Trump and Putin Share the Same Criminal Network
by Mark Tracy
No previous United States president has had anything close to Donald J. Trump’s record of repeated social and business dealings with mobsters, swindlers, and other crooks.
Investigative reporter Wayne Barrett wrote that Trump didn’t just do business with mobbed-up concrete companies in Manhattan in his early career. He likely met personally with “Fat Tony” Salerno at the townhouse of notorious New York fixer Roy Cohn. There were witnesses to the meeting, one of whom kept detailed notes on all of Cohn’s contacts.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Trump saw a opportunity to cash in there. Trump testified under oath in a 2007 deposition, “It’s ridiculous that I wouldn’t be investing in Russia. Russia is one of the hottest places in the world for investment.”
A conduit for Trump’s dealings with Russia’s newly minted, mobbed-up oligarchs was a company that marketed itself as a property developer, the Bayrock Group. Bayrock operated just two floors beneath Trump’s own office on the 26th floor in Trump Tower.
In a 2007 deposition, Trump testified that Bayrock would bring Russian investors to his Trump Tower office to discuss deals in Moscow.
One of Bayrock’s directors was career criminal Felix Sater who had ties to Russian and American organized crime groups. Before linking up with Bayrock and with Trump, Slater had worked as a mob informant for the U.S. government.
Slater had gone to prison for slashing another man’s face with the stem of a broken margarita glass. Later, he fled to Moscow to avoid criminal charges while boasting of his KGB and Kremlin contacts there.
Slater’s one-time business partner, Salvatore Lauria reported that Slater “was always hustling and scheming, and his contacts in Russia were the same kind of contacts he had in the United States. Lauria continued, “The difference was that in Russia his crooked contacts were links between Russian organized crime, the Russian military, the KGB, and operatives who played both ways, or sometimes three ways.”
In a series of interviews, a former Bayrock insider, Jody Kriss, claims that he eventually departed from Bayrock because he became convinced that the firm was actually a front for money laundering.
In April 2013, police burst into Unit 63A of Trump Tower and rounded up 29 suspects in two gambling rings. The operation, which prosecutors called “the world’s largest sports book,” was run out of condos in Trump Tower—including the entire fifty-first floor of the building. Unit 63A served as the headquarters for a “sophisticated money-laundering scheme” that moved an estimated $100 million out of the former Soviet Union, through shell companies in Cyprus, and into investments in the United States.
In addition, the Taj Mahal was fined $10 million in 2015—the highest penalty ever levied by the feds against a casino—and admitted to having “willfully violated” anti-money-laundering regulations for years.
A Justice Department investigation led by Robert Mueller is also looking into whether Trump associates laundered financial payoffs from Russian officials by channeling them through offshore accounts.