The case against Felix Sater, a Russian-American businessman and well known Trump Associate, being investigated in connection to a $250M civil tax fraud allegation, was dismissed on Wednesday by a Manhattan court. The fraud case compiled against Sater, a former business associate of United States President Donald J. Trump, was in relation to a real-estate company that he co-founded known as Bayrock. This type of case, known as a qui tam case, allows whistleblowers to bring a case to the attention of the state attorney generals office, and file it on the states behalf, who can then choose to intervene or not. It is a common type of case used in instances of money laundering, tax-evasion, and Ponzi schemes.
In this case, the matter was filed by a whistleblower purportedly by the name of Fred Oberlander. Oberlander is a lawyer who has previously represented a former business partner of Sater by the name of Jody Kriss, in a suit alleging money-laundering, that was brought against Bayrock. Oberlander has acknowledge that he was the one to file the qui tam case, and did so on behalf of Kriss and others after a federal judge struck from the original complaint by Kriss information that would have been, in Oberlander’s opinion significant to the original suit.
It appears that the complaint was dismissed due to information being used to file it that had been previously removed from the original federal complaint when a judged who ruled such information was confidential. This was the end of the road for a case that had started with the complaint last year, but had failed to get the support of the state Attorney General’s office. State Attorney general, Eric Schniederman, sent a letter to the New York Supreme advising them that a press statement that had been made by Oberlander was misleading when it stated that the AG’s office had “greenlit” the case. The letter stated clearly that in fact the state had previously made is expressly clear that they were not interested in being party to the case.
It was stated after the case’s dismissal that the dismissal had taken place on the merits of the case and not on procedural grounds. It was also noted that both Oberlander and another lawyer attached to the first case against Sater had been twice recommended for action to the Department of Justice for suspicion of criminal contempt regarding misconduct in their behavior toward Sater during proceedings that they had been involved with against him.
The original suit was brought forth in 2010 by Kriss, who was the former finance manager for Bayrock. The initial suit alleged that for most of its existence the company was partially owned and totally controlled by Mob interests, and that it had participated in massive tax-fraud. Kriss had no hand in the qui tam suit that was filed by Oberlander. The original suit, however, also named the companies co-founder TevfikArif and Sater had cheated him out of millions of dollars in a wide variety of ways including money laundering and related crimes. A New York judged ruled in December that the lawsuit could move forward, but at the time removed confidential information from the complaint.
The original case states that the company began in 2003 to market certain projects that were carrying the Trump brand name, but that Mr. Trump had not been informed about the criminal past of Mr. Sater. In a that was filed in 2007 Mr. Trump stated that he would not have moved forward with any of the project, related to Mr. Sater’s and Mr. Arif’s company, including Trump SoHo had he known of such criminal background. He even went so far as to say that he would not have been able to identify Mr. Sater if they were in the same room despite the fact that he had numerous meetings with the two men and that the offices of the men’s real estate company were only two floors below trump’s Personal offices in Trump tower. Kriss stated in his filing that Trump and Saterhad met on numerous occasions and that Mr. Trump had stated that he valued both Mr. Sater’s loyalty and his coveted Russian connections. Mr. Trump even stated that he would be smart to be investing in Russia as it was one of the world’s hottest investment markets for real-estate an development and that partners like Mr. Sater make it easier for him to get business done there.
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