How can Donald Trump “drain the swamp” in Washington when some of its slimiest denizens work for his own campaign?
Alt-right political operative Andy Badolato, currently at the heart of heated accusations being lobbed like mustard gas between the FBI’s New York office and Hillary Clinton’s campaign during this fraught final weekend of the presidential contest, has a second, far more lucrative career running what money-laundering experts call a ‘hyena pack’ stealing tens of millions of dollars, with seeming impunity, from naive and mostly-elderly investors.
Recently and very publicly, Badolato also became Trump campaign honcho Steve Bannon’s landlord, an unforeseen circumstance which led to his loss of anonymity.
Anxious to avoid questions about his voter registration from The Guardian, Bannon panicked, and changed his legal residence overnight from from a vacant house in Miami to Badolato’s house on Casey Key in Sarasota.
It wasn’t until after Bannon moved in with his Breitbart minion, at least for voting purposes, that Andy Badolato’s astonishing life as a serial stock fraudster came to light.
Ironically, if unkempt atavistic throwback Steve Bannon hadn’t “pussied” out, the world might never have heard of Andy Badolato.
A Tale of Two Houses
But that cat is now out of the bag.
Also 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 spy-vs-spy match-up featuring dueling revelations about Russian involvement in American politics.
For example, Badolato is listed as associate producer on the Steve Bannon documentary production of Clinton Cash, whose documentary website lists Badolato as registrant.
The main Clinton Cash allegation, oddly enough, has become the basis for the New York FBI’s launch of an investigation into undue Russian influence on the State Department.
Taking their cue from the tin-foil hat brigade from Breitbart, the FBI is pursuing allegations accusing Hillary Clinton of selling America down the river (along with 20% of our goddam uranium!) in exchange for huge donations to the Clinton Foundation.
Memo to Washington Post: Look up “Russian Aluminum Wars”
This FBI meme is pitted against another recently-leaked FBI meme, the so-far under-publicized revelation that a second FBI investigation into undue Russian influence in the U.S. is also underway.
Only this investigation targets the Trump campaign, and his previous campaign manager, Paul Manafort.
Manafort too is accused of playing footsie with the Russians. But this time specific sums are involved: Paul Manafort apparently took home $12 million dollars from a Russian oligarch.
One reason Badolato and Bannon’s FBI meme seems to be winning so far is simple: Major papers like the Washington Post insist on much-too-politely identifying the Russian oligarch involved with Paul Manafort, Oleg Deripaska, only as a Russian “businessman.”
However Oleg Deripaska is, in truth, one of the world’s biggest bare-knuckled Russian Mafia Dons. Deripaska ended up the victor —or at least the last man standing — at the end of three brutal and hard-fought wars of attrition during the 1990’s called the Russian Aluminum Wars.
Today Deripaska is a Putin confidante who sits astride giant RusAl, which sits astride the critically-important-to-Russian-national-security aluminum industry.
Small world. Wouldn’t want to paint it.
Coincidentally—or not — Russian Mobster Oleg Deripaska has a “business relationship” with the crime family in Guyana of Michael Francis Brassington, the co-pilot of a drug plane belonging to…are you ready?
Wallace J Hilliard, whose Huffman Aviation flight school in Venice Florida supposedly trained Mohamed Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi to fly.
Hilliard’s drug plane, a Lear jet (N351WB), made 39 weekly round trips between Florida and South America with Brassington as co-pilot. According to DEA affidavits as well as court testimony, after first making stops in Fort Lauderdale and Orlando the drug flights, carrying cocaine and heroin, always terminated at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, just outside New York City.
Michael Francis Brassington was known to move in pretty fast company. His cousin Winston” was Minister for Privatisation, one of the most lucrative jobs in the world, to cite the Russian example.
“Cue the drums, mon. The steel drums.”
For example his attorney filed a pre-trial motion three days before its scheduled start beseeching a Federal Judge to exclude any testimony which mentioned Brassington in connection with terrorism, or with New York’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.
If that isn’t enough for a federal prosecutor to make a prima facie case for a continuing criminal conspiracy, it should at least suffice to distribute some of the heat Hillary is currently receiving across the broad shoulders of former Trump minion paul Manafort.
Then there’s this fact: three of Badolato’s business “partners-cum -partners-in-crime” played identifiable roles in what some allege was an officially-sanctioned drug trafficking in St. Petersburg Florida.
Others described what happened there as a “rogue” operation of the Tampa office of ICE, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, long-thought to be fatally compromised by CIA-run drug trafficking operations.
Rumbles in the jungle
“These guys (Brassington and his brother Paul, a co-defendant) are the nephews of Peter D’Aguiar,” he explained.
“Their aunt was Peter D’Aguiar’s wife. They come from a powerful old English Guyanese Family that used to be very strong supporters of the United Force Party. But in recent years they seem to have joined forces with (current President of Guyana) Jagdeo.”
“Uncle Peter,” as it happened, controlled one of the three major political parties in Guyana, and was no stranger to Uncle Sam. The CIA called on him for assistance with an Agency-sponsored coup in Guyana in 1968.
Russian Mobster Oleg Deripaska and Guyana’s minister for graft, Winston Brassington, who is drug pilot Brassington’s cousin, do a billion dollar deal for Guyana’s bauxite.
If we have a problem in Guyana, whose side is a President Trump going to come down on? On the side of he and Manafort’s Russian Mob buddies? Or the side of truth justice and the American way?
Meet ‘the boys’ from Sarasota
Gerry and Andy own companies that announce remedies and meet needs in an eco-friendly way. They’re big on “Green.”
The two men think we can all agree on “Green,” although their company changes it’s name so often they’re constantly ordering new stationery, which is costly, and not very tree-friendly either.
Before going bust in Oct 2008, Parker and Dalolato’s Renewable Corporation touted “Eco-friendly compounds as a natural remedy against termites, ants, ticks and cockroaches.”
Andy let it be known that he was excited “by combining our designer enzyme technology and the ability to produce low cost nootkatone to provide the natural pesticide marketplace with a low cost, environmentally safe solution against insects.”
What Andy meant: They were green to go.
Singing the praises of green
“We are very enthusiastic about the commercial potential of this new discovery and the numerous products that can be developed,” stated Badolato in one (of hundreds) press releases. Andy hastened to inform potential investors that should that dream be realized, they were ready to ride the Big Wave.
“We will seek to leverage the distribution and marketing strength of targeted consumer products and pesticide corporations globally to get to market quickly,” he asserted, “providing a distinct competitive advantage from multiple product revenue streams.”
Correct for sense and standard English, and subtract for moral turpitude and turgid prose, and what Andy’s saying is he’s a man with a plan. But he’s clearly no Carl Icahn.
The verdict on Badolato’s partner is far more clear: Gerald C Parker is a career flimflam man. He owes more than six million dollars to creditors just in Florida alone. Outside the state, one judgment against him totals thirty million dollars.
But it’s who Parker owes—and not just how much— that gets pretty interesting.
Tale of Two Houses II: Frank’s house is way bigger
Parker owes almost $ 6 million, for example, to Frank Musolino. Musolino—who died earlier this year— seems a likely pick to fill the shoes of The Big Magilla himself, Santo Trafficante Jr. If Musolino turns out to have been the Mob boss Tampa is said to have lacked since the halcyon days when Trafficante ran the Cigar City Mafia, would it be a big surprise?
Take Frank’s place on the Hillsborough River, big enough for a Don Corleone wedding, with parimutuel betting in the boathouse.
Some, like Frank Musolino and Mike Muzio, (“Stock Fraud, Drug Trafficking, & the ‘Alt-Right) come from the world of organized crime. Others were involved in U.S. military intelligence or the CIA. (One, Jonathan Curshen, (“Trump campaign chief’s hidden ties to Sarasota grifter”) may have been working with Mossad.
News that Bannon and Badolato had business partners from both the CIA and the Mob makes another recent discovery seem almost inevitable.
Three of Badolato’s business partners were also implicated in drug trafficking through their several companies. And also that the drug trafficking, whatever it’s provenance, continued for years, went largely unpunished, and involved men — Frank Musolino, Mike Muzio, and Jonathan Curshen — who were also business partners of Andy Badolato.
How it works: Grandma meets the NFL
The target of one typically egregious example of Parker and Badolato’s career in penny stock fraud is horrifyingly-obvious to anyone who’s ever watched a big-screen NFL telecast with their parents.
Is there anyone who hasn’t had to try to explain the new-fangled way the league highlights the first down line in bright orange or phosphorescent green on the screen?
“It’s a chroma-key,” I remember answering carefully. “They do it in the studio.”
“But look!” My mom was unsatisfied. “The players are stepping on it! How can they do that?”
“Because it’s not really there.”
I hope I never look like that. Befuddlement can be painfully obvious.
“Oh. I see.”
And, of course, what’s clear is: they don’t.
Flori-Duh: A sunny state for shady people
So without sounding condescending, just how do you tell your mom not to worry, because any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic?
You can’t. And it’s a measure of a certain evil genius that both Gerry Parker and Andy Badolato recognized that. The men concocted a scheme to exploit older Americans’ understandable weakness in grasping new technology.
But Parker and Badolato didn’t just exploit the weakness. Working out of a boiler room in Boca Raton where few were qualified in securities, they weaponized it.
Promoting a “First Down Laser System” they said would generate a green laser line on the football field that would be visible… even inside the stadium, they set about cold calling everyone in South Florida who had ever requested a brochure about assisted living.
They said the technology would free up TV broadcast time that could be sold on to advertisers. Everyone would make out like bandits.
Especially if you’d ‘got in on ‘ an opportunity to buy stock in a company with revolutionary new technology that was going to make that new-fangled laser first down line visible even inside the stadium, to players and referees right on the football field.
More than “tanker seepage,” less than lost Japanese gold
The scam scored more than $2.4 million from more than 200 elderly victims who got for their money worthless stock in Thought Development Inc. (TDI) the Miami Beach “company” which claimed it as its signature invention.
The alert response of government and law enforcement authorities —they got right on it —says more about the clout of the NFL than the vigilance of regulators. But you couldn’t tell from the press release.
“Securities fraud jeopardizes the well-being of our citizens. The defendants raised $2.4 million targeting the elderly and representing that they had technology about to be used by the NFL,” said U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer in an FBI press release.
“There was no such arrangement. Today’s charges are the first step in holding them accountable for robbing these elderly folks of their hard-earned savings for their own personal gain.”
The FBI Special Agent in charge of the Bureau’s Miami Field Office, George L. Piro, was similarly put out.
“Those charged misrepresented investments to a vulnerable part of our population. The FBI will continue to prioritize investigation of investment fraud targeting the elderly.”
The story ended the way these stories always do. Reported the Ft Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel:
“Four men were sentenced to federal prison for their roles in a South Florida boiler room operation that fraudulently peddled shares in a company they claimed was developing technology for the NFL.”
And that would have been that, and no one would ever have heard about it. Somebody sued, and won. But it was only a pyrrhic victory; the scammers never leave a nickel around to be confiscated.
Penny stock fraud is not exactly a capital offense, or even a high priority, which makes it a great place to quickly pick up a few million bucks. Making a living touting dog Pink Sheets stocks on over-the-counter bulletin boards where disclosure and regulation are a distraction keeps you light on your feet.
Location location location
Even in a place as self-consciously nouveau riche as Sarasota, Casey Key is unique. The rich and famous have always come here, going back to Mrs. Bertha Potter Palmer, a Chicago socialite—the Palmer House Hotel— who came to Sarasota after her husband died and left her mega-rich in the early 1900s.
According to Wikipedia, “Her jewelry was so fabulous that when she appeared on the S.S. Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse with a tiara of diamonds as large as lima beans, a corsage panned with diamonds, and a sunburst as big as a baseball” a newspaper declared that Alois Burgskeller of the Metropolitan Opera, who was singing at the ship’s concert, was stopped right in the middle of a high note.”
The place has a decades-long reputation as a center of intrigue. John Ringling North lived here. E. Howard Hunt; the Pinkerton of Pinkerton Detectives; and the Saudi family that disappeared leaving half-eaten food on the table a few days before 9/11.
Mohamed Atta lived here with Marwan Al-Shehhi, bought a cell phone here from local Lebanese “businessman” Wissam Hammoud, who later went to prison for soliciting an undercover FBI agent to behead an uncooperative law enforcement official.
Today, Sarasota—if not richer—is at least flashier. There are a few rock stars, some big pharmaceutical magnates, a sprinkling of “international entertainment executives,” a couple of casino owners, a retired chairman of Goldman Sachs.
Octagon match for the ages: Gotti v. Goldman Sachs Chairman
At the north end of Casey Key, Mafia Don John Gotti owned a three-lot property with state-of-the-art security cameras all over the compound. His daughter lived there, well before she got her own reality show. There were tales tell of strange guys and even stranger real estate closings.
Gotti liked Sarasota. If you were trying to keep your name out of the papers, Sarasota offered a certain amount of cover. The local newspaper publisher, an old China hand, pursued a lucrative sideline as a weapons merchant, selling mostly to tinpot dictators in Central and South America. He had flown with the Flying Tigers out of Kuomintang. There were rumors of involvement in heroin trafficking.
He was a very live-and-let-live kind of guy.
Of course, Sarasota also boasts the original MILF, citrus heir Katherine Harris, who was Florida’s Secretary of State after the 2000 Presidential election, helped steal the election for George W Bush. Many people subsequently died, needlessly. So a little ‘slut shaming’ does not seem overly egregious.
Turns out, Katherine Harris’ adventures in makeup, widely-commented on at the time, exactly matched her local reputation in Sarasota, where she was known as the town “pump.”
“She came on to me at a party,” recalled one local internist. “Walked over and sat on my lap. My wife, who was stading right next to me, was not amused.”
Katherine Harris: Vixen from hell? Or just a citrus heiress who applies lipstick with a trowel? Which of these? You make the call.
NEXT TIME: MORE ON PAUL MANAFORT, OLEG DERIPASKA, MICHAEL FRANCIS BRASSINGTON, AND TAMPA DON EMERITUS FRANK MUSOLINO