Donald Trump acted confused in video deposition when asked about former senior advisor, a convicted felon with Mafia tiesJanuary 31, 2016
They don’t call him “The Don” for nothing.
A newly-revealed video deposition shows real-estate mogul Donald Trump confused when asked under oath about his relationship to a twice-convicted felon with ties to the Mafia.
Trump has long faced allegations of connections to the mob, but his relationship with Felix Sater — who pleaded guilty in 1998 to racketeering in a fraud scheme involving the Genovese and Bonanno crime families — represents a more direct link between the presidential candidate and organized crime.
“If he were sitting in the room right now, I really wouldn’t know what he looked like,” Trump testified in the video deposition, which was obtained by ABC News.
But Trump reportedly named Sater as a senior business adviser in 2010. The Russian émigré carried a Trump Organization business card with the title “Senior Advisor to Donald Trump” and appeared in numerous photos with Trump.
Trump and Sater were seen together attending a Denver business conference in 2005 and at a 2007 launch party for the Trump SoHo Hotel and Condominium project, according to ABC News.
Sater was not immediately available for comment Thursday.
Trump had worked with Sater previously during the man’s stint as an executive at Bayrock Group LLC, a real estate development firm that partnered with Trump on numerous projects after renting office space from the Trump Organization. But Sater’s past was not widely known at the time because he was working as a government cooperator on mob cases and the judge overseeing Sater’s own case kept the proceedings secret. After Sater’s criminal history and past ties to organized crime came to light in 2007, Trump distanced himself from Sater.
Less than three years later, Trump tapped Sater for a business development role that came with the title of senior adviser to Donald Trump.
According to Trump lawyer Alan Garten, Sater’s role was to prospect for high-end real estate deals for the Trump Organization. The arrangement lasted six months, Garten told the Associated Press.
The revelation about Sater’s role is significant because of its timing and directness, and marks the first time the Trump Organization has acknowledged publicly that Sater worked for Trump after the disclosures of Sater’s criminal background. Trump has said that among his secrets of success is that he surrounds himself with the “best and most serious people” and with “people you can trust.”
Sater never had an employment agreement or formal contract with the Trump Organization and did not close any deals for Trump, Garten said.
“He was trying to restart his life,” Garten told the Associated Press. “I believe he was regretful of things that happened in the past.”
Sater’s LinkedIn profile shows him working as a senior advisor for Trump from January 2010 until 2011.
Trump did not know the details of Sater’s cooperation with the government when Sater came in-house in 2010, Garten said. But Garten noted that U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch praised Sater’s cooperation with the federal government, when senators asked about him during her confirmation hearings early this year. She said Sater cooperated against his Mafia stock fraud co-defendants and assisted the government on unspecified national security matters.
“If Mr. Sater was good enough for the government to work with, I see no reason why he wasn’t good enough for Mr. Trump,” Garten said.
Sater pleaded guilty in 1998 to one count of racketeering for his role in a $40 million stock fraud scheme involving the Genovese and Bonanno crime families, according to court records. Prosecutors called the operation a pump-and-dump scheme, in which insiders manipulate the price of obscure stocks and then sell them to hapless investors at inflated prices. Five years earlier, a New York State court had sentenced Sater to more than a year in prison for stabbing a man in the face with a broken margarita glass.
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