Donald Trump has operated amid a swamp of corruption, self-dealing, and outright criminality ever since his real estate–developer father gifted him his first tens of millions. For almost as lengthy, Voice investigative reporter Wayne Barrett dogged Trump’s soiled offers. In this exposé from October of 1993, Barrett reveals how, in 1988, as a favor to Trump, then–U.S. Lawyer Rudy Giuliani quashed an investigation into the shady financing of Trump Tower. Barrett uncovers a story of a mobster trying to purchase an house with doubtful financing whereas the Donald, in fact, seems the other method, and even signs a six-figure bond for the numbers ring chief who would quickly be on trial for homicide and operating a multimillion-dollar playing empire out of his Trump Tower digs. Regardless of the convicted felony later defaulting on his mortgage, the Trump organization termed him one of the complicated’s “greatest tenants.” As Barrett studies:
Tony Lombardi, the G-man who thought the G in his unofficial authorities title stood for Giuliani, single-handedly carried out a low-profile probe of Donald Trump in early 1988, closing it despite proof of fraud and an informant who stated he might implicate the supposed billionaire.
In addition to Trump and Giuliani — who, on the time this text was written, was within the midst of a mayoral run — the forged of characters additionally consists of the notorious fixer Roy Cohn and numerous high-rollers having fun with Mike Tyson fights in Atlantic Metropolis.
As normal, Barrett seeks solutions to questions that mobsters and crooked developers wish he had by no means requested. Every New Yorker has dealt with a credit examine once they’re trying to lease or purchase an condominium. Right here’s how Barrett describes the profitable 1984 software of Robert Hopkins, the gambler who was certainly one of Trump’s earliest tenants:
Accompanying Hopkins’s financial institution software have been two purported tax returns, describing Hopkins as “a wholesale jeweler and Russian enamel vendor” and claiming a 1982 revenue of $563,000 and a 1983 revenue of $616,000. The issue is that the state prosecutors who convicted him on playing costs a couple of years later might discover no proof that he had any job or reportable revenue in either yr.
Because the saying goes, the satan is in the particulars, and Barrett was one of the first to offer detailed briefs to the public on Trump’s endlessly shady business practices.
The Case of the Missing Case: How a Trump Probe Died in Rudy’s Office
October 12, 1993
Tony Lombardi, the G-man who thought the G in his unofficial government title stood for Giuliani, single-handedly carried out a low-profile probe of Donald Trump in early 1988, closing it despite proof of fraud and an informant who stated he might implicate the supposed billionaire. The fast shutdown of this mysterious inquiry — which Lombardi concedes was by no means given a case quantity in Southern District information, or assigned to any assistant U.S. lawyer, however which reportedly was recognized to then U.S. Lawyer Rudy Giuliani — launched a personal relationship between the agent and his topic Trump. It might even have helped create a political alliance between Lombardi’s formidable boss and the developer who was, at the time, each the town’s largest political donor and most outspoken critic of incumbent Ed Koch.
Within a number of weeks of Lombardi’s two face-to-face, hour-long interviews with Trump about his alleged involvement within the suspect sale of two Trump Tower flats to the mob-connected operator of the town’s largest illegal gambling operation, the developer announced in Might 1988 information tales that he might increase $2 million in a half hour if the then U.S. Lawyer determined to run for mayor. Trump finally did turn into one of the co-chairs of Giuliani’s first fundraisers, sitting on the dais of his Might 1989 extravaganza on the Waldorf (he, his family, and his employees raised and gave no less than $41,000 to the campaign). However the endorsement of Giuliani by the then wildly successful developer, whose renovation of the Wollman Skating Rink had made him a momentary civic hero, yielded dividends on the time that went far beyond the dollars he raised and attracted headlines in every tabloid (“Trump Places Bucks Behind Rudy Giuliani” screamed the Submit).
Lombardi, who says he introduced himself to Trump by saying that he “worked for Rudy Giuliani,” acknowledges that he was aware that Trump “gave cash to Democrats and Republicans, and favored to unfold it around,” although he disputed any connection between his quick shutdown of this probe and Trump’s early encouragement of a Giuliani candidacy. “I feel Trump’s more of a conservative man,” Lombardi contended, “and I feel he may need simply gone together with Giuliani’s fashion.” (Trump shouldn’t be supporting Giuliani now, and even backed away from him within the later levels of the 1989 marketing campaign. Giuliani declined to debate this or another facet of the story with the Voice.)
Whereas Lombardi contends that he did not formally inform the “very upset” Trump that he’d terminated the inquiry, he says that Trump would’ve understood that it was lifeless sooner or later in mid 1988. “He knew by the very fact that there was no extra inquiry,” the agent says. By then, Trump had emerged as a public Giuliani booster despite the fact that a longtime favourite of his, Metropolis Council President Andrew Stein, was nonetheless talking a few potential mayoral run.
In the identical time-frame because the Lombardi inquiry (though not necessarily associated), two sources who have been then prime aides to Trump stated that he started meeting with Arnold Burns, the former affiliate lawyer common who was a Giuliani mentor and would soon turn into the finance chairman of Giuliani’s election committee. Burns had just lately left the Justice Department and joined Proskauer, Rose, Goetz, and Mendelsohn, a number one Manhattan regulation firm. Trump talked with Burns about retaining him, though neither source might recall if he ever did (indications are that he did not). One source stated that Trump’s function in reaching out to Burns was “to determine a better relationship with Giuliani” by means of Burns and that the legal work was “irrelevant.” Burns additionally reportedly entertained Trump in his Sutton Place condominium, put collectively the Waldorf fundraiser that included Trump, and was as soon as an investor in an organization that owned a controversial helicopter enterprise used by Trump and was managed by a convicted cocaine supplier.
The juxtaposition of the Lombardi inquiry, the Trump strategy to Burns, and Trump’s public rhapsody concerning the wonders of Rudy clearly don’t establish a cause-and-effect relationship. Trump’s help of Giuliani in 1988 and thru a lot of 1989 was, in all probability, as a consequence of a number of elements. However it could not have did not make an impression on Trump that a prime Giuliani aide had shortly dispatched what may need been a thorny and protracted inquiry. “There was not a thing I did that was unethical,” Lombardi says concerning the case. “It was completed the same means I handled every thing.”
In March 1986, the tabloids blazed with tales concerning the arrest of Robert Hopkins, the six-foot five-inch, 250-pound, mob-tied head of a numbers ring that took in a half million dollars every week and was run out of 100 totally different places across the town. Charged with luring a rival mobster to his execution outdoors an East Aspect restaurant the place the 2 had just dined, Hopkins was tabloid fodder because he lived in an expensive Trump Tower duplex on the 59th and 60th flooring where he was arrested. He and his roommate have been additionally indicted on fees of operating the gambling operation out of the tower flats (they ultimately have been convicted on these expenses, however the murder rely was dismissed). Trump Organization officials have been quoted in a Submit story as saying that Hopkins was one of the complicated’s “greatest tenants,” including that he’d said on an software for his flats that he was a building-company owner and that he had survived a reference verify earlier than shifting into the tower 14 months earlier.
But the story of how Hopkins received his Trump flats was much more difficult. Hopkins and Trump have been each shoppers of legendary fixer Roy Cohn, as was “Joe Beck” DiPalermo, the key mob determine behind the Hopkins operation. With Cohn getting the two collectively, Hopkins turned one of the earliest purchasers of Trump Tower flats, going to contract in 1981, when development on the constructing had barely begun. He was the type of buyer — agreeing to pay a reported $2 million for the flats — who helped set the upscale market worth for Trump’s first residential venture. Trump personally signed a bond agreement with Hopkins, obligating him to return a $164,000 Hopkins deposit. But Hopkins’s wholesale lack of verifiable revenue and belongings made financing the purchase extremely troublesome, so Hopkins was unable to close on the deal until June 1984, lengthy after the constructing opened. He finally managed to secure a mortgage from Midlantic, a New Jersey–based mostly financial institution that dealt with lots of Trump’s casino accounts.
A letter from Cohn’s agency indicating that “the Trump Group has validated the status” of the Hopkins buy helped push the bank to approve the doubtful deal. Trump, who knew Hopkins personally, also had an curiosity in Hopkins’s capacity to pay long-term — because the Trump Group collects widespread costs from tower occupants.
Accompanying Hopkins’s bank software have been two purported tax returns, describing Hopkins as “a wholesale jeweler and Russian enamel vendor” and claiming a 1982 revenue of $563,000 and a 1983 revenue of $616,000. The issue is that the state prosecutors who convicted him on playing costs a few years later might discover no proof that he had any job or reportable revenue in both yr. In addition, the tax preparer who supposedly signed the returns bought his enterprise after struggling a completely disabling stroke in January 1983, three months earlier than the primary return was executed. Nevertheless, Hopkins’s mortgage broker, Frank LaMagra, had cast the identify of the identical incapacitated accountant on the 1983 tax returns of one other mob associate of his, Louie “Ha Ha” Attanasio, and wound up convicted of conspiracy and aiding and abetting the submission of materially false returns a couple of years later.
In addition to the apparently bogus tax filings, Hopkins’s financial institution submissions included appraisals of two diamonds Hopkins claimed to personal — valued at a combined $324,000 by a supposed jeweler who was truly part of Hopkins’s gambling ring. Though Hopkins also submitted an appraisal assigning a $2.1 million worth to the flats (the identical worth the Trump Group publicly claimed Hopkins paid), the actual worth was $1.6 million. The closing documents put the 81 per cent mortgage at $1.three million and contained no evidence of any Hopkins cost to cover the distinction between the mortgage and purchase worth (no wire switch of photocopied examine).
To complete this bizarre transaction, Hopkins got here to the closing with a suitcase containing between $150,000 and $200,000 in cash, which he sat counting on the far finish of the Trump Tower conference room table. Trump himself paid a visit to the assembled group, saying howdy to Hopkins and Hopkins’s lawyer, Ted Teah, an affiliate within the Cohn regulation firm who was also a member of the City Planning Fee (Hopkins additionally knew the opposite notorious member of the Cohn agency — party-boss-turned-racketeer Stanley Friedman, who was seen assembly with Hopkins on a police surveillance). Midlantic required Hopkins to make a $150,000 deposit, which would only be returned when Hopkins made funds totaling a specified amount beneath the phrases of the mortgage, and Hopkins introduced the cash to make the qualifying deposit.
In line with witnesses on the closing as well as a Midlantic official, LaMagra left in a Trump limo to place the cash within the Asbury Park branch of the financial institution. LaMagra was later convicted in two federal felony instances — one in every of which concerned the same Midlantic bank officer who waited late that day to obtain Hopkins’s gambling largesse. Investigators would later look at the query of whether the required disclosure studies have been made on this unusual deposit.
After a couple of months of payments, Hopkins defaulted on the mortgage, and, even before his 1986 arrest, the financial institution had moved to foreclose, stymied solely by its own reluctance to grab the flats (it already decided that resale prices on this line of flats have been operating $125,000 lower than the outstanding mortgages). The paperwork for this deal — notably after Hopkins’s indictment indicated what his real supply of revenue was — made it appear to be a planned pillage of the financial institution. Yet even after Hopkins was busted and uncovered on this extensively publicized case, the financial institution made no grievance to prosecutors concerning the apparent swindle, and even provided halfhearted help when pushed by a Manhattan assistant district lawyer for evidence concerning the house acquisitions. Their postindictment passiveness appeared as related to their broader relationship with Trump as their unique determination to grant the mortgage.
Hopkins was one in every of a half dozen felons drawn to Trump Tower — buying or renting lots of its costliest flats. One other notorious resident was coke vendor Joey Weichselbaum, the supervisor of the helicopter firm as soon as not directly owned partially by Arnold Burns, who didn’t transfer into the two adjoining flats his girlfriend bought till he obtained out of federal jail in 1989. Trump was so near Weichselbaum he’d beforehand rented him an condo he personally owned in one other Manhattan Trump constructing, letting Weichselbaum pay partially with bartered copter service. Trump also wrote a letter of help for Weichselbaum to his sentencing decide in 1986.
In March 1988 — shortly before Frank LaMagra was to go to trial in Brooklyn federal courtroom — he and his lawyer began talking to Tony Lombardi a few potential deal. Since LaMagra was underneath indictment in a jurisdiction aside from the Southern District, where Lombardi labored, the strategy was unusual. The purpose was to attempt to get LaMagra out of his pending case throughout the river, both with a pretrial severance or a plea arrangement that provided LaMagra a shot at probation. The bait was Donald Trump.
LaMagra, who met with Lombardi at the Bridge Cafe in lower Manhattan on no less than one event, claimed that Trump “participated” in the alleged washing of the Hopkins cash. In accordance with Lombardi, LaMagra additionally “received into some detail concerning the documents” submitted to Hopkins to get the flats. A supply close to LaMagra says he also provided to put on a wire on Trump and others — a suggestion Lombardi says he can’t recall. On this meeting and quite a few conversations with LaMagra lawyer Michael Pollack, Lombardi obtained not more than a sketchy description of how LaMagra may implicate Trump. LaMagra’s full cooperation was guaranteed if Lombardi might get him out of his jam in Brooklyn.
The rationale LaMagra went to Lombardi was because of his lawyer’s close ties to the investigator, as well as the assumption that Giuliani’s office alone had the clout amongst native federal prosecutors to protect LaMagra from one other attainable indictment — this time by Jersey federal prosecutors. Lombardi was also perceived as personally near Brooklyn U.S. Lawyer Andy Maloney, and thus notably nicely positioned to get Maloney to cut LaMagra a break. But earlier than Lombardi made his strategy in Brooklyn, he decided to collect paperwork concerning the condo acquisition which may strengthen his pitch for leniency. Unusually enough, at the very least based on Lombardi, he determined to get the documents from Donald Trump (so much for the thought of wiring LaMagra or letting LaMagra “work the road” for federal prosecutors, the ostensible rationale for the deal Lombardi was purported to be looking for).
After an initial interview with Trump alone, says Lombardi, he went again for a second assembly with the developer and the employees who participated in the Hopkins closing. He came away with what he stated was “plenty of documents,” a model of occasions quite totally different from LaMagra’s, and a wide-eyed admiration for the supposed topic of his probe. “I was given carte blanche,” he says now. “The man met me with out an lawyer; he answered all my questions. There was by no means any hesitation. I used to be snug and I proceeded on and on and on. I amazed myself that I was capable of speak to him for an hour with out being interrupted. And the same thing the second time. He might have referred to as in a battery of legal professionals. He might’ve stymied me every which approach. He simply didn’t do it.” (In a second interview with Lombardi because the Voice went to press Monday, he contended that the primary assembly with Trump lasted solely five to 10 minutes.)
Lombardi knew he was more likely to run into a stonewall in Brooklyn — specifically Ruth Nordenbrook, the assistant who was making an attempt the LaMagra case and who was only inquisitive about flipping LaMagra towards his codefendant Attanasio (an officer LaMagra felt he might do nothing however refuse). A complicating issue was that Maloney himself was close to Trump — his brother was employed by Trump in a prime corporate submit and his small regulation firm had been retained by Trump shortly before he took office in 1986 (Trump was at his personal swearing-in ceremony). So when the investigator went to satisfy with Maloney, Nordenbrook and Maloney’s prime assistant, Larry Urgenson, his pitch for LaMagra was not precisely falling on welcome ears. What everybody acknowledged from the beginning was just how peculiar it was that an agent — not an assistant or prime aide to Giuliani — was making such a dramatic request days earlier than trial.
Neither was he notably properly prepared. He claims he never appeared at the tax returns or any of the opposite questionable financial institution submissions, so the fact that LaMagra might have cast the signature of the same accountant as the one named within the Attanasio case went unmentioned. By Lombardi’s personal account, he never talked to anyone at Midlantic, or decided whether or not all disclosure requirements have been met, or interviewed the individuals on the closing aside from Trump’s employees. He was not even positive if LaMagra delivered the money to Asbury Park — a reality he might’ve simply verified by calling the department. He says he informed them about LaMagra’s allegation about Trump’s participation and Trump’s rebuttal, adding during his Voice interview that LaMagra’s charge “was not truthful” and “was not correct.” He says he gave Nordenbrook the file of paperwork he’d gathered and provided to either depart any investigation of the case with them or take it with him to the Southern District.
The Brooklyn prosecutors recall that he was making an attempt to get control of the Trump case, in addition to info LaMagra was offering on a few other less-prominent matters. (Additionally they consider he had but to interview Trump, saying it will be “ridiculous” to query the goal so prematurely. If they’re proper, Lombardi’s two trips to Trump’s workplace after he’d lost LaMagra’s cooperation grow to be much more curious. Was he making an attempt to make a case with out LaMagra, or just flashing one at Trump that he knew was going nowhere?)
Regardless of Lombardi’s investigative lapses in the course of the meeting in Maloney’s workplace, he informed the Voice he thought he did “a very good promoting job” and “packaged the whole thing” nicely, however they rejected it. Maloney sat quietly by means of a lot of the discussion, effectively recusing himself and leaving it to Nordenbrook and Urgenson to reject LaMagra’s obscure proffer. Lombardi says that a couple of weeks after this session he wrote an inner memo to his supervisors summarizing the findings and making no suggestion for follow-up motion. He provides that he additionally discussed the case with Giuliani and prime Giuliani aides like Denny Young and Howard Wilson, insisting: “I’m making a flat-out assertion to you that everyone that should have recognized about this thing knew.”
Lombardi concedes that the case was by no means given a quantity, explaining that it was merely “an info merchandise,” too “preliminary” to qualify as an “investigation.” He claims he did report to an assistant on the case, but can’t recall who. A LaMagra supply says they tried again later to interest Lombardi within the case however he balked. LaMagra wound up convicted in Brooklyn and Jersey and the usefulness of no matter info he had about Trump died with the statute of limitations in mid 1989. Had the Southern District opened a file on the case, it’d ultimately have turn out to be a matter for evaluate by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement even if it was closed with none felony expenses (DGE routinely examines formal instances involving casino house owners). Lombardi’s low-key and hasty dealing with of the fees left nearly no paper trail indicating that it had ever existed.
THE TIES THAT BIND
By June 1988, on the heels of the closing of the Trump case, Lombardi had begun a relationship together with his onetime topic. He received free tickets to observe two Mike Tyson fights from Trump — one on closed-circuit television at the Plaza Lodge and a second at ringside in Atlantic Metropolis. He says both have been offered by means of a long-standing mutual pal of his and Trump’s — insurance coverage dealer Neil Walsh. He and Trump sat collectively in Walsh’s field at Giants Stadium for at the very least one recreation, and noticed one another one other time when Trump truly sat in another nearby field. He met Marla Maples and Ivana Trump. He and Trump also started talking to each other periodically by telephone — with Lombardi insisting that the contacts have been all regulation enforcement enterprise involving exchanges of data.
When new U.S. Lawyer Otto Obermaier arrived in the Southern District in 1989 (changing Giuliani protégé Benito Romano, who’d served on an interim foundation although a lot of the election yr), Lombardi “began speaking to individuals about choices,” and commenced considering retirement. One of the options then and later — when he truly left the federal government in 1992 — was Trump. While he reportedly informed buddies he was talking to Trump a few job, Lombardi claims that he solely considered it. “At one time, it received so far as me talking to another person to get their advice and I used to be advised it was one thing I ought to keep away from,” Lombardi claims. “I simply felt I appreciated the man and his type. There was by no means a direct conference or phone name between he and I.”
The most effective indication, nevertheless, of his persevering with ties to Trump contain this reporter. I’ve recognized Lombardi for years, and have benefited once in a while from his well-known accessibility to reporters. He conceded in a Voice interview on Saturday that he had omitted any reference to this Trump inquiry in conversations we had in late 1989, once I began work on a Trump biography (Trump: The Deals & The Downfall, HarperCollins, 1992), regardless of particular questions which may ordinarily have elicited it. The truth is, he by no means talked about that he knew Trump. These omissions have been starkly inconsistent with our relationship at the time. Lombardi only acknowledged the existence of the probe once I discovered about it independently in 1991 and did an on-the-record interview with him about it for the guide. At that time, Lombardi was evasive. My information of the complete scope of the apparent Hopkins swindle and LaMagra cooperation supply was limited, so little reference was made to both within the e-book.
What was most disturbing was that Trump knew within a matter of days of my 1989 meeting with Lombardi all the details I’d advised him a few very damaging tip I’d picked up involving Trump. Lombardi was the one individual I’d talked about the Trump allegation to (I by no means established there was any fact to it), but an outraged, well-informed Trump was telling a lawyer about it right after my assembly with Lombardi. In the course of the interview with Lombardi Saturday, Lombardi adamantly maintained that he didn’t relay our 1989 conversation to Trump immediately or via an middleman.
He also prompt that the rationale he never sought a Trump job was as a result of I’d made his handling of this probe a problem in our earlier interview. “It’s terrible that the choice of a job with Trump was taken away from me,” he complained, citing once more “the chemistry” he felt with the developer. He stated he lost the opportunity “not just for two years” — the standard waiting period for potential hiring conflicts with public officials — “but eternally,” adding: “You guys denied me that.”
Lombardi and I’ve barely spoken since his apparent breach virtually 4 years ago. I am reporting it now partly in the interest of disclosure, in order that the reader can contemplate whether or not this episode might have prejudiced me towards him. But I’m also citing it because his uncommon, protective response to my 1989 questions about Trump stays a measure to me of simply how necessary Trump had turn out to be to him. (With a purpose to lay out the small print of my exchanges with Lombardi about Trump, I’ve not directly revealed parts of a 1989 conversation that was off the document. Had Lombardi insisted on preserving the confidentiality of that earlier dialog (which for my part he had already violated), and declined to debate it once I raised it during our current on-the-record interview, I might have thought-about not reporting on it right here. However he did not. So the account that appears right here of what happened between us virtually four years ago is drawn from his responses to my questions on Saturday about our prior assembly.)
The Giuliani relationship with Trump pale even earlier than the election. A prime Trump staffer at the time, Tony Gliedman, was a heavyweight fundraiser for David Dinkins in the course of the 1989 common election, so Trump, who remained a nominal Giuliani backer to the top, had a foot in every camp. After Trump’s monetary issues in 1990, nevertheless, the developer drastically modified his involvement in metropolis campaigns, reworking himself into a small-time donor and part-time player. With Dinkins’s help of his truncated West Aspect venture, he has also turn into a backer of the mayor, albeit a moderately muted one, maybe as a result of his controversial improvement nonetheless has many enemies on the West Aspect who may otherwise be Dinkins voters.
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