Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Sealed Court Conviction Left Trump’s Florida Deal To Go South

Records released last week by the U. S. Supreme Court reveal that when Brooklyn U. S. District Court Judge Leo Glasser sealed the record of Felix Sater’s conviction on a guilty plea to joining with crime syndicate members in cheating investors all across the country, while Sater awaited sentencing in the Brooklyn case, the secrecy order enabled Sater to bilk more than 100 other investors in Fort Lauderdale’s Trump International Hotel & Tower. The $200 million Las Olas Boulevard construction project now stands incomplete, empty, and chained off along Fort Lauderdale’s popular beachfront.

Joe Altschul, attorney for 75 of the bilked purchasers of units in the failed condominium hotel development explained why the Brooklyn court’s secrecy order aided in the fraud against his clients: “Each of these purchasers had a right to know who they were dealing with. It’s bad enough that they prop up Donald Trump as the developer, but then you find out that it’s not Trump but a convicted felon already charged in financial shenanigans.”

Briefs in the Supreme Court case contend that the Sater case is only one of many in the Eastern District of New York in which prosecutors get judges to seal conviction records of mobsters – records which should be public to protect other innocent investors considering putting money into deals with felons who have already pleaded guilty to financial fraud, but whose convictions the court keeps secret on the supposed basis of a need to protect the lives of crime figures cooperating in government investigations into mob activities. Lawyers involved in this particular case are especially miffed because in passing sentence Sater’s case Judge Glasser took a pass on the traditional measure of ordering Sater to make restitution to the folks he duped while secretly convicted on his guilty plea and awaiting sentencing. There’s nothing about that aspect of the case that could have contributed to avoiding a mob hit on Sater.

When prosecutors and the courts contribute to the ongoing frauds of criminals against the investing public, and then shirk responsibility for making whole the folks they are supposed to protect from mob activities, it makes honest people in the construction business wonder whose side these public officials are on.

Sater owns a $4.8 million condo on Fisher Island, and allegedly paid the mob $1.5 million to be let in on the Fort Lauderdale Trump project. One of the lawyers involved in the Supreme Court case which resulted in release of the sealed record of Sater’s conviction is former federal judge Paul Cassell, who blames Judge Glasser for not immediately making Sater’s guilty plea conviction public. “The court illegally gave away millions to a criminal,” Cassell says. Miami first Amendment lawyer Tom Julin agrees. “It’s the worst thing a court can do. In a day and age when economic crimes can affect massive amounts of people, there’s a real danger in super sealing these kinds of judicial proceedings.”

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