Why Isn't the Media asking About Donald Trump's Mob Connections?
By Christopher R Rice
No figure has come to symbolize the excesses of the 1980s as vividly or as powerfully as Donald Trump. As master builder, as media star, as bestselling author, as conspicuously wealthy consumer, Trump reigned — until his spectacular collapse — unchallenged as a unique new breed of entrepreneurial superstar, one who was as confidently victorious on television and the podiums of an endless string of press conferences as he was in the boardrooms and bankers' offices where he waged his epic battles. For all the media attention that has been devoted to him, though, what do we really know about Donald Trump, apart from what he has carefully contrived to foster the myth of a self-made financial genius, a man for whom extravagance was merely a perquisite of success?
Rather than a self-created millionaire, Trump is in fact heir both to a substantial empire built by his equally rapacious father and to the Democratic machine connections that made the empire possible.
Banks advanced him staggering loans, at times based on misleading information; Trump family associations are mob-connected figures; and Trump made compromising alliances with governors, mayors, and perhaps his most powerful benefactor of all, the rogue lawyer Roy Cohn.
David Sater was a top executive at the Bayrock Group — Donald Trump’s most frequent partner on condo and hotel deals — and the son of a reputed Russian mobster. In 2000 he was named as a co-conspirator in a $40 million fraud case that resulted in 19 guilty pleas and the conviction of six mobsters from the Russian mafia and the Gambino crime family.
Tevfik Arif, another Bayrock Group executive who serves as a partner in Trump Soho, was dramatically arrested aboard the world’s largest for-charter luxury yacht and charged with “encouraging” and “facilitating” prostitution. Some of the girls were only 16 years old.
Raoul Goldberg, who brought Trump the site for the 45-story Trump Tower Philadelphia, was sentenced to 46 months in prison in 2000 for trying to ship tens of thousands of ecstasy pills into the U.S.
In 1973, Trump Management Corporation (of which Trump was president at the time) was sued by the Justice Department for discriminating against blacks who wanted to rent apartments in Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. The case was settled out of court two years later – and Trump now claims to have a great relationship with “the blacks.”
Trump: The Deals and the Downfall seems destined to be the definitive account of how Trump got ahead and why he fell. It is a sad story, with important lessons for us all." — James B. Stewart, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Den of Thieves
Wayne Barrett's Trump is a fresh, detailed, and vivid account of the tangled connections of money, politics, and power in our times." — Nicholas Pileggi, author of Wiseguy
Donald Trump and the mob
By Chris Frates, CNN
Trump's alleged ties to New York and Philadelphia crime families go back decades and have been recounted in a book, newspapers and government records.
In a recent Federalist article, David Marcus writes that Trump bought the property that his Atlantic City casino Trump Plaza would one day occupy -- for twice market price -- from Salvatore Testa, a Philly mobster and son of one-time Philly mob boss Philip "Chicken Man" Testa. (Springsteen fans might recognize the elder Testa from the opening lines of the song, Atlantic City.)
Testa and a partner, who together headed a Philly mafia hit-squad called the Young Executioners, bought the property for "a scant $195,000" in 1977. In 1982, Trump paid $1.1 million for it.
The $220 per square foot that Trump paid for the Testa property was the second most expensive purchase he made on the block, even though it was one of the first parcels he bought.
The casino was built with the help of two construction companies controlled by Philly mobsters Nicademo "Little Nicky" Scarfo and his nephew Phillip "Crazy Phil" Leonetti, according to, as Marcus notes, a New Jersey state commission's 1986 report on organized crime.
In Manhattan, Trump used the mob-controlled concrete company S&A to build Trump Plaza condos. Anthony "Fat Tony" Salerno, head of the Genovese crime family, and Paul Castellano, the don of New York's Gambino family, controlled S&A, according to federal court records.
Trump Tower out of concrete, instead of steel, at a time when the mafia controlled much the concrete industry.
Another partner in Trump Soho is the Russian émigré developer Tamir Sapir, who lives in a $5 million Trump Tower condo. Though his net worth was first pegged at $2 billion by Forbes in 2006, Sapir’s company claimed to have “ only $4,000 in cash and cash equivalents” in 2009. And Sapir’s lawyers recently claimed in a court case that Sapir’s “ deteriorating mental condition” has prevented him from writing anything but his signature “for 10 years,” meaning he was out of it when he consummated the Soho deal with Donald in 2005. A year earlier, Fred Contini, Sapir’s onetime executive vice president and top aide, pled guilty to participating in a racketeering conspiracy with the Gambino crime family for 13 years—both prior to and after his hiring by Sapir in 1996.
Sapir, whom Trump calls a “ great friend,” introduced Donald to Bayrock and is best known for his $500,000 payment to lobbyist and former U.S. Senator Al D’Amato for a single call to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to help him retain a lucrative lease with the agency. He was also fined $150,000 for decorating his yacht with 29 animal carcasses in violation of endangered species laws, including a stuffed lion and python-covered bar stools.
Trump Soho finally opened a year ago. Nineteen unit buyers are now suing, accusing Bayrock, Sapir, Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump, and Donald Jr., among others, of “an ongoing pattern of fraudulent misrepresentations and deceptive sales practices.” Among these purportedly “reckless” claims “to induce sales” were Ivanka Trump’s assertions to Reuters and to the London Times in June 2008 that 60 percent of the 391-unit Tower were sold, at a time when documents later submitted to the New York attorney general indicated that only 14.5 percent had been sold. ( The Soho’s response papers quibble with these numbers, suggesting they may have sold a handful more units than they reported to the New York attorney general.) The project was announced during the grand finale of the 2006 Apprentice, and Ivanka did a cleavage-baring ad for it, tagged “ Possess Your Own Soho.”
Trump finally realized that in a presidential campaign, which requires filing detailed financial disclosures, the vetting of all sorts would be much tougher. Then a gang of questionable associations like this would’ve converted a candidacy into a scandal, damaging his star status, business prospects, and even his family.
Inside Donald Trump's Empire: Why He Didn't Run for President in 2012
Trump has toyed with the idea of running for president in the past, but in 2011 he has been extremely vocal about the prospect of a 2012 presidential run on the Republican party ticket. In his early, non-official campaigning, Trump has taken direct aim at President Obama, but nothing in the way of substantive policy disagreements. Trump has taken the low road and has gained mass media attention by appealing to the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party, the group responsible for perpetuating the claim that Obama’s presidency is illegitimate because they he is not a natural-born citizen of the United States.
Despite his administration’s procurement of a certificate of live birth from the state of Hawaii, Obama detractors have held fast to this blatant falsehood, with Trump revitalizing this asinine debate over recent weeks as he has thrown his toupee, err, hat into the ring for the Republican party presidential nomination. Trump has made a grand show of his “birther” status, going so far as sending private investigators to Hawaii on “fact-finding” mission and accusing Obama’s grandparents of planting his birth announcement in order to receive welfare.
“I had no idea I would get hammered in the way I’ve been hammered,” Donald Trump declared in New Hampshire on May 11, five days before he dropped out of a presidential race he never formally entered.
Trump knew when he went to New Hampshire that he was about to be hammered again, this time on the front page of The New York Times, which, two days later, reported that hundreds of buyers at condo projects that bear his name were suing him. Trump then went on CNBC—in what turned out to be his last presidential TV interview—and blasted the author of the Times piece, Michael Barbaro, as well as NBC’s investigative chief, Michael Isikoff, and even one of the show’s hosts, Simon Hobbs. Two weeks earlier, Trump had been roasted by the president at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, and now, anyone with a question to ask looked at him as if he had barbecue fork in hand.
As late as this May 13 CNBC appearance, Trump was talking about two possible deadlines for his decision to run— May 22 and before June. Instead, he quit abruptly on May 16, reneging on his promise to attend the Tea Party’s South Carolina event on May 19. He has hinted that NBC forced his hand with its deadline for a $120 million, two-year, Celebrity Apprentice renewal offer. But, as inevitable as it may always have been that he would pull the plug on his presidential show, Trump appeared to depart in a hurried attempt to stanch the flow of bad press, no matter how hard he now wants to disguise it.
Trump quit at least in part because he finally realized what a harsh light this ego explosion was shining on every corner of his business empire, potentially exposing not only him and his many partners, but also his children Donald Jr. and Ivanka to intense scrutiny. An ongoing media investigation of Trump’s financial deals—beset by charges of fraudulent misrepresentation—would also have made it harder for NBC to continue touting him as a model American businessman.
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