Friday, April 06, 2018

Trump and the crime boss: Can anyone translate? Plus: Facebook

This film received prominent mention on Christo Grozev's twitter feed. Apparently, it adds to our knowledge of the relationship between Donald Trump and Russian master criminal Semyon Mogilevich. This link seems to run through yet another Russian living just beneath Trump in Trump Tower, Yakov Bogatin, the head of a concern called YBM Magnex, ostensibly in the business of magnets although the company actually functioned as an organized crime pump-and-dump scheme and a money laundering operation, all rolled into one.

There have been quite a few stories in the American press about YBM, going back to 1999.
Mr. Mogilevich's move into the North American equity markets began with a company he set up in suburban Philadelphia called YBM Magnex. Its primary business was the manufacture of industrial magnets at a factory in Hungary and later at a factory the company bought in Kentucky. YBM attracted a blue-ribbon board, its books were audited by two prominent American accounting firms, it issued glossy annual reports and it had its own Web site.

All of this turned out to be sophisticated cover for what was also a vast money-laundering operation, American intelligence and law enforcement officials say.
That piece has an excellent bio of Mogilevich (who once put out a contract on the life of journalist Robert Friedman, author of the first expose of the crime boss).
Mr. Mogilevich started as a small-time thief and counterfeiter in the 1970's, officials say, then made millions in the 1980's from Jews leaving the Soviet Union. He took their art, jewelry and other valuables, promising to sell them and send the money. He kept most of the proceeds, officials say.

Not long after the Berlin wall came down and the Soviet Union collapsed, making travel easier, Mr. Mogilevich set up operations in Budapest, where he ran a prostitution ring out of a topless bar called the Black and White Club, European and American officials say.
Please note that this 1999 piece does not link Mogilevich -- or YBM -- to Trump Tower. The linkage does receive an airing here...
For our purposes, one of the most interesting things to note about this YBM Magnex case is that its CEO was a Russian-American named Jacob Bogatin, who was also indicted in the Philadelphia case. His brother David had served in the Soviet Army in a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft unit, helping to shoot down American pilots like Senator John McCain. Since the early 1990s, David Bogatin was considered by the FBI to be one of the key members of Semion Mogilevich’s Russian organized crime family in the United States, with a long string of convictions for big-ticket Mogilevich-type offenses like financial fraud and tax dodging.

At one point, David Bogatin owned five separate condos in Trump Tower that Donald Trump had reportedly sold to him personally.77 And Vyacheslav Ivankov, another key Mogilevich lieutenant in the United States during the 1990s, also resided for a time at Trump Tower, and reportedly had in his personal phone book the private telephone and fax numbers for the Trump Organization’s office in that building.
Also see here.

As ever, we cannot prove that Trump profited from or had any knowledge of the illegal activities involving Bogatin and YBM. But the pattern is undeniable. Russian crooks seemed to gravitate toward the upper floors of that building. Why?

The YBM operation was literally yards away from Felix Sater, Tevfik Arif, and Bayrock, the subject of several previous posts. Paul Manafort had a unit in Trump Tower when he was working on behalf of Putin's man in Ukraine. And of course, the Molly Bloom poker game (which had undeniable ties to the Russian mob) operated out of Trump Tower -- although you won't see any mention of this fact in Aaron Sorkin's deceptive film, Molly's Game. (The film also doesn't mention the mysterious company called "Poker Venture," linked to both Der Donald and Ivanka, which listed a Trump Tower address.)

In the past, I've linked to this article by Craig Unger, which is still miles ahead of most other reportage on Trump...
Over the past three decades, at least 13 people with known or alleged links to Russian mobsters or oligarchs have owned, lived in, and even run criminal activities out of Trump Tower and other Trump properties. Many used his apartments and casinos to launder untold millions in dirty money. Some ran a worldwide high-stakes gambling ring out of Trump Tower—in a unit directly below one owned by Trump. Others provided Trump with lucrative branding deals that required no investment on his part. Taken together, the flow of money from Russia provided Trump with a crucial infusion of financing that helped rescue his empire from ruin, burnish his image, and launch his career in television and politics. “They saved his bacon,” says Kenneth McCallion, a former assistant U.S. attorney in the Reagan administration who investigated ties between organized crime and Trump’s developments in the 1980s.

It’s entirely possible that Trump was never more than a convenient patsy for Russian oligarchs and mobsters, with his casinos and condos providing easy pass-throughs for their illicit riches. At the very least, with his constant need for new infusions of cash and his well-documented troubles with creditors, Trump made an easy “mark” for anyone looking to launder money. But whatever his knowledge about the source of his wealth, the public record makes clear that Trump built his business empire in no small part with a lot of dirty money from a lot of dirty Russians—including the dirtiest and most feared of them all.
Bottom line: For more than a year, I've strongly suspected that Trump has had an association with Semyon Mogilevich. We need proof. I'd like to know if the video embedded adds to our knowledge of the intersecting worlds of those two men..

Facebook. For years, I've counseled readers to stay away from Facebook. For years, everyone has ignored my advice. But right now, things are looking very bad for Mister Z...
Facebook has deleted some of Mark Zuckerberg's private messages over fears sensitive data could be leaked.

Three sources claim old Facebook messages from Zuckerberg have disappeared from their inbox.

The recipients were not notified - raising concerns about what the Facebook CEO could be hiding.
The deleted messages were copies in the inboxes of the recipients. The company claims that these deletions were in response to the Sony hack -- which, one should not forget, had a foreign state sponsor. Other execs at Facebook made similar deletions.

The "Sony hack" explanation doesn't make a whole lot of sense. My strong suspicion is that Mister Z and his Z-Men have deleted material relevant to the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

By the way: Zuckerberg admitted that "malicious actors" have stolen Facebook phone data, including SMS messages. This is the main reason why I never acquired a Facebook account: I refused to give them my phone number. There never was any good reason for FB to demand that number.
Really interesting post, Joseph. Hope you're feeling better.

We maintain a very minimal FB presence, signed up without giving a phone number (that aspect of two factor is obviously intrusive) and seldom post anything.

This morning, April 6, 2018 I notice a box in the lower left corner urging me to answer a question to "answer a question to help people get to know you."

The first question was about when I lost my car keys. Hmm interesting behavioral and psychographic possibilities. Reload page.

The second question was, "the name of your first pet?" Now where have I heard that before? Are they building a phishing database?

The third, "A moment I enjoy during the day is..." Gosh, why would advertisers want to know that?

Then there was a fascinating list of recent FB patent applications posted to Twitter by Jeremy Ashkenas,:

His conclusion, which this reader shares, was: "But I think — as one might say at the Times — a portrait emerges of the kind of surveillance machine Facebook aspires to continue constructing."

Facebook and eBay both know my cell number and keep hectoring me to allow them to use it for "improved account security".
Yeah, that's not gonna happen. I can sue them if they snoop for invasion of privacy.
Anybody who signed up for a Facebook account who didn't think Zuckerberg would be rummaging through their underwear drawer needs a neuron transplant. Targeted advertising is how he made his stash. It's a digital supermarket discount card.
BTW if you buy OTC reflux or low dose aspirin meds don't give them your shopping card because that information will end up in your health insurance provider's database on you. Just sayin. Bottom line is nobody should be surprised Zucky sells you to bad actors like Cambridge Analytica.
Video captions
Maybe you've figured this out? Set the video to closed caption (CC). Click on the gear, select speed, and set it to 50%. Because the English translation doesn't work, I set the translation to French (which I can read somewhat).

If you have a friend who is fluent in French, suggest that they do the above and ask them to transcribe the video into English for you. Alternatively, the translation to another language (German?) might be more-or-less coherent for someone who is bi-lingual.

This is so strange. I think I know a company that was buying very powerful magnets for their own product back in the 90's and the company making the magnets was in Hungary. These small magnets, about the size of a trident gum, were so powerful that if one held a bunch of the magnets in a stack in one's hand the magnets could topple over and actually pinch the skin so hard as to make it bruise.
So if it was that company, they were putting out a legit product.
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