Trump-Russia Investigation — Felix Sater: ‘The X Files’

“Trump was trying to build his brand and Bayrock was trying to market it. It wasn’t clear who needed each other more. This was before the show, remember.”

Jody Kriss — Bayrock insider

A RICO lawsuit could open up yet another direction in which the Russia/Trump investigations may go. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is looking at whether Trump associates laundered financial payoffs from Russian officials by channeling them through offshore accounts.

The investigation is likely to focus on a real-estate development firm, the Bayrock Group, which once operated just two floors beneath the president’s own office in Trump Tower.

Bayrock partnered with the future president and his two eldest children, Donald Jr. and Ivanka, on a series of real-estate deals between 2002 and about 2011, the most prominent being the troubled Trump Soho hotel and condominium in Manhattan.

During the years that Bayrock and Trump did deals together, the company was also a bridge between murky European funding and a number of projects in the U.S. to which the president once lent his name in exchange for handsome fees.

Icelandic banks that dealt with Bayrock, for example, were easy marks for money launderers and foreign influence, according to interviews with government investigators, legislators, and others in Reykjavik, Brussels, Paris and London.

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RELATED POST: ZEMBLA — “The Dubious Friends of Donald Trump: The Russians”

One of Bayrock’s principals was a career criminal named Felix Sater who had ties to Russian and American organized crime groups.

“Before linking up with the company and with Trump, he had worked as a mob informant for the U.S. government, fled to Moscow to avoid criminal charges while boasting of his KGB and Kremlin contacts there, and had gone to prison for slashing apart another man’s face with a broken cocktail glass.”

Felix Sater — Russian-born — tried to help get a deal for a Trump Tower in Moscow in 2005 and again in 2015. In January 2017, he helped bring a pro-Russia peace plan for Ukraine to Trump lawyer Michael Cohen who is said to have passed the document — contained in a sealed envelope — to Former National Security Adviser General Mike Flynn.

“Mueller has populated his investigative team with veteran prosecutors expert in white-collar fraud and Russian-organized-crime probes. One of them, Andrew Weissmann, once led an FBI team that examined financial fraud leading to the demise of Enron.

Before that, Weissmann was a prosecutor with the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn and part of a team that prosecuted Sater and mob associates for investment scams in the late 1990s.” [Bloomberg]

In a series of interviews and a lawsuit, a former Bayrock insider, Jody Kriss, claims that he eventually departed from the firm because he became convinced that Bayrock was actually a front for money laundering.

Kriss has sued Bayrock, alleging that in addition to laundering money, the Bayrock team also skimmed cash from the operation, dodged taxes and cheated him out of millions of dollars.

“Kriss’s assertion that Bayrock was a criminal operation during the years it partnered with Trump has been deemed plausible enough to earn him a court victory: In December, a federal judge in New York said Kriss’s lawsuit against Bayrock, which he first filed nine years ago, could proceed as a racketeering case.”

About Felix Sater

Sater began his professional life as a New York City stock broker; spent 15 months in prison for stabbing a man in the face with a broken wine glass in a bar fight; and then became involved in a pump and dump penny stock scheme in association with the Gambino and Genovese crime families. When he and his associates were arrested in the securities fraud scheme in 1998, Sater tried to make a deal to save himself.

According to reliableaccounts, what Sater offered to do was work with the CIA to facilitate the purchase of Stinger missiles on the weapons black market in post-Soviet Central Asia.

According to his accomplice and business partner, Salvatore Lauria, who wrote a book detailing the story, the CIA was more keen on working with Sater than was the FBI, which had recently been burned by its longstanding and close working relationship with Whitey Bulger. The plan eventually fell apart.

It seemed like Sater and Lauria might end up doing hard time. They had defrauded investors over more than $40 million. Then 9/11 happened and everything changed. Suddenly the federal government was much more interested in Sater’s help. [TPM]

TIMELINE

1974 — Felix Sater emigrates from the Soviet Union. His family moves to Brighton Beach, N.Y.

1990s — In his 20s, Sater works as a stockbroker on Wall Street. He loses his trading license after he stabs a man in the face with the stem of a margarita glass during a bar fight. The incident leads to a year in prison.

1998 — Sater pleads guilty to one charge of racketeering for a stock fraud scheme that involved the Mafia. Sater becomes a confidential informant for the FBI and cooperates with federal prosecutors on national security and organized crime matters, which delays his sentencing and keeps his court records sealed.

2005 — Sater is part of the development company Bayrock Group located at Trump Tower. He, his Bayrock partners and Trump agree to explore developing a hotel in Moscow and the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Fort Lauderdale. The Moscow deal later fell through. 

February 2006 — Trump asks Sater to escort Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump around Moscow, according to Sater. “He asked if I wouldn’t mind joining them and looking after them while they were in Moscow,” Sater said. 

2007 — Sater testifies in a deposition that he had found Russian investors for the Trump Tower in Moscow. He also says the project had a site picked out, a shuttered pencil factory named after U.S. anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti.

Sept. 19, 2007 — Sater, Trump and Bayrock founder Tevfik Arif attend the launch party for Trump SoHo, a hotel project on which they collaborated. 

2008 — Sater leaves Bayrock following stories that surface about his tumultuous past.

2009 — At a court hearing, FBI officials back up Sater’s claims that he was an informant. He’s fined $25,000 and avoids prison time. He also testifies that Bayrock was a company that he built with his “own two hands.” 

Nov. 5, 2013 — In sworn testimony, Trump claims he barely knows Sater and “wouldn’t know what he looked like.” As of April 2017, Sater’s LinkedIn profile states that he was a Trump adviser for a year beginning in January 2010. 

2015 — At her Senate confirmation hearing to become U.S. attorney general, Loretta E. Lynch was asked why the government hid Sater’s court records. Lynch said Sater had “provided valuable and sensitive information” for more than a decade. 

January 27, 2017 — Sater, Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and Ukrainian politician Andrii V. Artemenko meet privately in New York to discuss a peace proposal for Ukraine and lifting sanctions against Russia.

March 2017 — Comey was still Trump’s FBI director when he testified before the House Intelligence Committee about Russian interference in the 2016 election. During that hearing, Comey was asked if he was “aware of” Felix Sater, his criminal history and his business dealings with the Trump Organization. Comey declined to comment.

Trump Real Estate Financing From Russian Sources ‘Closer to Putin’

A RICO lawsuit could open up yet another direction in which the Russia/Trump investigations may go.

Apparently, this all is related to a former business associate of Trump’s, Felix Sater, and Sater’s role in a Mafia-linked scheme.

Lawyers are looking to unseal documents from a federal case involving Sater as they feel it will show the president committed fraud at the time.

Pointing to the combination of Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) taking a hold off of one of Trump’s Treasury Department nominees and a RICO lawsuit proceeding against one of Sater’s companies, Maddow said that O’Brien has now been told that this could show a connection between Trump and Russia. (Wyden said he would only drop the hold if Trump-Russia docs were released.)

Reading from O’Brien’s report that will be out Wednesday morning, Maddow noted that the financing that Sater put together for Trump real estate projects were done in a certain way because “the investment firm was closer to Putin.”

“If Tim O’Brien’s reporting proves out,” Maddow said. “We’re left with the question — Why’d that happen? Why was money connected to Putin pouring into Trump projects? Why did they do that?”

ZEMBLA – The dubious friends of Donald Trump

References

Trump, Russia and a Shadowy Business Partnership — Bloomberg

Russia probe reaches current White House official, people familiar with the case say — Washington Post (May 19 2017)

Team Trump — WP

What The CIA and FBI Knew About Trump Before 2016 — TPM

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Trump-Russia Investigation — Felix Sater: The X Files

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