Trumpian PR Campaign Whitewashes Russia

— Who’s behind the secretive PR campaign to whitewash Donald Trump’s Russian biz ties?

The months-long campaign, which launched in November amid the federal investigation into alleged election meddling, centres around two Soviet-born businessmen who masterminded the Trump SoHo hotel in Lower Manhattan.

Utilising dozens of fake Twitter accounts and paid articles, the campaign has sought to whitewash Trump’s relationships with Russian-born ex-con Felix Sater and former Soviet trade minister Tevfik Arif, whose real estate development and investment company Bayrock Group was the driving force behind the recently renamed hotel.

From left: Trump, Arif, and Sater (source)

As first reported on this blog and subsequently covered by The Daily Beast and The New York Times, in November the HuffPost deleted a paid article about Sater by Pakistani content marketer Waqas KH.

Via “Who Paid for the HuffPost Puff Piece on Trump’s Felonious Friend?” by Lachlan Markay, The Daily Beast, January 11, 2018:

HuffPost scrubbed the article, written in December, from its website after a blogger in Northern Ireland, Dean Sterling Jones, inquired about the piece, which hailed the dismissal last year of a $250 million tax fraud case against Felix Sater, a Russian-born former Trump Organization executive.

The article’s author, listed on HuffPost’s website under the name Waqas KH, runs a Pakistani company called Steve SEO Services. That company offers to ghostwrite articles and organize internet commenting campaigns for paying clients. On the freelancer website Fiverr, Waqas goes by the username “nico_seo” and offers to place articles on HuffPost for an $80 fee. For an extra $50, he will write the article himself.

Waqas confirmed to The Daily Beast that he placed the article hailing the dismissal of tax charges against Sater, and said that his client had written the actual text. He said Sater himself did not pay to place the article, but would not say who had compensated him for it.

The article is just one of dozens of recent puff pieces about Sater’s relationship with Trump.

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One article on business website Be Easy claims that, although “Sater plead [sic] guilty to stock racketeering and fraud as a part of a U.S.–Russian mafia scheme in 1998…there has been no evidence showing that Trump took any part in this, or knew anything about what was going on during their split time together.”

Several of the Trump-touting websites openly accept payments to publish articles.

The business marketing website Octopuzz, which claims that “Trump was not informed of Sater’s criminal past when Arif and Sater suggested partnering with the Trump Organization [and] would not have considered working with Sater and his organization for the Trump SoHo project if he was aware of the allegations against Sater,” explicitly states in its disclosure policy that it “accepts forms of cash advertising, sponsorship, paid insertions or other forms of compensation.”

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Another business marketing website, whose write-up about Sater states that “[now] Trump is President of the United States, there is not likely to be any further implications for him in this case,” includes a message soliciting prospective clients to hire the article’s author, Abhishek Chatterjee, who owns a content writing service in Kolkata.

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Meanwhile, dozens of fake Twitter accounts are attempting to burnish Sater’s reputation by linking to articles about the $250 million dismissal which they claim helps vindicate Trump.

This fake tweet, for example, states: “It looks like another case involving Russia connections to the president [has been] dismissed for lacking any legal merits.”

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Many of the fake accounts have also tweeted about Arif’s own relationship with Trump, including one garbled tweet which states that “Arif and trump is the best friend so they are very talent man.”

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All link to a mostly favourable online bio about Arif titled “Team Russia [Красная Машина] story” by Andy French, founder of the Trump & Russia blog. However, none appear to have attracted the attention of other Twitter users, except for a few comment threads consisting entirely of fake users interacting with each other.

It’s unclear who is behind the largely ineffective promotional campaign.

Sater, who was interviewed by House Intelligence Committee staffers last month, in an e-mail denied knowing about efforts to covertly alter the Trump-Russia narrative.

I was unable to reach Arif for comment.

Whoever the culprit is, it’s likely they used the same PR service as controversial Nigerian pastor Chris Oyakhilome, who preaches against homosexuality and claims he can perform miracles. That’s because most of the websites, online profiles, and Twitter accounts promoting Trump’s Bayrock buddies have also promoted Oyakhilome.

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The Felix Sater Files (Part II)

— Exploring the deleted websites of Donald Trump’s racketeering Russian-American former Bayrock Group business partner and senior advisor

Last month, I blogged about the deleted sites of Bayrock executive Felix Sater, a Russian-born businessman and convicted fraudster who in the late 2000s worked with Trump on a number of high-profile real estate projects, including the troubled Trump SoHo hotel in Lower Manhattan.

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In that post I included an “exhaustive” list of deleted sites that once belonged to Sater. The sites were deleted during the 2016 election, when Sater became a key figure for journalists examining Trump’s Russian business ties.

Since that initial post, I’ve found evidence that between 2012 and 2016 Sater registered a number of other domains intended to disparage another key figure within Trump’s business sphere, Jody Kriss, who also worked for Bayrock as its finance director.

Kriss’ tenure ended when he filed an explosive billion dollar lawsuit alleging that Bayrock and its partners, including Donald and Ivanka Trump, had illegally concealed Sater’s 1998 racketeering conviction and later 1999 sentencing, that the company had itself engaged in financial fraud, and that it had personally cheated Kriss out of millions of dollars.

Last year, an ICANN-approved business dispute resolution forum determined that Sater had in bad faith registered a number of domains using his own name, and also possibly using the pseudonym “Larissa Yudina,” for the purposes of disparaging Kriss by accusing him of being a “serial litigator,” an “extortionist,” a “mobster” and a “fraud.”

According to Arizona court documents, Yudina is the founder of Moscow investment company OST Group, which apparently provides “internet marketing services” to Sater, although I was unable to find OST Group or any information online for anyone with the name Larissa Yudina.

In its decision, the forum ruled that the disputed domains be transferred from Sater to Kriss.

Via the Wayback Machine, which archives the web, those domains included:

www.jodykriss.com

• and jodykriss.net

By doing a reverse Whois search for “Felix Sater” and an associated e-mail address I’ve also identified a number of other disparaging domain names possibly created by Sater, including:

• blackmailer.net
• blowjobgram.com
• cuntboy.net
• cuntboyjody.com
• cuntman.net
• extortionist.info
• fecalboy.com
• fecalmatter.lawyer
• fecesman.com
• felcher.info
• felcherboy.com
• iamadirtbag.com
iamafaggot.com
• iamascumbag.com
• jodykrissthief.com
• thejodykriss2.com
• truthaboutjodykriss.com
• vaginaboy.com
• vor-ton.com 

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It also appears that in 2014 Sater took out this full page advert in New York real estate magazine The Real Deal:

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And if that didn’t sate your appetite, here’s a full list of Sater’s confirmed anti-Kriss sites:

jodykriss.com
jodykriss.net
• 
jodykriss.org
jodykriss.info
jodylkriss.com
• 
jodylkriss.net
• 
jodylkriss.org
• 
jodylkriss.info
• jodykrisscrook.com
• jodykrissvorton.com
• vortonjodykriss.com
• jodykriss.co
• krissjody.com
• eastriverpartnersllc.com
• eastriverpartnersny.com
• theeastriverpartners.com
• eastriverpartnersgroup.com
eastriverpartners.net
• eastriverpartners.info

Sated

— Online paper trail appears to show Trump’s Russian-American business partner Felix Sater tried to delete his criminal record from Trump’s Wikipedia page using a fake name

Last month I blogged about the enigmatic Felix Sater, a convicted brawler and racketeer turned FBI informant.

The Russia-born real estate mogul collaborated with Donald Trump on a number of high-profile projects, and until recently was one of Trump’s senior advisors.

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In my previous post about Sater (click here to read), I examined what appeared to be attempts to delete Sater’s criminal record.

Here’s the rundown.

In 2015, Wikipedia administrators banned a user named “591J” for abusively using multiple accounts to promote Sater and delete information about his “mafia and Russian criminal ties, as well as a 1998 racketeering conviction” from Trump’s Wikipedia entry.

After digging around, I found this promotional photo of Sater that 591J had uploaded to Sater’s own Wikipedia entry (which, incidentally, was created by 591J):

Felix Sater (source)

Under the now-deleted photo I found the following copyright information:

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Note that:

1. The source information says that the photo of Sater is their “Own work”;
2. The author of the photo is “591J.”

But that’s not all.

Yesterday I found this Wikipedia page of confirmed sockpuppets of 591J:

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Here’s what Samantha Lien of the Wikipedia Foundation told me regarding the process used by admins to determine if a user is using multiple accounts:

As you might already know, Wikipedia has an established process for dealing with sockpuppets. If an editor believes someone may be misusing multiple user accounts, they can begin a sockpuppet investigation and refer the suspected sockpuppet to a “CheckUser,” a trusted Wikipedia editor who has the ability to see and compare the IP addresses behind Wikipedia accounts, as was done in this case. If the CheckUser finds sockpuppets at work, they may use a number of governance mechanisms, including blocks, to address the issue.

After combing through one of the sockpuppet accounts, “Krissjody,” I found the following admission:

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If you can’t read that it states:

I am the owner of the majority of the sources that show up on the Copyvio report. I had originally submitted this article for review before writing the articles on the websites relating to Jody Kriss. I own http://www.jodykriss.com, http://www.jodykriss.net, and http://www.jodykriss.info, as well as the Ripoff Report that was the issue the first time.

Using Whois, which indexes information about websites, I found that one of the above listed URLs, www.jodykriss.com, is registered to none other than – you guessed it – Felix Sater of Port Washington, New York:

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Jody Kriss is Sater’s former Bayrock Group colleague.

Bayrock worked with Trump on a number of high-profile real estate projects, including the Trump SoHo hotel in Lower Manhattan.

In 2010 Kriss sued Bayrock, alleging that Sater and others at the company laundered money, skimmed cash, dodged taxes and cheated him out of millions of dollars. The suit named Trump and his daughter Ivanka as co-defendants, but they were subsequently removed shortly after getting served.

Sater seemingly used the site www.jodykriss.com to air his personal grievances against Kriss, accusing him of being a Russian mobster and of “putting people’s lives in danger.”

In 2015, a Hamilton County judge granted Kriss a permanent injunction ordering the deletion of the “false and disparaging” site and various other sites also possibly belonging to Sater.

The Felix Sater Files

— Read the deleted websites of Trump’s racketeering Russian-American former business partner and senior advisor

Yesterday I blogged about Felix Sater, a Russian-American real estate mogul and convicted fraudster who was at one time a senior advisor to Trump.

Trump with Felix Sater (source)

Sater found fame during the 2016 election when Trump’s Russia connections became a focus for journalists. It was around this time that Sater, whose busy online presence rivalled Trump himself, deleted all of his sites and some of his social media accounts.

But as they say, nothing is ever truly deleted from the Internet.

Via the Wayback Machine, which archives the web, here’s a sample of Sater’s deleted sites and social media accounts, including:

• This site dedicated to Sater’s involvement in the development of one of his “most prized projects,” the Trump SoHo hotel in Lower Manhattan – recently the subject of a criminal investigation and a lawsuit.

www.felixsater.net

• This site consisting entirely of lengthy statements by Sater’s lawyer, Michael Beys, Esq., in response to news stories about Sater’s 1998 conviction for his involvement in a $40 million “pump and dump” scheme.

www.lawsuitinfo.net

• This site dedicated to Sater’s professed philanthropic endeavours.

felixsater.org

• Plus a whole bunch of social media accounts.

Twitter/myspace/Pinterest

If that didn’t sate your appetite, here’s an exhaustive list of Sater’s sites and social media accounts:

Websites and blogs

felixsater.com
www.felixsater.net

www.lawsuitinfo.net
felixsater.org
felixsater.info
www.felixsaterweb.com
felixsateronline.brandyourself.com
felixsaterweb.wordpress.com
• felixsater.weebly.com

Social media accounts

• Facebook
Twitter
• myspace
LinkedIn
• Reddit
Tumblr
Pinterest
Google Plus

Hub Pages
Behance
Gravatar
• Git Hub
Quora
Manta
• 500px
Roojoom
AngelList
• StockTwits