Felix Sater, a former associate of President Donald Trump and past resident of Sands Point, has been accused in a lawsuit of laundering millions of dollars and channeling funds into Trump real estate projects.
Sater’s corporate lawyers, who incorporated or represented a number of the companies involved in the alleged laundering schemes, are based in Port Washington. One of the companies lists 14 Vanderventer Avenue, Suite 255 in Port Washington as its primary place of business.
The suit, filed by BTA Bank and the city of Almaty, Kazakhstan, in federal court in Manhattan, contends that Sater, who is described as “a notorious New York ‘businessman’ and two-time felon,” participated in an international criminal conspiracy to launder and conceal at least $440 million that was stolen from BTA Bank, once the largest financial institution in Kazakhstan, and the city of Almaty in the former Soviet republic.
Sater allegedly helped Mukhtar Ablyazov, the former chairman of BTA Bank, and Ilyas Khrapunov, the son of former Almaty Mayor Viktor Khrapunov, funnel stolen funds into the United States, the suit says. Once in the country, the funds were invested in real estate and used to procure immigration status for Khrapunov’s sister.
Ablyazov had his global assets frozen in an order by a United Kingdom court after he was sued for fraud by BTA Bank. He sought the young Khrapunov’s help in attaining access to the stolen funds. Khrapunov purportedly then sought the help of Sater to move the funds into U.S. real estate developments, which Sater claimed to have expertise in.
The suit alleges that Sater tried to stash some of the money overseas, directing funds into Moscow real estate development, and claims he stole at least $40 million of the money he laundered in the United States “for his own personal benefit and the benefit of his associate, Daniel Ridloff.”
Ridloff, who is also named as a defendant, is a former Trump Organization executive.
The lawsuit also claims Sater conspired with Khrapunov “to invest the stolen funds to develop a Trump Tower project in Russia,” which seems to be the same Trump Tower proposal in Moscow at the center of the investigation into Michael D. Cohen, the president’s former attorney. Cohen has testified that negotiations on the project continued as Trump waged his presidential campaign.
Sater was to testify before Congress on the negotiations last week, but his appearance has been postponed indefinitely so that Congress can focus on the report on Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign submitted by Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller.
Five separate schemes are detailed in the suit through which Khrapunov and Sater allegedly moved stolen funds out of FBME bank, an international commercial bank barred from the U.S. financial system, and “into investments that could be monetized or used for other co-conspirators’ purposes.”
In one of the schemes, the suit suggests Sater conspired with Khrapunov to launder stolen funds by transferring money from an FBME account to the personal bank account of Khrapunov’s sister. The sister’s account was then used to purchase three units in Trump SoHo, a project Sater developed along with Bayrock LLC.
As one of the partners of Bayrock LLC, it is expected that Sater was entitled to a portion of the funds.
Sater told Newsweek that he was not involved in Khrapunov’s purchase of the Trump Tower condos and that he had already left Bayrock prior to the completion of the purchase.
Sater and Khrapunov met regularly in Sater’s Trump Tower office, according to the lawsuit, which goes on to say that Sater arranged for Khrapunov to meet with Trump, a prominent businessman at the time, to “discuss possible investments.”
The lawsuit indicates it is not suggesting Trump knew anything about the money’s origins.
Robert Wolf, Sater’s attorney, told Newsweek that the lawsuit is to counteract Sater suing BTA Bank for failing to pay $10 million owed to his asset recovery company, Litco.
Sater, who came here under refugee status from Russia, began working on Wall Street after dropping out of Pace University. After an altercation where Sater stabbed one of his competitors in the face using the stem of a broken margarita glass, which resulted in jail time, Sater also lost his broker license.
To stay in the finance business, Sater became involved with illicit Wall Street activities to which he pleaded guilty to multiple counts of racketeering in 1998. Sater was then enlisted as an FBI informant and “provided crucial intelligence information and assistance to numerous U.S. national security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies,” he said in a statement provided to the House Intelligence Committee in December 2017.
Sater has also been identified by multiple news outlets as ‘Individual-2’ in the Mueller report. He is described as Cohen’s main contact in Russia during the negotiations for a Trump Tower in Moscow.
Sater moved from Port Washington to Los Angeles, and shipped his Porsche to meet him there, in February 2018. He sold his home in Sands Point for just over $2 million in February.
He was a large contributor to the Chabad of Port Washington, where he served on the organization’s board of directors and was named Man of the Year in 2014.