsubstantiated, and because it is so difficult to penetrate the shell companies that purchased these condos, it is almost impossible for reporters — or, for that matter, anyone without subpoena power — to determine how much money laundering by Russians went through Trump-branded properties. But Anders Aslund, a Swedish economist, put it this way to me: “Early on, Trump came to the conclusion that it is better to do business with crooks than with honest people. Crooks have two big advantages. First, they’re prepared to pay more money than honest people. And second, they will always lose if you sue them because they are known to be crooks.”

After Trump World Tower opened in 2001, Trump began looking for buyers in Russia through Sotheby’s International Realty, which teamed up with a Russian real estate outfit. “I had contacts in Moscow looking to invest in the United States,” real estate broker Dolly Lenz told USA Today. “They all wanted to meet Donald.” In the end, she said, she sold 65 units to Russians in Trump World Tower alone.

Maybe there was no Russiagate and no collusion on the part of the President but he was definitely involved in money laundering with Russia for 35 years.

In an article by Esquire, the following is revealed from a Deutsche bank (article can be read here):

Anti-money laundering specialists at Deutsche Bank recommended in 2016 and 2017 that multiple transactions involving legal entities controlled by Donald J. Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, be reported to a federal financial-crimes watchdog. The transactions, some of which involved Mr. Trump’s now-defunct foundation, set off alerts in a computer system designed to detect illicit activity, according to five current and former bank employees. Compliance staff members who then reviewed the transactions prepared so-called suspicious activity reports that they believed should be sent to a unit of the Treasury Department that polices financial crimes.

In the summer of 2016, Deutsche Bank’s software flagged a series of transactions involving the real estate company of Mr. Kushner, now a senior White House adviser. Ms. McFadden, a longtime anti-money laundering specialist in Deutsche Bank’s Jacksonville office, said she had reviewed the transactions and found that money had moved from Kushner Companies to Russian individuals. She concluded that the transactions should be reported to the government — in part because federal regulators had ordered Deutsche Bank, which had been caught laundering billions of dollars for Russians, to toughen its scrutiny of potentially illegal transactions.

After Mr. Trump became president, transactions involving him and his companies were reviewed by an anti-financial crime team at the bank called the Special Investigations Unit. That team, based in Jacksonville, produced multiple suspicious activity reports involving different entities that Mr. Trump owned or controlled, according to three former Deutsche Bank employees who saw the reports in an internal computer system…Senior executives worried that if they took a tough stance with Mr. Trump’s accounts — for example, by demanding payment of a delinquent loan — they could provoke the president’s wrath. On the other hand, if they didn’t do anything, the bank could be perceived as cutting a lucrative break for Mr. Trump, whose administration wields regulatory and law enforcement power over the bank.

Regardless, all the suspicious activity adds up to a lot of questions people should be asking in regards to Russia using Trump’s organizations to launder money.

There is no Russian collusion but there are some serious questions in regards to Trump’s business connections and transactions that should be asked.

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