Trump’s Personal Lawyer Brags That He Got Preet Bharara Fired

❝ Marc Kasowitz, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer in the Russia investigation, has boasted to friends and colleagues that he played a central role in the firing of Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, according to four people familiar with the conversations.

Kasowitz told Trump, “This guy is going to get you,” according to a person familiar with Kasowitz’s account.

❝ Those who know Kasowitz say he is sometimes prone to exaggerating when regaling them with his exploits. But if true, his assertion adds to the mystery surrounding the motive and timing of Bharara’s firing.

❝ New presidents typically ask U.S. attorneys to resign and have the power to fire them. But Trump asked Bharara to stay in his job when they met in November at Trump Tower, as Bharara announced after the meeting.

In early March, Trump reversed himself. He asked all the remaining U.S. attorneys to resign, including Bharara. Bharara, a telegenic prosecutor with a history of taking on powerful politicians, refused and was fired March 11.

As ProPublica previously reported, at the time of Bharara’s firing the Southern District was conducting an investigation into Trump’s secretary of health and human services, Tom Price…

❝ The Southern District of New York conducts some of the highest profile corporate investigations in the country. According to news reports…the office is…looking into Russian money-laundering allegations at Deutsche Bank, Trump’s principal private lender…

❝ …More than three months after Bharara was fired, Trump has not nominated anyone to fill the Southern District job or most of the other U.S. attorney positions.

That shouldn’t surprise anyone, either.

Political family values in New York state — father and son charged in bribery plot

A Family that preys together…

Within days of taking over as New York Senate majority leader in January, prosecutors say, Dean Skelos was basking in his newfound power, announcing to his son Adam: “I’m going to control everything.”

“I’m going to control who gets on what committees, what legislation goes to the floor, what legislation comes through committees, the budget, everything,” Skelos allegedly said on a phone call with Adam, not knowing the Federal Bureau of Investigation was listening.

Father and son, both of Rockville Centre in New York’s Long Island, were arrested Monday and charged with running a scheme dating back to 2010 in which Skelos, 67, used his position first as a co-leader of the Senate and then as majority leader to obtain more than $200,000 in payments for his 32-year-old son in exchange for favorable treatment in the Legislature.

Real estate developers and an environmental technology company are among those who were expected to pay Adam Skelos, prosecutors said in announcing their case, which was built using phone taps, e-mails and two cooperating witnesses who recorded conversations for federal investigators.

While undeterred by the January arrest of New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on corruption charges, Skelos, a Republican, and his son did take steps to conceal their actions, using code words and disposable “burner” phones to pursue their plans, prosecutors said in a six-count criminal complaint against the two…

The arrest of Dean Skelos, just months after Silver, a Democrat, was forced to resign his post, promises to further roil the state Senate, where Republicans hold a slim majority.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has been outspoken in his criticism of the political culture in Albany, where the leaders of the two legislative chambers exert enormous control over budgets, contracts and regulations.

The lengthy complaint against Skelos describes a lawmaker who threw his support behind projects based “not on what was good for his constituents or good for New York, but rather on what was good for his son’s bank account,” Bharara said at a press conference…

RTFA for all the sleazy details. I know you’re probably not shocked or amazed; but, it’s worthy to express your outrage everywhere you get to speak your mind. Sooner or later, we will succeed in shoving scum out of public office.

Maybe not all of them at any one time; but, we keep on keepin’ on.

U.S. Attorney nails NY State “3 men in a room” culture – with an indictment

Two of the “3 men in a room” — NY Governor Andrew Cuomo, State Assembly Speaker, Sheldon Silver

One day after charging one of New York’s leading lawmakers with exploiting his office to obtain millions of dollars in kickbacks and bribes, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York delivered a stinging condemnation of the culture of corruption in Albany and said the system was set up to breed misdeeds.

The prosecutor, Preet Bharara, speaking at the New York Law School on Friday, castigated how deal-making has long been done in Albany — by “three men in a room” (the governor, the State Assembly speaker and the State Senate majority leader), who work in secret and without accountability to decide most vital issues.

For decades, state government has essentially been controlled by the three leaders. When they emerge from their private meetings, issues are usually settled, with no cause for public debate.

Mr. Bharara said this structure could lead to the kind of corruption outlined in the criminal complaint unveiled on Thursday against Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat who has been the Assembly speaker for two decades.

If the charges are proved true, he said, then “at least one of the proverbial three men in a room is compromised.”

If that is the case, he said, “then how can we trust that anything that gets decided in Albany is on the level?”

By concentrating power in the hands of so few, he said, good people are discouraged from running for office because they know they will have little influence on important matters…

…Mr. Bharara compared the culture in Albany to Wall Street, where he has aggressively pursued insider trading prosecutions.

Rather than trying to work for a greater good, he said, many people focused on where the line is between legal and illegal, and then steered as close as possible to that border without crossing over.

Such a mentality, he said, is a recipe for trouble…

He urged voters to get angry, to demand change. “My hope is that in bringing the case,” he said, “there will be reform.”

“That almost happened with the Moreland Commission,” Mr. Bharara said, referring to the anticorruption panel established by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo that was looking at lawmakers’ behavior when the governor shut it down…

And that governor, Andrew Cuomo was one of those “3 men in a room”. Which just may have provided his reason for shutting down the commission investigating New York State corruption.

I doubt he counted on Preet Bharara getting a court order requiring everything from the Moreland Commission to be turned over to the US Attorney — much less carrying the investigation through to the indictment of the man who has been State Assembly speaker for more than 20 years, Sheldon Silver.

Ex-Army sniper busted in sting – told drug cartel was hiring!

A former U.S. Army sniper has been charged with attempting to run what he thought was a security outfit for a Colombian drug cartel.

Joseph Hunter, 48, a former Army sergeant, had been in contact with what he thought was a Colombian drug dealer but who turned out to be an undercover agent for the Drug Enforcement Agency…

Hunter, aka “Rambo,” and a team of three others had traveled to various countries conducting security for what Hunter thought was a cocaine operation. He had agreed and planned to carry out the assassination of a DEA agent and a “snitch,” CNN said.

Prosecutors said Hunter’s actions were like that of a character in a spy novel.

“The bone-chilling allegations in today’s Indictment read like they were ripped from the pages of a Tom Clancy novel,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Friday. “The charges tell a tale of an international band of mercenary marksmen who enlisted their elite military training to serve as hired guns for evil ends.”

Timothy Vamvakias, 42, also an Army veteran, was also charged, along with Dennis Gogel, 27, a German national who served in the German armed forces, former Polish counterterrorism expert Slawomir Soboroski, and former German military sniper Michael Filter…

They face charges of conspiracy to murder a law enforcement agent, conspiracy to kill a person to prevent communications to law enforcement, conspiracy to import cocaine into the United States and other drug and gun-related charges.

Gun-for-hire amorality is just another symptom of the devolution of an avocation and hobby which used to be dedicated to gun safety, hunting, target shooting, education. It’s easy enough, nowadays, to make the transition from guns as judge, jury and executioner – to hired gunslinger.

It ain’t going to happen often; but, it’s not exceptional in a society where vigilantes are acceptable.

Oldest Swiss bank closing down after tax evasion fine

Switzerland’s oldest bank is to close permanently after pleading guilty in a New York court to helping Americans evade their taxes. Wegelin, which was established in 1741, has also agreed to pay $57.8 million in fines to US authorities. It said that once this was completed, it “will cease to operate as a bank”.

The bank had admitted to allowing more than 100 American citizens to hide $1.2 billion from the Internal Revenue Service for almost 10 years.

Wegelin, based in the small Swiss town of St Gallen, started in business 35 years before the US declaration of independence. It becomes the first foreign bank to plead guilty to tax evasion charges in the US…

US Attorney Preet Bharara said: “The bank wilfully and aggressively jumped in to fill a void that was left when other Swiss banks abandoned the practice due to pressure from US law enforcement.”

He added that it was a “watershed moment in our efforts to hold to account both the individuals and the banks – wherever they may be in the world – who are engaging in unlawful conduct that deprives the US Treasury of billions of dollars of tax revenue”…

Mr Burderer’s further admission that assisting tax evasion was common practice in Switzerland has caused huge concern among the Swiss banking community, according to the BBC’s Switzerland correspondent, Imogen Foulkes.

“Some Swiss financial analysts are already speculating that Wegelin’s $58m fine, which many had expected to be higher, was kept low by the US authorities in return for Wegelin clearly implicating the rest of the Swiss banking community in tax evasion,” she said.

No one’s publishing anything more than speculation about which banks – and which bank officers – are next in line to be prosecuted. The obvious reason for the comparatively light fine and delay of indictments of Wegelin’s officers leads easily to the conclusion that cooperation and leads are being offered. It’s called turning state’s evidence to save your buns!

Owner gets back $750 painting missing since 1970 — and it’s now worth about $4 million!

Barbara Castelli holding back a broad smile

A multimillion-dollar Roy Lichtenstein painting of an electrical cord that was sent out for a cleaning 42 years ago and disappeared was returned to its owner on Tuesday.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, calling the recovery of missing or stolen art an “important mission” for the federal government, stood near the 1961 black-and-white painting, “Electric Cord,” as he described how American art dealer Leo Castelli bought it in the 1960s for $750.

“It is now worth about $4 million,” Bharara said. “Returning stolen art and artifacts is an important mission of this office, and it is always gratifying when we are successful.”

It helps when it’s worth more than money in the bank, too!

Castelli sent the painting to an art restorer for cleaning in January 1970 and never got it back. He died in 1999. The painting resurfaced six years after the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation published an image of it on its holiday greeting card in 2006 and asked the art community to help find it.

Castelli’s widow, Barbara Bertozzi Castelli, said she plans to display it in her Manhattan home “if I find a place to hang it.” She said she had never seen it before Tuesday.

Bharara declined to say whether criminal charges will be filed against anyone in connection with the painting’s disappearance.

RTFA for the whole telenovela, the journey of the painting, return to the US and return to Mrs. Castelli.

Feds file mortgage fraud lawsuit against Wells Fargo

The U.S. government filed a civil mortgage fraud lawsuit on Tuesday against Wells Fargo & Co, the latest legal volley against big banks for their lending during the housing boom.

The complaint, brought by the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan, seeks damages and civil penalties from Wells Fargo for more than 10 years of alleged misconduct related to government-insured Federal Housing Administration loans.

The lawsuit alleges the FHA paid hundreds of millions of dollars on insurance claims on thousands of defaulted mortgages as a result of false certifications by Wells Fargo, the fourth-biggest U.S. bank as measured in assets.

“As the complaint alleges, yet another major bank has engaged in a longstanding and reckless trifecta of deficient training, deficient underwriting and deficient disclosure, all while relying on the convenient backstop of government insurance,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

The bank denied the allegations and said in a statement it believes it acted in good faith and in compliance with blah, blah, blah…

Bharara’s office has brought similar cases in the past year, including one against Citigroup Inc unit CitiMortgage Inc, which settled the case for $158.3 million in February, and against Deutsche Bank, which paid $202.3 million in May to resolve its case.

The U.S. Attorney’s office in Brooklyn brought the biggest such case, against Bank of America Corp’s Countrywide unit, which agreed in February to pay $1 billion to resolve the allegations.

Preet Bharara rules. His track record against fraud perpetrated by bankers and financiers is rock-solid. Go get ’em!

8 NYC coppers among 12 charged in criminal conspiracy

Preet Bharara and Ray Kelly
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Five active and three retired officers of the New York Police Department are among 12 people charged Tuesday with conspiring to transport and distribute firearms and stolen goods…

“A group of crime fighters took to moonlighting as criminals,” Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said at a press conference.

The defendants are charged in an alleged conspiracy to transport and distribute untraceable firearms across state lines. and conspiracy to transport supposedly stolen and counterfeit goods including cigarettes from Virginia and slot machines from Atlantic City, New Jersey…

The current or former NYPD officers charged are William Masso, Eddie Goris, Ali Oklu, Gary Oritz, and John Mahony, all active-duty officers in Brooklyn; Joseph Trischitta and Marco Venezia, who were active-duty NYPD officers at the time of the alleged crimes but are now retired; and Richard Melnik, a retired NYPD officer. Also charged, federal authorities said, are Anthony Santiago, a New York City Department of Sanitation police officer; David Kanwisher, a New Jersey corrections officer; and Michael Gee and Eric Gomer, who court documents list as “associates” of Santiago…

Prosecutors said that while the defendants all believed the items they transported were stolen; they had in fact been provided by the FBI. The firearms were never a danger to the public, authorities said, as they had been rendered inoperable.

“These crimes are without question, reprehensible — particularly conspiring to import untraceable guns and assault rifles into New York,” said Janice K. Fedarcyk, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York division. “The public trusts the police not only to enforce the law, but to obey it. These crimes, as alleged in the complaint, do nothing but undermine public trust and confidence in law enforcement.”

You got that right.

The whole point of oversight is made in spades. This is why we have an SEC to keep an eye on Wall Street. And they failed us the last decade. This is why we have federal attorney-generals and they pretty much failed us during the 8 useless years of Bush/Cheney.

We’re fortunate to have someone like Preet Bharara operating in New York, nowadays. Seems like I get to note his name in a crime-busting case every couple of months.

14 members of Gambino crime family sentenced in NYC

Fourteen mobsters from New York’s Italian-American mafia have been sentenced as part of a wide-ranging assault by the authorities on the Cosa Nostra…

The 14 ranged from former Gambino crime family boss, Daniel Marino, to so-called soldiers or thugs carrying out beatings to enforce Gambino extortion activities, the federal prosecutor’s office in Manhattan said. Nine were sentenced this week and five over recent months.

Illustrating the authorities’ principal strategy against secretive mafia groups in New York, the 14 were handed light sentences after they admitted guilt. Mafia members in plea bargains with prosecutors are often handed reduced punishments in return for cooperation with investigators against former comrades, including testifying against them in court…

US Attorney Preet Bharara said: “The successful prosecutions of Daniel Marino and his cronies dealt a significant blow to the Gambino Family — a family that will stop at nothing to wield power, extract illegal profits, and exact revenge against its enemies.”

“We are far from finished,” Bharara said.

Preet Bharara is becoming my new hero copper. Between flushing mafaioso soldiers [and Capos] down the toilet and doing the same to Wall Street Barons convinced they’re as much above the law as La Cosa Nostra, Bharara is establishing a new legend in New York City of an east coast Untouchable [that’s American slang btw].