Dozens of explosive records released by the U.S. Supreme Court show a developer of the failed Trump tower in Fort Lauderdale helped put away dangerous Mafia soldiers while prosecutors struck a secret deal to conceal his charges in a major scam with mob members.
As he was awaiting sentencing in the $40 million stock swindle, Felix Sater and others were convincing investors to pour millions into the Trump resort, which later collapsed amid allegations of widespread fraud.
The documents provide a rare glimpse of the deal reached by New York federal prosecutors thats now being criticized by Trump deal investors who say they had a right to know Saters background before investing in the botched venture.
More than 100 people lost millions in the once celebrated high-rise thats now a chained-off, empty building on Fort Lauderdales popular beachfront strip.
The damage done to victims is incalculable, said attorneys in a request to the court that they be allowed to unveil Saters criminal past in a civil racketeering case.
The court, now in recess, could take up the petition when it returns later this year in whats become a heated battle over the rights of judges to strip someones criminal case from public view.
Sater, who owns a $4.8 million condo on Fisher Island, could not be reached for comment. Robert Nardoza, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorneys Office in Brooklyn, declined to be interviewed.
The release of the records follows a bitter court fight over the delicate issue of protecting a key government witness versus disclosure to people who have a right to know.
Although dozens of the newly released records are redacted including Saters name lawyers argue the court hid his racketeering conviction while he and others defrauded people of hundreds of millions in real estate deals including projects bearing Trumps name in South Florida and Phoenix.
Sater, 46, is accused in a civil case of helping to hide millions from the failed Fort Lauderdale tower and paying $1.5 million to a former mob associate for his role in the deal.
When a former finance chief of the project team questioned his cut of the profits in 2007, he was told by Sater to shut up or risk being killed if I caused trouble, the chief said in an affidavit. Bayrock, the company where Sater was a top executive, has denied the allegations.
Investors in the Trump International Hotel & Tower north of Las Olas Boulevard argue they were deprived of knowing Saters criminal past when they plunked down millions on the spectacular project then Floridas largest condo-hotel deal.
At the time of the groundbreaking, Sater had not yet been sentenced in the securities scam in which he pleaded guilty to joining crime syndicate members in ripping off scores of people across the country.
Five years earlier, he had another bad brush with the law: stabbing a man with a shattered glass during a bar fight, drawing a prison sentence.
Joe Altschul, a Fort Lauderdale lawyer representing 75 condo buyers, blasted the court for agreeing to conceal Saters racketeering conviction.
Each of these purchasers had a right to know who they were dealing with, he said. Its bad enough that they prop up Donald Trump as the developer, but then you find out its not Trump but a convicted felon who had already been charged in financial shenanigans.