All charges were dismissed Wednesday against Russian-born Felix Sater. Sater, a man with connections to United States president Donald Trump, was cleared of all liability by a court in Manhattan associated with a $250 million civil tax fraud case filed against him.
The case against Sater and his real estate company Bayrock were prosecuted under what is known in the legal world as qui tam laws. These laws stipulate that a private citizen acting as a whistleblower may file suit on the government’s behalf and a successful prosecution may result in the whistleblower receiving a share of whatever monies or assets are recovered by the government as a reward. The Attorney General is given to option as to whether to intervene or not.
Attorney Fred Oberlander, The whistleblower in the case against Sater, previously represented Jody Kriss in a lawsuit alleging money-laundering against Bayrock. Jody Kriss is a former business partner of Sater. Oberlander has stated that the basis of his qui tam complaint against Sater is information from the Kriss case that had been disallowed by federal judges. One legal expert believes that this formed the basis of the dismissal Oberlander’s case as this disallowed information was to be considered confidential.
Eric Schneiderman, Attorney General, decided not to intervene in the case but did, however, write a letter in February 2016 in notification to the New York Supreme Court of a press release from Oberlander that Schneiderman felt mislead the public. In the press release, Oberlander makes it apparent that Schneiderman had decided to pursue the case when in fact the opposite was true.
The AG office advised that it will monitor the situation going forward and asserted that their office’s main concern was the interests and rights of the
state of New York. Robert Wolf, Sater’s attorney in the mater, confirmed the case’s dismissal and wanted to make it clear that the basis for the dismissal was merit-based and not to result of a miscue in the procedure. He went on to explain that both Oberlander and Richard Lerner, a lawyer that was also involved in the case, has faced misconduct allegations twice because of their actions in the case against Sater. These allegations resulted in two Department of Justice referrals for criminal contempt for the men.
In the original lawsuit, Jody Kriss, who was once finance director at the company makes a series of startling accusations against the company. Kriss claims that the company was a mob-operated criminal enterprise that had taken part in a number of felonious undertakings. Kriss also specifically alleged that Sater and TevfikArif, the founder of Bayrock swindled him for millions of dollars through a variety of dishonest practices.
Kriss also alleges that Sater and Arifentered into negotiations with the Trump Organization in 2003 but failed to alert the organization or Trump of Sater’s criminal past. In a deposition made by Trump four years later, Trump states strongly that he would not have knowingly entered any deal with a known criminal. Trump also asserts that he did not know Sater personally.
Sater recalls his partnership with Trump a little differently than the now United States president does stating that he and Trump met regularly. Kriss seems to back Sater’s claims in saying that Trump found Sater’s loyalty and his connectionsto Russia of great value.
One other person familiar with the matter will attest to the fact that Donald Trump engaged in weekly meetings with Sater. These meetings are said to have taken place in Manhattan at Trump Towers. This person has asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals from Sater and others involved.