Donald Trump is half-right: There actually was a federal wiretap at Trump Tower, but it wasn’t for the real estate mogul.
Russian mob boss Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, whose alias is “The Little Taiwanese,” was being secretly monitored for two years, between 2011 and 2013, in regard to his operation of a criminal money laundering network out of apartment 63A at Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue — just three floors below Trump’s penthouse residence.
The FBI estimates that more than $50 million of the mob’s money was laundered through the United States at the time, and federal prosecutors referred to Tokhtakhounov’s operation as an “international money laundering, sports gambling and extortion ring.”
ABC’s Good Morning America reported on Tuesday that the FBI ordered the wiretapping of Trump Tower as part of the investigation into the money laundering operation that later resulted in the indictment of more than 30 people tied to Russian organized crime. Tokhtakhounov escaped arrest, and remains a fugitive from the law as of this writing.
Mike Gaeta, the FBI agent in charge of the agency’s Eurasian Organized Crime Division who spearheaded the investigation into Tokhtakhounov’s scheme, referred to him as a “major player” in the organized crime realm. He added that he has “extremely good connections” to prominent business leaders and mob bosses alike.
“Their money was ultimately laundered from Russia, Ukraine and other locations through Cyprus banks and shell companies based in Cyprus, and then ultimately here to the United States,” Gaeta told ABC.
Former FBI agent Rich Frankel told Good Morning America that “everything was moving in and out of” Trump Tower while the scheme was underway.
“He would have people come in and meet with them,” Frankel said. “His base of operations was in the Trump Tower.”
Vadim Trincher, who was one of the chief co-conspirators, lived in unit 63A. He pleaded guilty to racketeering charges and was sentenced to five years in federal prison. He is due for release in July of 2017. Court records described one event in which Trincher made a veiled threat against an indebted gambler who owed roughly $50,000.
“[Trincher] threatens the customer that [a Russian mafia enforcer] would come and find him, would come and find the money, and that he should be careful, lest he be tortured and lest he wind up underground,” read the FBI’s summary of the call.
Five months after he was indicted, Tokhtakhounov was seen near Donald Trump at the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, prior to the reality TV personality-turned-president selling the rights to the pageant to a billionaire Russian developer.
Tom Cahill is a writer for the Resistance Report based in the Pacific Northwest. He specializes in coverage of political, economic, and environmental news. You can contact him via email at email@example.com, or follow him on Facebook.