A former resident of Sands Point, Felix Sater, has surfaced as a major figure in the Trump-Russia investigations due to his involvement in negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow during the 2016 election cycle.
Sater is known locally for the time he served on the board of the Chabad of Port Washington and for having been the recipient of its “Man of the Year” award in 2010 and 2014.
The Russian-American businessman, who has worked on a number of Trump family business deals, including Trump SoHo, was in the limelight again last Thursday after President Donald Trump’s former attorney, Michael D. Cohen, pleaded guilty to having lied to Congress about the details of his client’s Russian real estate dealings.
Cohen originally testified to Congress that negotiations for the “Moscow Project” ended in January 2016. However, emails and correspondence obtained by a number of news outlets, and later confirmed by the attorney, indicate negotiations did not fall through until June 2016, when Trump was the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.
In Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller’s court filing, he mentions “Individual-2,” who was Cohen’s main contact in Russia during his efforts to complete the long-sought Moscow deal. Media reports later identified this individual to be Sater.
The Chabad of Port Washington declined to comment on Sater’s recently revealed actions but said it is no longer affiliated with him.
Sater immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 7, claiming refugee status from the Soviet Union for his Jewish religion. After dropping out of Pace University at the age of 18, Sater worked on Wall Street until he was 25, when a bar fight led to him losing his license.
Having to support his family and a newborn child, Sater found alternative ways to stay involved in the finance field, forming a company that claimed to buy and sell stocks on NASDAQ. In reality, it was a “pump and dump” scheme where his company inflated stock prices and sold them off once investors started buying in, according to court documents.
The documents also reported the company to have had extensive ties with the New York City mafia, which mainly acted as the muscle behind the business.
After having pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering in 1998, Sater was enlisted by the FBI as an 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.
In 2003, Sater joined Bayrock Group LLC, a luxury mortgage firm whose home office was on the 24th floor of Trump Tower in Manhattan.
From his desk, Sater performed clandestine operations on the behalf of the U.S., and also brokered deals for Trump, his neighbor two floors up who at the time was a real estate mogul, according to news reports.
Sater said in an interview with The Los Angeles Times that he “was building Trump Towers by day and hunting Bin Laden by night.”
According to Buzzfeed News, in 2004 Sater “persuaded a source in Russia’s foreign military intelligence to hand over the name and photographs of a North Korean military operative who was purchasing equipment to build the country’s nuclear arsenal,” on behalf of the United States.
In 2005, Sater made his original attempt to secure the Trump Tower property in Moscow, which was followed by a trip there, a year later, with two of Trump’s children, Don Jr. and Ivanka.
Sater reached out to the Trump Organization, namely Cohen, again in November 2015 with the information that he might be able to put together a deal for a Trump Tower in Moscow, along with a potential opportunity for Russian President Vladimir Putin to say “great things” about the presidential candidate that may aid in getting him elected, according to reporting by The Washington Post.
In a report by Buzzfeed News in March, Sater claimed to have had no involvement with Russian meddling in the 2016 election and said “he was just doing what he always done: working a deal.”
He also revealed that he and Cohen had planned to give Putin a $50 million penthouse in the proposed Trump Tower Moscow as a way to attract Russian oligarchs.
“In Russia, the oligarchs would bend over backwards to live in the same building as Vladimir Putin,” Sater told BuzzFeed News.
Emails between Cohen and Sater, mentioned in Mueller’s court filing, continued into May 2016 with Sater asking when Trump would visit Russia. Cohen was set to go to Russia but canceled in June at the same time The Washington Post reported that Russian hackers had broken into the Democratic National Committee’s computer servers.
Sater is also mentioned in Mueller’s list of questions for Trump, which his lawyers submitted answers to in late November.
Mueller asked: “What communication did you have with Michael D. Cohen, Felix Sater and others, including foreign nationals, about Russian real estate developments during the campaign?”
Trump’s responses have not been publicly revealed.