Cohen Grew Up with Russian Organized Crime Ties

Talking Points Memo has been doing some digging and they’ve found something very interesting. Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, was practically raised with ties to the Russian mafia. In fact, the biggest Russian organized crime family in the country operated out of his uncle’s business, in which Cohen himself had a stake.

In today’s podcast, we look into the background of Michael Cohen. 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 a well-known meeting spot for members of Italian and Russian organized crime families in the 1970s and 1980s. (Levine, a medical doctor has never been charged with a crime.) But now it turns out there’s a bit more to this story…

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…

What I didn’t realize until now is that both Agron 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.

But get this: Cohen actually owned a stake in that club himself, as did all of Levin’s nieces and nephews. He apparently sold his share of the business when Trump became president, so they obviously knew his association with that club was a political problem because of the ties to the Russian mob. We keep seeing all these points of contact between those close to Trump and Russian oligarchs, all of whom make up the Russian mafia.

For all practical purposes, there are no legitimate businesses in Russia, everything is run like the mafia. It’s all about greasing the right palms and lining the right pockets. Everyone gets a cut. The moment Trump tried to open a hotel in Moscow, he had to deal with the Russian mob. There’s no other way to get things done there, especially a project that big.

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