May 29, 2019

IT'S A RICO CASE:

Trump Inc.: Former FBI Official McCabe On Trump's Ties To Russian Mob (ProPublica, May 29, 2019)

ProPublica's Heather Vogell: You wrote about how the Russian mob started turning more toward financial crimes and business to pursue its goals. Could you talk a little bit about that transformation?

McCabe: Sure. This was one of the fascinating things about working on that squad. You could be working an extortion or kidnapping case one day, and then a really esoteric financial fraud the next. The thing that set the Russians apart from their Italian counterparts in the organized crime community was their creativity. They very quickly became the originators of the new scams.

So they did things like the tax cheating scams on gasoline and diesel fuel that were very common in the New York-New Jersey area in those days. They really professionalized the auto insurance scams around false accidents and medical mills and clinics where people would go and get processed to increase the billings against auto insurance companies. We did a lot of that work. And then, of course, we spent a lot of time on what became known as the Bank of New York money laundering scandal. So a few enterprising employees of the Bank of New York essentially took their private banking and internal computer software, which they had access to because one of them had a position in, I believe, the private banking section of Bank of New York, and began operating their own financial institution with individuals for the purpose of transferring money from Russia first to New York and then to many other places around the world.

Bernstein: We have spent the last year thinking about whether there is a line from some of the small-time crooks in Brighton Beach to Russian interference in the 2016 election. The list of people who seem to matter now were in some way connected to this scene. There's Felix Sater, who is connected to the Trump Tower Moscow deal; there was Michael Cohen. They later show up trying to build a Trump Tower Moscow. And then there's Yevgeny Dvoskin, who was convicted in the gasoline scam that you were just talking about in Brighton Beach and is now a banker in Russia.

McCabe: That's right.

Bernstein: So they were all connected to Brighton Beach years ago, and then they show up in negotiations and 2015 and 2016. What do you make of that?

McCabe: Well, it is at first blush curious, and then when you think about it a little bit longer, it makes perfect sense. Brighton Beach -- we thought of it as kind of the Normandy landing in America for Russian organized crime folks.

So there were many people who had experience with organized crime in Russia who came to the United States and settled in Brighton Beach just because they thought it was the new frontier. And this is a place you can make a lot of money.

And then there were some who we believe were actually sent by organized crime criminal organizations in Russia for the purpose of organizing and developing business and things like that. So if you are someone, or you are an organization, that is not opposed to dealing with people with that sort of background, with those sorts of connections, with that sort of history, then you're gonna find yourself negotiating with and being represented by people who had experience in those early '90s heydays of Russian organized crime and Brighton Beach.

That doesn't really surprise me that much that you see connections like that back to the Trump Organization.

Bernstein: OK, so let's talk about that a little more, because to us we're like, wow! That is crazy that these characters keep re-emerging in the story, and a generation later. So when you say it doesn't seem strange to you when you think about it, can you unpack that a little more? I mean, why is it that they're coming to work with the Trump Organization and the man who is now the president of the United States?

McCabe: Well, as I said, it makes sense to me as an investigator. I don't mean to say that it's a good thing. But these are the same folks in many cases -- guys like Felix Sater and others people -- who we investigated back in the early and mid-'90s. If you are an organization that doesn't have a problem with dealing with someone who has a known organized crime past and has actually been convicted of federal crimes for that same sort of activity, then you know you're going to find yourself making deals with and being represented by Felix Sater.

Bernstein: So how does that make you feel? Here's the president of the United States, who is in a business deal or talking about a business deal with somebody that you investigated when you started, and when the United States started, investigating the Russian mob.

McCabe: It is to my recollection and experience absolutely unprecedented and deeply concerning. From a strictly counterintelligence perspective, these are the exact sort of connections and historical overlaps that you look for when you're trying to determine whether or not a person or an organization could be subject to foreign influence.

Posted by at May 29, 2019 6:54 PM

  

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