Donald Trump’s Russian Partner Felix Sater

By 591J - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

By 591J – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Donald Trump is a familiar figure to most of the world, but prior to his Celebrity Apprentice show he was already infamous on the east coast of the United States. Memories are being selectively edited, so a lot of the stink that should rub off from his cohorts has somehow become lavender scented.

The potential next President of the United States pats himself on the back for nearly everything, but is particularly boastful of his ability to surround himself with “the best” and “most talented” people on the planet to do his bidding. His fans echo his sentiments, applauding successes while ignoring or excusing serious legal transgressions, not to mention questionable basic human character traits.

There’s a dark underbelly to the entire Trump enterprise and it’s not “normal” or “just business” or excusable. People should be judged by the people they CHOOSE to acquaint themselves with, partner with, and hire.

Let’s look at the first of the “best of everything” entities and people instrumental in the career of GOP candidate for President of the United States.


There has been a lot of buzz recently about Trump’s connections with Russia above and below board which has only ramped up with the suggestion of a Russian influence on the recent Wikileaks DNC emails. Even Trump fingered “one of our friends”, for what that’s worth.

Josh Marshall took a long look at the relationships in “Trump & Putin. Yes It’s Really A Thing” on 07/23/2016. His first point is that Trump has increased his debt load from $350 million to $630 million in the past year (according to Bloomberg ) while also decreasing his liquid assets. Because Trump has so often left major banks holding the bag for bad debts, “creative financing” becomes necessary.

It isn’t a new thing, according to his son Don junior in 2008 (eTurboNews 09/15/2008):

And in terms of high-end product influx into the US, Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets; say in Dubai, and certainly with our project in SoHo and anywhere in New York. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.

Marshall’s piece refers to another story involving a Trump SoHo project, including a criminal investigation component of a fraud lawsuit brought against the Trumps by buyers of units in that project. The settlement of the case, as is usual in suits that Trump settles, requires the parties to keep their mouths shut about the terms and all other information.

Rather than rehash more information in those linked articles, we suggest clicking through and reading them to decide for yourself whether it’s reasonable, there’s enough information available to formulate a decision or to certainly offer direction as to where to look for further information.

In summary, though, buyers of units in the Trump SoHo project claimed they had been defrauded by the inflated claims from the Trump family and others of how rapidly units were being sold in a project that was stalled badly. Despite claims that “I never settle”, the suit was settled (as usual) in 2011 in a fashion not even Don could construe as a “win” for the Trump camp. They agreed to refund 90 percent of $3.16 million in deposits and, of course, admitted no wrongdoing.

Speaking of Russia, one of the primary people in the SoHo project was Felix Sater from Bayrock.

Felix Sater (or Satter)

Ironically, given Trump’s insistence on shutting down refugee entry to the United States, his frequent business partner Felix Sater (@felixsater) emigrated with his parents from Russia to Israel and then to the United States when he was eight years old to avoid religious persecution as Jews.

Sater dropped out of Pace University when he was 18 to sell stocks, and he flourished until 1991.

In 1991, Sater and his pal Gene Klotsman were celebrating a good sales day for Sater with another friend, Salvatore Lauria at a bar in Midtown Manhattan. Both of those friends would, eventually, also be involved with Sater in fraudulent schemes that would have them in hot water with the SEC.
Sater was arguing with a commodities broker, broke a margarita glass on the bar and jammed it into the face of the broker to the tune of 110 stitches. He was convicted at trial two years later and went to prison. As a felon, he was supposed to be barred from selling securities. Sater ignored the ban.

In 1998, according to the NY Times, Sater had a federal complaint brought against him for a money laundering and stock manipulation case. If you want to look it up, you’re out of luck because the case was filed secretly and remains under seal. More on a why it is sealed later.

Sater’s partner Klotsman, however, stated that both he and Sater pleaded guilty to the charges in 1998 and that Sater then began cooperating with “authorities”.

In 2000, the pair (sort of) was AGAIN indicted for a similar offense, although (perhaps because of Sater’s cooperation) Sater was only listed as an “unindicted co-conspirator”. That may also explain the needle on the Klotsman/Sater friendship meter being pinned in the “enemy” zone enough for Klotsman to talk about sealed information. The second indictment for a $40 million fraud scheme, however, also mentioned four organized crime families including the Genovese and Bonanno families.

The NY Times 2007 story states that Sater and Lauria (not including Klotsman for some reason) made sure not to step on the toes of similar “pump and dump” companies operated by organized crime groups. The indictment mentions a 1995 incident where a soldier from the Gambino family, Edward Garofola, was looking for money from Sater, who in turn asked a soldier from the Genovese family (Ernest Montevecchi) to get Garofola to back off.

With all that, Sater’s partners Klotsman and Lauria pleaded guilty and cooperated with further information that allowed the prosecutors to get guilty pleas from all 19 defendants, six of whom were directly tied to the mob. Sater? Nobody knows, “sealed”, although both Klotsman and his lawyer maintain that Sater also pleaded guilty and rolled on the others. The Miami Herald story states Sater was finally sentenced in 2009; $25,000 and no jail and no restitution of his part of the $40 million they scammed.

So, what’s with all the sealed business?

Sater and Russian Missiles, Yes Missiles

Sater leveraged his way out of punishment with the help of the CIA, or so the story goes.

The story is laid out in a book Sater’s partner Lauria and a ghostwriter wrote, although Lauria has since denied it’s truthfulness.

Sater and Klotsman were already in Russia when the 1998 indictment was levelled against them.

Sater made a deal with the CIA to obtain the anti-aircraft missiles from terrorists via his Russian underworld contacts at $300k each. In return, Sater would get his free ride on the securities fraud charges.

Apparently, the missiles were never purchased, reportedly because of a dispute between the FBI and the CIA. Sater still skated, however.

None of this would have ever been known had Sater not later been party to a 2009 lawsuit over the collapse of a $200 million Fort Lauderdale luxury high-rise Trump International Hotel and Tower developed by Sater’s Bayrock Group company and the Trump organization. The investors in the building (auctioned off in 2012 after the failure) demanded to see financial record of the developers, and the history of fraud came to light. The condo owners were angry that the criminal past of one of the key men on the project had not been disclosed.

Trump saw the project failing and, since it was following his “new model” of name licensing instead of direct investment, it was easy.

Relationship With Trump Continues

Sater joined Bayrock, LLC in 2001 at their office in Trump Tower. The principal of Bayrock, Tevfik Arif, was a former Soviet hospitality minister.

Here in Arizona, Bayrock and Trump partnered on yet another failed project with the traditional lawsuits.

In a familiar pattern for Trump projects, the property was eventually sold at a trustee sale in 2009 for $10 million. The debt on the property? $36 million, so once again a financial loss was incurred after a long, contentious fight.

The Washington Post:

One former Bayrock employee alleged in a lawsuit that Sater once told him during a dispute to “shut up or risk being killed.” Another lawsuit filed in Arizona in 2007 alleged that Sater had threatened a local project partner named Ernest Mennes.

According to the lawsuit, Sater called Mennes in 2006 and threatened that his cousin “would electrically shock Mr. Mennes’ testicles, cut off Mr. Mennes’ legs, and leave Mr. Mennes dead in the trunk of his car” if Mennes revealed his criminal past.

Ernie Mennes owned the Camelback Plaza and was a development partner and sued Bayrock, claiming that Sater skimmed money from the project.

Beside being a partner in the failed SoHo project, the Camelback project, and the Fort Lauderdale project, Sater even had a business card with the name “Trump” at one time.

Who? Sater? Don’t know the guy!

From the ABS News story 12/2015:

Untitled-1Though he touts his outstanding memory, when Donald Trump was asked under oath about his dealings with a twice-convicted Russian émigré who served prison time and had documented mafia connections, the real estate mogul was at a loss.

Even though the man, Felix Sater, had played a role in a number of high-profile Trump-branded projects across the country.

“If he were sitting in the room right now, I really wouldn’t know what he looked like,” Trump testified in a video deposition for a civil lawsuit two years ago.

Who believes that? Raise your hand. That’s what I thought, I don’t believe it either.

Sater was working FOR Trump in 2010, with a business card and probably an office in Trump Tower, after all of the above fiascos had taken place. While he professed not to know of the criminal background, it seems even less prominent partners had more than an inkling what Sater was all about.

So, we have a guy in the inner circle that’s a known VIOLENT felon, a guy that was caught twice for securities and exchange fraud, and a guy that was threatening partners in a Trump project with physical harm being hired on as a “senior advisor” in the Trump organization.

There’s lots more information available and lots more connections between Trump and Sater and lots of Russian money. People can choose to believe what they wish, but believing it without investigating the truthfulness of a statement isn’t wise.

ABC News
Memory Lapse? Trump Seeks Distance From ‘Advisor’ With Past Ties to Mafia (12/10/2015)

NY Times
As Democrats Gather, a Russian Subplot Raises Intrigue
Donald Trump Settled a Real Estate Lawsuit, and a Criminal Case Was Closed
Real Estate Executive With Hand in Trump Projects Rose From Tangled Past (12/17/2007)

Wikileaks DNC emails

Talking Points Memo
Trump & Putin. Yes It’s Really A Thing
The Trump and Putin Thing, A Detailed Response
Executive Talk: Donald Trump Jr. bullish on Russia and few emerging markets
Trump Credits One Of ‘Our Friends’ In Russia, China With DNC Hack (VIDEO) (07/25/2016)

Washington Times
Donald Trump picked stock fraud felon as senior adviser

Washington Post
Former Mafia-linked figure describes association with Trump (05/17/2016)

Courthouse News
Did CIA Help a Swindler Walk?

Daily Beast
FBI Suspects Russia Hacked DNC; U.S. Officials Say It Was to Elect Donald Trump

Miami Herald
Strange bedfellows: Swindler, Stinger-missile brokers, the CIA (09/10/2012)

Oh Look, Another Violent Psycho With Close Ties to Donald Trump (04/06/2016)

Arizona Republic
How Phoenix residents dumped Donald Trump’s hotel plans
Denver Post
Tale of Donald Trump and partner in Azerbaijan real estate project