Trump campaign chief’s hidden ties to Sarasota grifter

When Donald Trump’s campaign manager Steve Bannon hastily changed his voter registration residence from an empty house in Miami to a beach house on Casey Key in Sarasota, it made news. The man he moved in with was described  as one of Bannon’s Breitbart writers. But  Andrew M. Badolato the owner of Bannon’s new ‘registered to vote here’ digs — is a lot more than that.


Trump campaign chief Bannon and Andy Badolato are not just comrades-in-right wing-arms. Bannon was business partners with the Sarasota-born Badolato, who has been — take your pick: either the unluckiest man in American business history, or a penny-ante penny stock fraudster.

thegrifters2In his favor, he has a few powerful associates: a Tampa man with New York Mob ties, a former CIA agent, several former members of U.S. military intelligence. On the other hand, a handful of Badolato’s business associates — presumably the less-powerful ones  — are currently in prison for financial fraud.

That this kind of shady activity is occurring just one degree of separation away from a major American Presidential candidate no longer seems surprising.  It’s exactly the kind of chaos, though on a far grander scale, that caused a global melt-down in 2007.

Tagging ‘homie’ Andy Badolato as a Bannon underling ‘might could’ be a little like saying Al Capone used to run a bar in Cicero: true as far as it goes, but well-short of an adequate description.

Fleeing the mere taint of voter fraud

The story begins when Steve Bannon gets tipped to an upcoming Guardian report — one of a spate of negative reporting   after his announcement as Trump’s new campaign chief, — revealing Bannon  “was registered to vote in a key swing state at a vacant house in Miami where he does not live, in an apparent breach of election laws.”


Bookends: Bannon (left) and Trump

The Guardian reported:

 “Donald Trump’s campaign chief has moved his voter registration to the home of one his website’s writers, after the Guardian disclosed that he was previously registered at an empty house in Florida where he did not live.


That’s when Bannon turned to Badolato. Bannon would also surely get help from Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent, in getting fixed up, voter registration-wise. He realized Sarasota offers a certain amount of cover, if you’re trying to keep your name out of the papers. The place has a decades-long reputation as a center of intrigue.

There’s E. Howard Hunt, who lived here, and the Saudi family that disappeared days before 9/11; there also a Lebanese “businessman, who sold Mohamed Atta his cell phone, who went to prison a few years later for soliciting the beheading of an uncooperative law enforcement official.

pinkharrishorseAnd, of course, there’s the original MILF, Sarasota’s own  Katherine Harris, who did yeoman’s duty after the 2000 Presidential election as Florida’s Secretary of State.

Not for nothing is Sarasota known as “the meanest city in America.“As we heard someone say recently, “Believe me folks.”  There’s much, much more.

From the Guardian:

“Badolato states on his website that he is an “entrepreneur, senior level executive, venture capitalist and seed stage investor” and claims to have founded companies that reached a total of $26bn in market capitalization.

Guardian reporter Jon Swain apparently thought Badolato’s boast to be a dubious claim. He indicated there might be more to be learned about Bannon buddy Badolato:

“(Yet) according to federal court records, he has filed for bankruptcy four times since 2008.”

Guardian reporter Swain’s instincts were right.

So, just who is Andy Badolato? And what does his relationship with Donald Trump’s campaign manager say about the 2016 Presidential election?

Shady people in a sunny state

bado-7The 52-year old Badolato has a checkered business past, littered with numerous lawsuits, judgments, unpaid debt, and ignoring ‘hints’ from the IRS to come in and sit down. Budget Self-Storage of Sarasota may even have sold the contents of his storage locker.

More important is the wreckage of plundered public companies Badolato has left strewn in his path.  He was assisted in this endeavors by a roving  group of ‘business associates’ — many of whom are currently incarcerated — including three officers  from one of his companies who were all sent to prison at the same time.

A now-defunct Mark Cuban-owned internet site called Sharesleuth, suspicious of Badolato’s involvement in a company called UTEK, ran a routine check of online court records in Sarasota County and found at least 15 financial-related suits listing Badolato as a defendant, including foreclosures, suits by investors in Badolato ventures, a judgment by American Express, and one from a Bahamian resort and casino for unpaid bills.

To give vent to hurt feelings, one irate investor even created a website, where the first thing that confronts you is a bold headline reading “Andy Badolato is a con-artist.”

It gets worse from there.

Comrades-in-arms, and more


Andy Badolato

Bannon and Badolato collaborated, The MadCowNews has learned, in a failed but well-publicized attempt  to wrest control of a public company  they targeted called  Sinofresh, in Venice, Florida, from its owner, a local inventor.

Bannon played  the plaintiff  in the Badolato-led enterprise, pretending to be an independent company Director.  Owner Charles Fust retaliated by kicking Bannon off his Board, citing his closeness to a Badolato-controlled company.  Ironically, of a half-dozen Badolato public companies examined, it’s the only one still going. 


Entrepreneur, Capitalist, Completed “Hat Trick” on Drudge


Cheerleading the decline of American values

In some ways, it’s hard not to like Andy Badolato.  Recently he tweeted excited congratulations… to himself.  Matt Drudge linked to three of his stories on the same day. You could tell, he was thrilled.


Badolato might have continued to toil in relative obscurity —save for hat tricks on Drudge — but for a confluence of seemingly-unrelated events.

Fraud & drug trafficking: Like cookies & milk

clearwater-airportStock fraud, for  example,  an increasingly popular pastime in Florida, which provided links between Badolato and names already notorious for being part of an ongoing criminal conspiracy.

The location varies between Sarasota and St. Petersburg, Florida, home to St Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport, where at least two Badolato associates were involved with companies owning drug planes, which took off with some regularity from there on flights down to South America and back.

Because active retirees make St. Petersburg an international shuffleboard hot spot — Aspen for snowbirds from the Upper Midwest — some wag dubbed the drug trafficking organization (DTO)   The Shuffleboard Cartel.


Slide on Down!

As astute readers are undoubtedly aware, St. Petersburg is also the home of the world’s largest shuffleboard club. The Shuffleboard Hall of Fame is right next door in Clearwater.

If you’re looking to get into drug trafficking, you want a benign host, filled with people who don’t ask too many questions. So you could do a lot worse than St Petersburg, home of All Things Shuffleboard,  and Venice, Florida, which boasts the second-oldest population in the entire United States.

Welcome to Andy’s World-Wide Web

siesta_key_drum_circle1Like nighttime bonfires attract drum circles, Bannon’s hasty change-of-residence to Badolato’s Sarasota beach house under pressure from reporters has attracted attention.

How odd to discover someone close to Donald Trump’s campaign chairman who’s been peddling phony companies with no product, no prospects, and nothing to sell… companies whose websites disappear into the ether with frightening regularity.

If you squint through the flickering flames, you can glimpse a few familiar faces from Florida’s unusually generous bounty of grifters, racketeers and flim-flam men.  Some even have close ties to America’s national security state.

curshenLike one of Andy Badolato’s partners in Sarasota, Jonathan Curshen, publicly fingered as a principal player in the stock fraud and drug trafficking ring centered around SkyWay Aircraft of St. Petersburg.

Specifically Curshen invented a Dupont heir whose largesse helped SkyWay buy a DC-9 airliner busted in Mexico in 2006 while carrying 5.5 tons of cocaine.

Jonathan Curshen made a deal with Badolato to sell 3 million shares of an Andy Badolato company he’d founded and led called Industrial BioTechnology Corporation (IBOT), through Curshen’s Costa Rica brokerage company, Red Sea Management, in exchange for a 25 percent cut of the proceeds.

Curshen made a big mistake, according to federal prosecutors. He bribed an undercover FBI agent he thought represented brokers handling the accounts of wealthy customers. Caught red-handed, Curshen pled guilty to paying bribes to stock brokers to buy  Badolato’s company’s stock.

What makes Jonathan Curshen interesting to a probe of officially-sponsored organized crime is that Curshen’s Red Sea Management, according to filings with the SEC, also supplied the DC-9 airliner (N900SA) busted in Mexico’s Yucatan carrying 5.5 tons of cocaine.  felongeffon

At the time of the big bust, FAA records showed the DC-9 was registered to a SkyWay Aircraft principal, Frederic Geffon, who regularly commingled funds between SkyWay and other entities he owned, like Royal Sons Motor Yachts, and Royal Sons LLC.

Geffon had been investigated for drug trafficking ten years earlier. The DEA had not filed charges. In aviation circles there was widespread suspicion Geffon escaped doing time by flipping and going to work as an informant for the DEA.


Jonathan Strikes A Pose

In criminal jargon it’s called working off a beef. 

Reported the Oct 10, 2008 Vancouver Sun: “Jonathan Randall Curshen…controlled a company in Costa Rica called Red Sea Management, which had generously provided, in return for 28,000,000 shares of common stock in SkyWay,…a 1966 McDonald Douglas DC-9 aircraft that shortly thereafter was carrying a cargo of 5.6 tons of cocaine, worth several hundred million dollars. This is a strange case.”

Today Jonathan Curshen is serving 17 years in federal prison. Curshen and SkyWay Aircraft were associated with a network that included a surprising number of people who were former members of military intelligence, or the CIA, or  the Genovese  Mafia Family in New York City.

While his his ties to Republican politicians, like his current campaign client Donald Trump, are visible for everyone to see, tomorrow we’ll ask: Does Steve Bannon have national security ties?


Sarasota’s very own “hyena pack”


Evidence strongly suggests that Andy Badolato and associates are what fraud and money laundering investigators call a”hyena pack;” fraudsters acting in concert to shred the investments of clueless shareholders who bought into a clutch of sad-looking penny stock companies that were an excuse for schemes netting then tens of millions of dollars.

This latest ‘blemish’ on the Trump brand comes in the wake of last week’s story in Newsweek  which shed light on Trump’s foreign business dealings. The story exposed evidence that a number of Trump’s overseas partners have been looting their home countries with the same sleazy avarice which became infamous in the U.S. after the scams of Wall Street’s predatory elite crippled the American economy in 2008.

News that Trump’s Presidential campaign manager is hanging his hat in the home of a fraudster with similar proclivities is probably not the most hopeful of signs.

Note: Badolato was contacted and asked for comment on this story. Apparently he declined. It happens.





Daniel Hopsicker

Daniel Hopsicker is an investigative journalist and the author of two books on transnational crime, Welcome to Terrorland and Barry & the Boys.

10 Responses

  1. Larry Shea says:

    It is absolutely shocking and almost unimaginable that a mobbed-up casino owner such as Don Trump (whose chopper guy, Joseph Weichselbaum, managed a company that flew high rollers to and from the Don’s two Atlantic City casinos during the coked-up 80s, a guy [Weichselbaum] who was eventually convicted for trafficking large amounts of cocaine and marijuana in 1987 and a guy [Weichselbaum] for whom the Don wrote a character reference to the presiding judge after the Don’s sister,Maryanne Barry Trump, recused herself from the guy’s, i.e., Weichselbaum’s case) could possibly be linked or tied in, even if indirectly, with such an obvious low-life such as Mr. Badolato.

    What I mean to say is that the Don has always run in such high-class circles with upstanding community pillars like the sleazy mob lawyer, Roy Cohn; the Mafioso crime boss, “Fat Tony” Salerno; the convicted & corrupt teamster boss John Cody; or the convicted felon Joey “No Socks ” Cinque, to name just a few of the Don’s classociates.

    Lest we forget, “it is the casino, not the patron, who is responsible for filling out and submitting the [Currency Transaction Report, CTR] form when a person conducts a currency transaction of more than $10,000 with the casino.” Hey, wait a minute, you don’t think that maybe, just maybe the Don was fronting money to Joey Weichselbaum in order to purchase the coke and pot and then laundering the ill-gotten proceeds from the sale of these controlled substances in his two Trump casinos, after taking a generous profit for himself, of course, do ya? H’mm, I wonder.

  2. adam says:

    “Joseph Weichselbaum, managed a company that flew high rollers to and from the Don’s two Atlantic City casinos during the coked-up 80s,”

    There was a guy who said he saw Osama bin Laden at Trumps Atlantic City Casino in the late 1992 early 1993 time period. Your comment made me think of that.

  3. Tami Gillen says:

    Isn’t it great that in the United States of America you can weave a web of suppositions in a carefully craft article such this for political sway and get away with it? It was good but your hyperbole needs some work.

  4. Albert says:

    You wrote:
    “That’s when Bannon turned to Badolato. Bannon would also surely get help from Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent, in getting fixed up, voter registration-wise.”

    Do you have any other information on Bannon – Dent or Badolato – Dent besides her being a Republican elected Supervisor who is retiring at the end of the year.

    Please email me, who knows, we may have some common goals.

  1. September 28, 2016

    […] Alt-right Sarasota beachcomber Badolato’s fellow Sarasota resident Jonathan Curshen was profiled in a story here last week. […]

  2. September 29, 2016

    […] Alt-right Sarasota beachcomber Badolato’s fellow Sarasota resident Jonathan Curshen was profiled in a story here last week. […]

  3. November 4, 2016

    […] out of the bag is Steve Bannon and Andy Badolato’s decade-long history  as business partners, which may prove important, given Badolato’s increasingly significant role in the current […]

  4. November 5, 2016

    […] out of the bag is Steve Bannon and Andy Badolato’s decade-long history  as business partners, which may prove important, given Badolato’s increasingly significant role in the […]

  5. December 14, 2016

    […] As an “oh by the way” Jonathan Curshen has also recently been linked to Andy Badolato, who in turn is a cohort of soon to be White House Chief of Staff Steve Bannon! […]