Politics

There Was Wiretapping In Trump Tower

| by Lauren Briggs

The FBI did wiretap a segment of Trump Tower to conduct surveillance on certain connections to Russia. But it had nothing to do with former President Barack Obama or the Trump campaign, as President Donald Trump has suggested.

Between 2011 and 2013, the FBI wiretapped a notorious Russian money-laundering ring operating out of unit 63A in New York's Trump Tower, rented by Vadim Trincher, reports ABC News. 

Trincher, one of the ring's top operators, was sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to racketeering. His release is scheduled for July.

"Everything was moving in and out of there," said former FBI official Rich Frankel.

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Frankel, who now works as an ABC News consultant, said that Trump Tower was Trincher's "base of operations."

In one instance, the FBI heard Trincher speaking to a gambling customer who owed their operation $50,000, according to one court document. During the conversation, Trincher threatens the man that his enforcer, Maxin, would "come and find him, would come and find the money and that he should be careful, lest he be tortured and lest he wind up underground," according to a court document transcription of the phone call.

There are many other incriminating recorded phone calls and text messages from that period.

"[Trincher] would have people come in and meet with them," Frankel said. "He would use the phones. He would also communicate, whether it was through e-mail or other communications through there."

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The court-ordered surveillance led to more than 30 people being indicted after an April 2013 raid, including Trincher and top Russian mafia boss Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, nicknamed "Little Taiwanese."

"He is a major player," Agent Mike Gaeta, who headed the 2013 investigation, told ABC in 2014. "He is prominent. He has extremely good connections in the business world as well as the criminal world, overseas, in Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, other countries."

Tokhtakhounov is the only one to have evaded police and is now a fugitive. Months after the indictment, he was seen near Trump at Moscow's Miss Universe pageant.

News of the crime ring comes just one day after FBI Director James Comey announced on March 20 that his agency would be investigating the Russian government's alleged involvement in the 2016 American presidential election and dismissed Trump's allegations that Obama ordered the FBI to tap Trump's phones during the election process, according to The New York Times.

Sources: ABC News, The New York Times / Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

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