Saturday, May 12, 2018

Swamp Times A Billion: Michael Cohen + Nicholas Mastroianni, The Worst Of Long Island



In 2016 DWT looked closely, over the months, at a vile character named Nicholas Mastroianni, a real crook. He was the biggest financier of Patrick Murphy's ill-fated campaign-- other than Murphy's own father-- for Senate. Mastroianni contributes hundreds of thousands of dollars to both parties, especially to the most corrupt politicians, Debbie Wasserman Schultz being one of his favorites-- as well as Charlie Crist, Chuck Schumer, Donald Trump... he always manages to find the worst of the worst. These corrupt politicians continued backing pay-for-play with him, even after Fortune exposed him in 2014 as a super-rich mini-Trump from Long Island with "a long history of legal problems, failed ventures, and unpaid debts-- which have continued even as his professional fortunes have turned sharply upward-- leaving a legacy of conflicts, judgments, and entanglements." And what did he want from all these corrupt politicians? EB-5 visa manipulations to make himself very, very rich.

It would be hard to find a figure who has risen faster in this burgeoning realm than Nicholas Mastroianni, II. In just four years, he has developed a lucrative role raising money for marquee projects such as Atlantic Yards, the giant Brooklyn development anchored by the Barclays Center, home of the NBA’s Nets. Forest City Ratner, which is developing Atlantic Yards, has also retained Mastroianni to raise EB-5 money for its renovation of the Nassau Coliseum, home of the NHL’s Islanders. Other Mastroianni clients include the developers of three large Manhattan projects: the Charles, a 31-story condominium tower on the Upper East Side where the penthouse reportedly sold for $38 million; Bryant Park, a 32-story midtown Manhattan building with a luxury hotel and condos developed by HFZ Capital Group; and 855 Avenue of the Americas, a 41-story mixed-use edifice being developed by the Durst Organization.

All told, Mastroianni’s website boasts of involvement with $5.5 billion in development projects over the years, funded with $1.4 billion in EB-5 money, resulting in “40,000 jobs created.” Those are massive sums given that the entire EB-5 system raised a total of about $1.8 billion last year. Forest City Ratner CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin calls Mastroianni the"'go-to' leader in the field of EB-5 funding."
His career was all about Patrick Murphy and his father, Donald Trump, Chuck Schumer, Debbie Wasserman Schultz... everyone with no sense of ethics who could help his endeavors. And Thursday the Wall Street Journal connected Mastroianni to-- no surprise to anyone paying attention lately-- Michael Cohen and Kushner-in-law. The Journal reported that Mastroianni paid Washington's sleaziest law firm and lobbyist outfit, Squire Patton Boggs $370,000 to lobby Congress and the Trump Regime on EB-5 matters. Cohen was paid $500,000 a year to bring clients to Squire Patton Boggs. The Miami Herald chastised me in 2016 for breaking this news then.

Now, in the national examination of what kind of a creep Michael Cohen has always been, let's move away from Mastroianni and Patrick Murphy (currently floating trial balloons about a run for governor of Florida as the No Labels candidate) and take a look at what Pam and Russ Martens have found for Wall Street on Parade, First Republic: Meet the Bank at the Center of the Michael Cohen Scandal. Trump and Cohen both do banking with First Republic, which caters almost exclusively to the super-wealthy.
According to Avenatti, $500,000 that came into Cohen’s First Republic Bank account is tied to the Russian oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, now on a U.S. sanctions list and closely tied to Russian president Vladimir Putin. The $500,000 came from a U.S.-based company, Columbus Nova, which has denied any corporate ties to Vekselberg. However, those clever folks at Think Progress, used the Wayback machine to access the Columbus Nova website as of January of 2017 where Columbus Nova is listed as a subsidiary of Renova Group, Vekselberg’s Russian company.

The people and businesses who have direct or indirect connections to Cohen’s account at First Republic are starting to mount up. They include AT&T, which has confirmed paying Cohen $600,000 for advice, and the giant Swiss pharmaceutical company, Novartis, which has admitted to transmitting $1.2 million to the Cohen account in order to seek “insights” on Trump. Both AT&T and Novartis confirmed to the New York Times that they had been contacted last November “by investigators for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III….” According to a report by CNN yesterday, also questioned by Mueller’s team was Vekselberg-- the Russian oligarch tied to the $500,000 that found itself in Michael Cohen’s Essential Consultants LLC account at First Republic Bank.

Another connecting dot is Trump’s longtime personal friend, Tom Barrack, who served as Chair of Trump’s Inaugural Committee. According to the Associated Press, Barrack has also been interviewed by Mueller’s investigators. Barrack is the Founder of Colony Capital, LLC, now known as ColonyNorthstar, where he continues to serve as Executive Chairman. Barrack served on the Board of Directors of First Republic Bank from 2001 through 2007 and from 2010 to the present. The bank was previously owned by Merrill Lynch, which was absorbed into Bank of America during the financial crash in 2008. In 2010, Barrack’s Colony Capital was part of a buyout team that included General Atlantic LLC which put up “$1.86 billion in new equity capital” to purchase the bank according to a press release issued by First Republic Bank. On November 29, 2010, the bank sold shares to the public in an Initial Public Offering.

According to First Republic Bank’s 2018 annual proxy statement, Barrack owns 12,335 shares in the company. At this morning’s opening price of $97.06, that’s about $1.2 million – not a particularly large amount of money for a man that Forbes estimated to be worth $1 billion in 2013.

According to the Washington Post, “It was Barrack who persuaded Trump to hire political operative Paul Manafort-- whom Barrack first met in Beirut 40 years ago-- for the presidential campaign.” Manafort has been indicted by a grand jury convened in the Mueller probe.

Yesterday, it was widely reported that the U.S. Treasury’s Inspector General has opened an investigation into the leak of financial documents from First Republic Bank. Stormy Daniels’ attorney, Avenatti, has released information that would seem to have only come from Customer Account Cards inside the bank or documents seized in the raid on Cohen by the FBI in the Southern District of New York or from the Mueller investigation.

In a document released by Avenatti on his Twitter page, precise details from the Customer Account Card for Essential Consultants LLC at First Republic Bank appears to have been provided to him. Avenatti writes:
“In connection with the establishment of that account, Mr. Cohen was required to make certain representations to First Republic regarding Essential’s business as part of First Republic’s Know Your Customer (‘KYC’) anti-money laundering protocol.

“In order to establish the account, Mr. Cohen subsequently submitted information claiming, among other things, the following:

(a) Essential is a real estate consulting company that collects fees for investment consulting work;
(b) The company’s typical clients are U.S.-based high net worth individuals;
(c) The company’s primary source of funds will be derived from within the U.S. or a U.S.-based company;
(d) The company expected one (1) to twenty (20) incoming domestic only wires totaling $1,000 to $10,000 each month for consulting fees, and one (1) to twenty (20) ACH credits and electronic transfers totaling $1,000 to $10,000 each month;
(e) No outgoing wire transfers and debits related to ACH or electronic transfers were expected; and
(f) Receipts of the business would be internally transferred to Mr. Cohen’s personal account at First Republic Bank.
According to the Wall Street Journal, First Republic Bank filed a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) with the U.S. Treasury’s FinCen unit on the Cohen account. Avenatti has said at least three SARs have been filed with FinCen related to this matter. In early April, Avenatti wrote to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin requesting that the SARs information be released to the public, citing numerous legal case precedents for doing so. Thus far, Mnuchin has not supplied the information.

So where did all this illicit money sloshing around between Cohen, Trump, various Mafias and corporate America wind up-- and who got what? This morning Robert Cruickshank of Demand Progress reminded us that the $600,000 that AT&T funneled to Trump through Cohen's phony shell consulting firm went "to influence Trump’s position on regulatory issues at the FCC-- including net neutrality." The U.S. Senate is scheduled to vote-- in just a few days-- on whether to overrule Trump's crooked FCC and save net neutrality. Perhaps we'll get a hint about who else got some of this illicit dough by watching which sleaze-bag senators vote against it. Jack Shafer this morning: Giuliani insists that Senor Trumpanzee had no idea Cohen was raking in influence bucks. Really? "Money always leaves a trail. Dirty money leaves a trail of slime that taints everybody it touches. One unanswered question this week is whether all the consultative moolah coursing through Cohen’s LLC and moving through his 'shadowy business empire' of real estate, New York City and Chicago taxi medallion holdings, and assorted investment is on the up and up. If proved dirty, will they contaminate his boss, Trump, who traditionally loves using other people’s money? And, if Cohen has committed the money crimes that some suspect of him, will special counsel Robert S. Mueller III convince him to flip on his one-time boss and testify against him? Mueller has already demonstrated his interest in the slosh of Cohen cash and deal-making on behalf of the Trump Organization to Georgia, Kazakhstan and Russia."

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At 11:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd care about this if there was any hope of enforcement of any relevant laws. But just like the anti-trust legislation, such law seems to have been buried in the dusty stacks and forgotten.

At 12:53 PM, Blogger News Nag said...

When all caring about such things has vanished - as with your apathy - then all hope is lost of having a decent fairer society. You're now a small but real part of the problem. Expand your ability to care. That's the solution. Also, ignorance doesn't help -- anti-trust law is weakened but still exists and is enforced from time to time. It can be revived. But not in the face of give-up loser mentality apathy. Abandon hope? No frigging way!

At 1:26 PM, Anonymous ap215 said...

And i thought Peter King was bad for Long Island who i still dislike but this guy takes the cake wow.

At 11:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just when has antitrust law been applied to anyone except those not well-connected? Microsoft bought off the government to get out from under their suit. Apple continues to enslave Asians and avoid paying taxes. Exxon and GE end up getting huge tax refunds against taxes they never paid.

Deal with this News Nag: the real criminals own those We the People entrusted with law enforcement. The law is meaningless unless it applies to everyone, and Trump will be the next one to escape Justice.


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