BipHoo Company / Flickr Raid on Trump x27 s Lawyer...
BipHoo Company / Flickr

A lot of has been written lately about Michael Cohen.  Mostly it’s been about his setting up Non-Discloser and Disparagement deals with at least three different women, Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal who now say they had affairs with Donald Trump and a $1.6 Million deal for another playboy playmate who became pregnant and then aborted the child of former RNC fundraiser Elliot Broidy.

Cohen also besides Trump and Broidy represents Sean Hannity who also apparently shared another attorney with Trump including his primary Russia probe defense lawyer Jay Sekulow and Victoria Toensing who sent a “cease and desist” letter on Hannity’s behalf in May 2017 to Tulsa radio station KFAQ after conservative activist Debbie Schlussel who had alleged on the station’s Pat Campbell show that Hannity had acted in a “creepy” manner with her and invited her to his hotel room. [What?? Sexual Harassment Allegations linked to somebody from Fox News!!! Say it ain’t so.]

And Michael Cohen seems to be quite comfortable swimming in these waters.  But even with that there’s a lot more to his story and quite a bit of it has been spilling out.

Cohen himself likens himself to the character Ray Donovan portrayed on Showtime by Leiv Schriever.  I admit I’ve never seen the show not having Showtime and frankly I probably wouldn’t care for it because it seems like a Sopranos-Lite.

However it is interesting that Cohen would say that because he has actually has long history with mobsters and shady characters.

Admittedly this clip doesn’t explain much, so I went to Wiki.

The drama is set inLos Angeles, California, where Irish-American Ray Donovan (Liev Schreiber), originally from South Boston, works for the powerful law firm Goldman & Drexler, representing the rich and famous. Donovan is a “fixer”: a person who arranges bribes, payoffs, threats, and other shady activities, to ensure the outcome desired by the client. Good at his job, and no common hood, Ray is normally a devoted family man as well. He experiences his own problems when his menacing father, Mickey Donovan (Jon Voight), is unexpectedly released from prison, and the FBIattempts to bring down Ray and his associates.

As it turns out, Cohen may have point with his comparison to a lawyer-fixer who has a family ties to criminals, starting with his uncle Dr. Morton Levine who during the 70-80s owned the Brooklyn club El Caribe which was reportedly the headquarters for the Russian mob.

TPM first reported last year that Cohen was actually a childhood friend of Felix Sater, whose father was himself a reputed capo in the Mogilevich organized crime syndicate, said to be Russia’s largest and most dangerous. Filling out this picture of how Cohen fell into this milieu we’ve always been focused on the fact that Cohen’s uncle, Morton Levine, owned and ran a Brooklyn social club, El Caribe, which was awell-known meeting spotfor members of Italian and Russian organized crime families in the 1970s and 1980s.

According to published reports, in the 70s and early 80s, the boss of the Russian mob in New York (and for practical purposes the whole U.S) was a man named Evsei Agron. Things ended badly for Agron when was gunned down in a mob hit in 1985. After Agron was assassinated, his organization was taken over by under-boss Marat Balagula. Authorities believed Balagula was behind Agron’s killing. But he was never charged with the crime. Balagula ran things until 1991 when he was convicted of gasoline bootlegging.

What I didn’t realize until now is that bothAgron and his successor Balagula ran their operations out of an office in the El Caribe social club. So the El Caribe wasn’t just a mob hangout. From the 70s through the 90s at least, the bosses of the Russian mafia in the U.S. literally ran their crime organization out of the El Caribe.  

According to Levin, who is still alive, several of his nieces and nephews including Cohen have a stake in ownership of the club — that is until recently when Cohen gave up his stake just before Trump entered the White House.

That was probably wise.

Other reports about Cohen’s history are also fairly illuminating.  Cohen’s father was a surgeon — like Morton Levin who is a medical doctor — and he grew up jewish enclave of Five Towns in Long Island, New York.  He attended the private Lawrence Woodmere Academy and American University.  He studied law at Thomas M. Cooley School of Law in Michigan which InsideHigherEd.com once wrote, “is known for admitting students other law schools would not touch.”

His started working in law in 1992 essentially for the ambulance chaser firm of personal injury attorney Melvyn Estrin who had an office on lower Broadway in Manhattan and was eventually charged to insurance fraud.

Estrin was the first in a series of colleagues who would run afoul of authorities. Within three years of Cohen’s arrival, Estrin was charged with bribing insurance adjusters to inflate damage estimates and expedite claims. He later pleaded guilty. Cohen was never implicated in any of the misdeeds. Estrin did not respond to a request for comment. He is still practicing law.

Cohen continued to use Estrin’s address on legal filings as late as 1999, but he added several new addresses during this period, including 22-05 43rd Ave., in Long Island City, Queens — the taxi garage. It was the headquarters of the New York branch of the empire of Simon Garber, a Soviet emigre who also has had cab companies in Chicago and Moscow. Charismatic and silver-haired, Garber released kitschy TV-style advertisements, in Russian, for his company.

Over the years, Garber has been convicted of assault in New York, arrested for battery in Miami and pleaded guilty in New Jersey to charges of criminal mischief involving him breaking into three neighbors’ homes, shattering glass doors, smearing blood all over and taking a shower. In Chicago, his taxi fleet included wrecked vehicles with illegally laundered titles.

Cohen’s Russian links went far beyond just Garber and his lifelong friend Felix Sater — it also includes his wife who was born in Soviet Ukraine.

In 1994 Cohen married Laura Shusterman, who was born in the Soviet Union. Her father, also a taxi entrepreneur, pleaded guilty to a felony, conspiracy to defraud the IRS, the year before.

By the late 1990s, records show, Cohen had begun acquiring taxi medallions, licenses required by the City of New York to operate a yellow cab. The number of medallions has been strictly controlled for decades. Before the advent of services like Uber, they were particularly valuable, with their price peaking at over $1 million in 2014.

Cohen co-owned some of the medallions with his wife, and indeed, his family and business relationships sometimes overlapped. Filings show his father-in-law once made a loan to Garber. And in 2001, Cohen borrowed money for one of his taxi companies, Golden Child Cab Corp., from one of the men convicted with Cohen’s father-in-law, Fima Shusterman, in the fraud against the IRS.

Continuing in some of the work he started with Melvyn Estrin in 2000 Cohen was involved a series of car insurance lawsuits representing plaintiffs who claimed to have been involved in accidents.  However it appears that some of the accidents were staged and frequently involved Russian immigrants bringing suspicion that it might have been a scam concocted by the Russian mob.

At this time, a wave of staged auto accidents, involving immigrants from the former Soviet Union who claimed to have been hurt, had led prosecutors to open a massive investigation. They dubbed it Operation Boris, an acronym for Big Organized Russian Insurance Scam. The prosecutorial push resulted in hundreds of convictions.

And then you have allegations of medical fraud after Cohen drew up articles of incorporation for several medical supply companies such as Avex Medical Care PRC who sued insurance companies over 300 times. The plaintiff lawyer in almost all these cases was David Katz who was eventually disbarred for misconduct.

Dr. Zhanna Kanevsky, the principal of Life Quality Medical, a clinic business that Cohen incorporated in 2002, surrendered her medical license after pleading guilty to writing phony prescriptions for 100,000 oxycodone and other pills.

Once again, Cohen was never charged.

Cohen’s father-in-law Fima Shusterman as it turns out is the man who actually introduced Cohen to Donald Trump as he began transferring the wealth he accumulated through his Taxi Medallions into real estate ultimately purchasing properties in Trump Palace, Trump Park Ave, and Trump World Center while still operating his law office from inside a Queens taxi garage.  Cohen soon began working for Trump as his “fixer” and deal maker along with his childhood friend Felix Sater.

Sater is admittedly a fairly interesting character himself.  As noted above his father had been a capo in the Mogilevic crime family he’s done time for stabbing a man with stem of a Margarita glass back in the early 90’s.  In the late 90’s Sater was linked and charged in a $40 Million stock fraud case that was being run by the Russian and Italian mobs.  Sater was ultimately let off with a minor $35,000 fine after he agreed to become an informant against the mob for the FBI.  One of the FBI agents involved in his case who had reportedly helped escort Sater back to the U.S. from Russia was Gary Uhr, who has since become a bodyguard for Donald Trump.

Another of Trump’s bodyguard’s was Keith Schiller who had been a former NYPD detective and was the person who tried to delivery the firing letter to James Comey at his office in DC while he was actually in Los Angeles, and who was personally mentioned both by Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal as being present before and after their tryst with Trump.  Schiller actually drove McDougal home after their initial sexual encounter while she was crying in shame in the back seat because Trump had offered her money. Schiller now provides security to the RNC and for questionable reason Trump’s 2020 election campaign has provided $66,000 for his legal defense.

And Schiller isn’t Trump’s only link to the NYPD.

Trump supporters among the NYPD showed up at the president’s victory party at the Hilton in New York City, on election night, some in full dress uniform. The NYPD sex crimes chiefdonatedthousands of dollars to the Trump campaign.

Sater became managing Director for Bayrock LLC real estate company in 2003, which was located on the 24th floor of Trump Tower and began doing Trump branded projects that year including Trump Tower in Phoenix, Trump International in Fort Lauterdale, Trump Camelback in Phoenix and Trump Soho in New York.  Starting in 2005 they began fielding projects for Trump Tower Moscow.

In addition to Trump’s link to the New York FBI via Sater and Uhr, Trump also donated a $Million to a charity operated by then NY FBI Chief James Kallstrom.

And Trumpdonateda million dollars–while running for the GOP nomination–to a charity that gave money to veterans and the families of fallen federal law enforcement agents. The charity is founded by former New York FBI agent James Kallstrom, who was on record during 2016 saying he talked to both former and current FBI agents who were “P.O.’d” about Comey’s decision not to pursue charges against Hillary Clinton.

Kallstrom’s name as it turns out came up in the text messages between FBI agent Peter Strzok and Lisa Page as they discussed the anti-Comey anti-Clinton leaks that were dripping out of the New York FBI Field Office in the weeks leading up to his sending his letter to Jason Chaffetz about the Weiner/Abedin emails.

Kallstrom is the former head of the New York FBI office, installed in that post in the ’90s by then-FBI director Louis Freeh, one of Giuliani’s longtime friends. Kallstrom has, like Giuliani, been on an anti-Comey romp for months, most often on Fox, wherehe’s called the Clintons as a “crime family.”He has been invoking unnamed FBI agents who contact him to complain about Comey’s exoneration of Clinton in one interview after another, positioning himself as an apolitical champion of FBI values.

And speaking of Rudy Giuliani.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was so tight with the New York FBI that he boasted about his advance knowledge of that impending development in several cryptic announcements about the October surprise. Giuliani’s ties to the New York FBI go back to his days as New York U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

On October 25, 26 and 28, 2016, Giuliani, then a prominent media spokesman for Trump, announced on various programs, including Fox News, that he expected “surprises” from Trump, coming from the FBI. He also bragged that he had gotten that information from “a few active agents, who obviously don’t want to identity themselves” about the Weiner/Clinton email investigation.

Cohen and Sater both worked together on another attempt at Trump Tower Moscow during the Presidential Campaign in late 2015 having several meetings with Trump himself where he ultimately signed a letter of intent on the project.

Felix Sater emailed Michael Cohen about the new Trump Tower Moscow project saying “I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected... I know how to play it and how to get this done. Buddy, our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it… I will get all of Putin’s team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.”   Cohen later emailed the Kremlin trying to get the project going but they ignore him most likely because the bank the Sater had arranged to finance the project was sanctioned as a result of the illegal annexation of Crimea.

Sater and Cohen also worked together on a “peace plan” for Ukraine and Russia which ultimately resulted in having “treason” charges logged at their Ukrainian contact Adrill Artemenko. 

The amateur diplomats say their goal is simply to help settle a grueling, three-year conflict that has cost 10,000 lives. “Who doesn’t want to help bring about peace?” Mr. Cohen asked.

But the proposal contains more than just a peace plan. Andrii V. Artemenko, the Ukrainian lawmaker, who sees himself as a Trump-style leader of a future Ukraine, claims to have evidence — “names of companies, wire transfers” — showing corruption by the Ukrainian president, Petro O. Poroshenko, that could help oust him. And Mr. Artemenko said he had received encouragement for his plans from top aides to Mr. Putin.

“A lot of people will call me a Russian agent, a U.S. agent, a C.I.A. agent,” Mr. Artemenko said. “But how can you find a good solution between our countries if we do not talk?”

Artemenko told to aUkrainian News outlet and revealed that he’s known Michael Cohen for some time since Cohen has an ethanol business in Ukriane, which is also where Cohen’s wife was born, and that his meeting with Cohen and Sater on Feb 6 wasn’t their first. According to Artemenko, he discussed the “peace-plan” with Cohen and Sater “at the time of the primaries, when no one believed that Trump would even be nominated.”

Of course if this proposal had gone through it would have resulted in the lifting of sanctions with Russia which would in turn allow for projects like Trump Tower Moscow to be finally implemented.

Also there is the mysterious trip to Prague that Cohen has been denying he took for nearly a year, but apparently Robert Mueller has proof that he did go.  Although what he did while there has not yet been confirmed the Steele dossier alleges he was fairly busy.

It suggests that Cohen took over management of the relationship with Russia after campaign chairman Paul Manafort was fired from the campaign in August (because of questions about his relationship with a political party in Ukraine). Cohen is said to have met secretly with people in Prague — possibly atthe Russian Center for Science and Culture — in the last week of August or the first of September. He allegedly met with representatives of the Russian government, possibly including officials of the Presidential Administration Legal Department; Oleg Solodukhin (who works with the Russian Center for Science and Culture); or Konstantin Kosachev, head of the foreign relations committee in the upper house of parliament. A planned meeting in Moscow, the dossier alleges, was considered too risky, given that a topic of conversation was how to divert attention from Manafort’s links to Russia and a trip to Moscow by Carter Page in July. Another topic of conversation, according to the dossier: allegedly paying off “Romanian hackers” who had been targeting the Clinton campaign.

And who would believe that Michael Cohen has been lying about traveling to Prague because while he was there he was involved in negotiations to PAY OFF SOMEBODY so they could get out of town before the fuzz showed up?

Coincidentally it turns out Russian hacker Yevgenly Nikulin was indeed arrested in Prague not long after Cohen’s trip — so maybe they had good reason to cheese it and scram.

If any of this allegation is true Cohen is in deep, deep serious trouble that he may not escape unlike the time he walked away unscathed when his former law firm partner Melvyn Estrin was charged for bribing insurance adjusters, his former client Dr. Zhanna Kanevsky was charged for writing phony prescriptions, Felix Sater was charged with assault and stock fraud, his father-in-law Fima Shusterman was charged with tax fraud, or his taxi-garage landlord Garber has been convicted of assault in New York, arrested for battery in Miami and pleaded guilty in New Jersey to charges of criminal mischief.

I suspect Cohen probably won’t be walking away scott free this time.


 

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