Pressed by host Chuck Todd to back up his claim, Cruz cited reports by ABC and CNN. A Cruz spokesman forwarded us several othermedia reports detailing the real estate developer’s alleged ties to organized crime. The Trump campaign did not get back to us.
Is Cruz right that the Donald has worked with a few Dons in his career?
It’s important to note that Trump hasn’t been charged with any illegal activity, and it’s reasonable to argue that he was unaware or even a victim in some cases. But Cruz has a point that the mogul has been linked to the mob for decades.
Before we detail Trump’s alleged ties, none of this proves that Trump was happy doing business with the mafia or even in cahoots with them at all.
La Cosa Nostra had a virtual monopoly on concrete in New York at the time Trump was adding his name to its skyline in the 1980s. And the mafia’s control over building supplies and labor unions meant that the crime families had a hand in most construction projects in Manhattan.
Trump and other major developers "had to adapt to that situation" or build elsewhere, said James B. Jacobs, a mafia expert who was part of a state task force on organized crime.
"That was the fact of life, that was the way it was," he told PolitiFact. "The contractors and developers weren’t pure victims. You could bribe the mob-controlled union leaders and get relief from the more arduous conflicts. But we had no information that Trump was any different."
That being said, Trump’s business dealings with the mob or mob-related characters are widely documented. Let’s run through them.
Trump was first tied to the mafia in the 1980s, when a $7.8 million subcontract for Trump Plaza was awarded to S&A Concrete, according to Fortune. The company, as Cruz correctly says, was partially owned by Anthony "Fat Tony" Salerno, the boss of the Genovese crime family.
Trump himself acknowledged as much in a December 2015 interviewwith the Wall Street Journal, admitting that S&A Concrete was "supposedly associated with the mob."
When Salerno was indicted in 1986, the charges specifically mentioned Trump Plaza. Salerno’s 1992 obituary ends with a nod to the luxury highrise and 15 other Manhattan buildings.
Trump World Tower, supported by the Quadrozzi Concrete Company, is also tangentially related to La Cosa Nostra. The head of the company, John Quadrozzi Sr., was tied to the Lucchese crime family and indicted for making illegal payoffs to the mob in 1992.
TIME and Daily Beast have speculated that Trump Tower was also built with mafia influence, though the evidence is less concrete.
Trump’s alleged mob dealings were not confined to New York. According to reports from the Huffington Post and Philadelphia Inquirer, Trump made a deal in Atlantic City with Kenneth Shapiro,an associate of mob boss Nicky Scarfo, and mob-connected labor boss Daniel Sullivan.
Trump seemed aware of this, calling Shapiro "a third-rate, local real estate mafia" and Sullivan "the guy who killed Jimmy Hoffa."
Nonetheless, in 1981, Trump leased a portion of the land for Trump Plaza and Casino from a company the two men controlled, according a report by New Jersey gaming regulators. The company refused to cooperate with the authorities, and Trump eventually ended the partnership and bought out their shares.
Later Trump brought on Sullivan as a labor negotiator at the Grand Hyatt Hotel and introduced the man to his own banker, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Through intermediaries Trump bought the property for the casino from the "crown prince" of the Philadelphia mob, Salvatore Testa, for $1.1 million in 1982. Multiple media reports and an unauthorizedbiography about Trump allege this was more than twice its market value. (Testa purchased the property in 1977 for $195,000.)
According to The Federalist, two construction companies controlled by Nicky Scarfo ended up building Trump Plaza and Casino.
A few years later, Trump’s organized crime connections extended overseas. In 1992, a Senate subcommittee named Danny Leung, who was then the vice president for foreign marketing at Trump Taj Mahal, as an associate of the Hong Kong-based organized crime group 14K Triad.
According to gaming regulators, Leung
Leung, who had a separate contract to bring gamblers from Toronto to the casino, denied the affiliation to organized crime, and his casino and junket licenses were renewed. (The Trump Taj Mahal declared bankruptcy in 1991, and his other Atlantic City properties folded a decade later.)
And there’s Felix Sater,
Sater pleaded guilty to a charge of money laundering in 1998 and was indicted again in 2000 for taking part in a $40 million stock scheme involving four Mafia families, according to the New York Times report.
From 2003 to 2007, Sater traveled the country promoting projects for Trump, and his company was a partner in the Trump SoHo hotel. Trump told the Times he "never knew that."
Three years later, Sater returned to the Trump Organization and had business cards that described him as Trump’s "senior advisor," the AP reported. Trump told the AP that he’s "not familiar" with Sater.
While it’s important to note that these connections were not atypical in the real estate and casino businesses in the 1980s, Cruz’s statement is accurate. Media reports have linked Trump to mafia bosses and mob-connected business associates for decades.