“Norman is a friend,” Mr. de Blasio said. “Norman has been a great leader in this town. I want to thank him for all he does.”
The New York Times, December 2014
Simon Wiesenthal, the Means Used to Legitimize Corruption: Rechnitz, Seabrook, Platinum, JSR, Banks and William Valentin
LostMessiah, April 28, 2016
Could Simon Wiesenthal’s Sensitivity Training Program and Platinum Partners Have Played an Integral Role in the Movement of Money and Political Influence from Jona Rechnitz (and JSR Capital) to then New York City’s Police Department Chief Philip Banks, Union head Norman Seabrook and Mayor de Blasio’s Office ?
The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance established a program in 2004 to “teach cops to be more tolerant to religious and cultural minorities.” According to estimates the program has trained 13,555 officers over the years. Jona Rechnitz became a benefactor and volunteer in 2012. His primary role was “recruiting scores of high-ranking cops and corrections officers to attend the center’s sensitivity-training program”, called “Perspectives in Profiling.” “Jona helped introduce us to people at Corrections and the Police Department,” the museum source said. “He helped bring people to events and helped raise money for [the museum]”, as reported by the New York Post.
The training program also provided donors Jona Rechnitz and Jeremy Reichberg with legitimacy for untamed access to top brass within the NYPD, the NYC Corrections Bureau and other law enforcement agencies who attended the organization’s training program. In return for his commitment to Wiesenthal, it would appear that Wiesenthal’s rabbi, Steven Burg and connected lobbyist Michael Cohen arranged for him to gain access to influential people within the Jewish world.
Importantly, whether intentional or otherwise, the association among Seabrook, Wiesenthal, Rechnitz, JSR Capital, Platinum and numerous “philanthropists” and high ranking political figures and law enforcement officials was made in 2014 when then-executive William Valentin began questioning Seabrook’s use and “investment” of pension funds. Valentin allegedly uncovered the pension investments to Platinum and inconsistencies with reported returns and actual returns. It is arguable that Seabrook stripped Valentin of his position and of his pension, a contention Valentin has made in court papers, because Valentin got too close.
Jona Rechnitz has been a very public donor of Simon Wiesenthal and the Center’s Museum of Tolerance. He has also been quick to flash around his connections, as has been stated by numerous people close to the investigation.
On April 17, 2016, the New York Post in an article entitled, De Blasio donor spent $655K of City funds on museum program, it was reported that:
“Rechnitz’s primary role was recruiting scores of high-ranking cops and corrections officers to attend the center’s sensitivity-training program, called “Perspectives in Profiling.”
“Jona helped introduce us to people at Corrections and the Police Department,” the museum source said. “He helped bring people to events and helped raise money for [the museum].”
Two attendees included correction-union president Norman Seabrook and then-NYPD Chief of Department Philip Banks, sources said.
The top cops are under federal investigation for receiving gifts and travel fees from Rechnitz, sources have told The Post.”
On April 18, 2016, the Real Deal reported that “Rechnitz funneled $255K in city money to Wiesenthal Center Program“:
“Revelations about the political wheelings and dealings of JSR Capital’s Jona Rechnitz, under federal investigation for corruption, continue.
The real estate investor and Africa Israel alumnus reportedly leveraged his political connections to ensure $655,000 in funding over two years for a New York City Police Department training seminar at the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance.
The JSR boss, who worked with the museum since 2012, organized tours for top cops and worked with its rabbi, Steven Burg, and an affiliated lobbyist Michael Cohen – who has since become the museum’s director – to push for funding with the City Council, the New York Post reported, citing a source familiar with Rechnitz’s alleged dealings.”
Jona Rechnitz and the connection to Platinum Partners, summarized:
Jona Rechnitz’s connection to Platinum Partners and one of its main investors, Murray Huberfeld has been well established in the media, as well as articles related to Rechnitz’s curricum vitae, including his longstanding connection to Africa Israel.
On April 15, 2016, in one of many articles describing the connection between Jona Rechnitz and Platinum Partners, the New York Post reported.
“Rechnitz has ties to the Platinum Partners hedge fund through one of its initial investors, Murray Huberfeld.
Huberfeld has a shady past that includes pleading guilty to a misdemeanor in 1992 for having a stand-in take his brokerage licensing exam and, with a business partner, getting fined $4.7 million by the Securities and Exchange Commission in 1998 for illegally selling restricted stock.
Rechnitz isn’t listed as an official marketer for Platinum and it was unclear whether he got a referral fee over the union’s investment, the Journal reported.
According to its website, Platinum manages more than $1.3 billion spread across “multiple funds.” It claims to be generating steady profits, but last year blocked clients from withdrawing money from one of its funds, sources told the Journal.”
Enter Norman Seabrook:
It has been widely reported that Norman Seabrook, as head of the Corrections Officers Union and corresponding Pension Funds has unbridled access to pension funds and the authority to invest them as he sees fit. Two investments in particular, both of which reflect a lackadaisical approach to due diligence and which should have waived glaring red flags, were allegedly introduced to Seabrook by Rechnitz. It is worth noting that Rechnitz is not a Registered Investment Advisor, nor is he listed on Platinum’s records as an advisor or market-maker. It is not clear whether or not he generated fees from the introductions. In addition, while we suspect it does, whether or not these introductions, [otherwise known as investment advice] raise securities violations is an analysis for the SEC and FINRA.
The first of the Rechnitz recommendations an investment in Platinum Partners, was an investment that made savvy investors, like Yeshiva University wary. The university declined, despite having many alumni touting the credibility of the fund. The second, an investment in a Ponzi scheme orchestrated by Hamlet Peralta, is in our view almost unfathomable for someone with a fiduciary duty to COBA’s members, but that too is an issue for the courts.
In an article in Reuters Investigates, entitled:
Reuters takes an in-depth look into Nordlicht and his Paltinum funds. Interesting for the purposes of this analysis, is his connection to the Jewish community, most notably the personal connection that married Platinum to Seabrook, Jona Rechnitz. According to Reuters, Nordlicht:
He has strong ties in the New York-area Jewish community, the source of some of his funds’ investors. These include, according to public tax filings for 2014, a charitable trust set up by day-trading pioneer Aaron Elbogen, who was fined $1.4 million for illegal trading and bookkeeping while the chief executive of Datek Securities Corp; the Century 21 Associates Foundation, led by department store executive Raymond Gindi; and the SFF Foundation, a non-profit controlled by the Schron family, known for its real estate investments. All declined to comment or did not respond to requests for comment.
Nordlicht has enriched his investors with his focus on higher-risk debt that can yield far more than traditional fixed-income investments. And after years of near-zero interest rates, it’s a strategy increasingly sought out by big, otherwise conservative institutional investors hungry for higher yields.
Reuters goes on to explain that despite some big-money Jewish organizations declining to invest [Yeshiva University], Rechnitz was able to rope in Seabrook and the Corrections Officers’ Benevolent Association’s pension endowment. The article states:
Among institutional investors that have considered putting money with Platinum but ultimately chose not to are the endowment of Yeshiva University, which is the alma mater of several Platinum employees, and large hedge fund allocator GAM, according to people familiar with the institutions.
One institutional investor that did get in is New York City’s Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, according to two people familiar with the situation. The New York Times reported in June last year that Norman Seabrook, the union’s leader, was under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for potentially using his position to enrich himself. A broad subpoena from prosecutors requested that the union supply information related to Platinum, but the connection was not clear, according to the report.
A spokesman for the union declined to comment. The Justice Department and Seabrook did not respond to requests for comment.
In April The Real Deal also reported on Rechnitz’s active role in introducing Seabrook to the Platinum Partners investment:
“Rechnitz referred Norman Seabrook, the president of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, to Platinum Partners, sources told the Wall Street Journal.
A substantial amount of the union’s money went toward the investment, and at the time, Rechnitz reportedly had links to the hedge fund, the Journal reported. Rechnitz and the founder of a Platinum subsidiary run in the same Jewish philanthropic circles, sources told the Journal.
Prosecutors investigated the investment last year as well as Seabrook’s financials and travel records.
The newspaper reported that Platinum’s investments include financing deals tied to litigation, loans backed by life insurance policies and energy markets.
Rechnitz, who founded JSR Capital, owns a handful of properties, focusing on residential buildings with retail components and individual condominium units, according to an analysis by The Real Deal.
An Africa Israel alumnus, Rechnitz donated $50,000 to de Blasio’s political nonprofitCampaign for One New York, and he and his wife contributed $9,900 to the mayor’s 2013 campaign. [WSJ] — Dusica Sue Malesevic”
The Valentin Connection:
In 2014, according to Court documents and sources within the organization, William Valentin began raising questions about Seabrook’s investment of pension funds into Platinum. According to Valentin, Seabrook was required to get union approvals, a requisite he bypassed. Valentin further contends that Seabrook then overstated the returns on the investments.
In April of 2016 the Wall Street Journal Reported:
“The federal probe has examined, among other things, a Manhattan civil suit filed in 2015 by a former union executive, William Valentin, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Valentin alleged that he was pushed out of the union’s leadership after he raised questions about Mr. Seabrook’s investment of $10 million of union money into an unnamed hedge fund that he said was in financial distress.”
Mr. Valentin alleges Mr. Seabrook didn’t get required approval for the investment and then overstated the returns.
In an affidavit responding to that suit, Mr. Seabrook said the investment was in the best interest of the union and said the board received a presentation on the fund.
Mr. Seabrook said the fund—which he didn’t name—made its initial presentation in January 2014 to the union’s annuity fund, which he said was managed by a group of the union’s trustees; an initial $5 million investment was made in March of that year. Mr. Seabrook said he negotiated an agreement with the fund to redeem up to $1 million on three days’ notice, an arrangement he said was unique to the union.
Between March and June, Mr. Seabrook said, the fund earned more than $475,000 on the investment and he decided to invest an additional $5 million of union money with the fund. The union’s 2014 financial statements, filed by Mr. Valentin in his case, indicate that the profit was $47,500.
The financial statements also show that the union had $8.7 million in cash on hand at the start of the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2013, of which $5 million was invested in Platinum. The union had $3.2 million in cash at the end of that year.
Mr. Valentin’s lawsuit was dismissed last year but filed again in December.”
Following the Wall Street Journal report, on April 14th of 2016 Reuters reported:
“A businessman at the center of a federal corruption probe involving New York police officers and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s fundraising helped arrange an investment by the correction officers’ union in a hedge fund, a person familiar with the matter said on Thursday.
Jona Rechnitz, who heads a New York real estate firm, referred the president of the city’s Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, Norman Seabrook, to Platinum Partners, which received an investment of at least $10 million, the source said.
The probe by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office is examining whether police officers received gifts and travel from businessmen in exchange for favors, said the source, who was not authorized to speak publicly.
The investigation continues to make headlines in New York and has already resulted in the reassignment of five high-ranking members of the New York Police Department.
The connection of Platinum Partners to the probe, which is examining Rechnitz and Seabrook, was first reported by the Wall Street Journal earlier on Thursday. Reuters on Wednesday was first to report the union invested in Platinum Partners.”
In April 2016 The Wall Street Journal reported:
“Seabrook is facing accusations that Jona Rechnitz, one of two businessmen named in the burgeoning municipal corruption scandal, helped him put a sizable chunk of the union’s assets into the Platinum Partners hedge fund to which Rechnitz has ties.
Seabrook was among the first law-enforcement officials scrutinized by the FBI in a suspected gifts-for-favors scheme involving Rechnitz, Jeremy Reichberg and NYPD brass, sources have told The Post.”
In January of 2015, the New York Daily News reported:
“Correction Officers union president Norman Seabrook runs his union “the way Castro ran Cuba” and that has to stop, a fellow labor official said Wednesday as he filed a lawsuit against his boss.
William Valentin, 45, of Suffolk County said in Manhattan Supreme Court papers that Seabrook violated union bylaws earlier this month when he tossed Valentin from his post as Recording Secretary, banned him from union headquarters, took his car, credit card and cell phone and sent him back to his job as an Emergency Service Unit Officer.
Valentin said Seabrook tossed him out the door on Jan. 5 after convening an emergency meeting of the board of the Correction Officers Benevolent Association.
Seabrook called the meeting to grill Valentin about his request for a copy of the mailing list of COBA’s 8,100 members.
A correction officer for 23 years and a union delegate since 1996, Valentin was elected Recording Secretary in 2012 and he said he needs that list to do his job properly.
However, he said in an interview Wednesday, Seabrook refused to give it to him and then got enraged when Valentin asked COBA’s controller for a copy.
“A Corresponding Secretary, according to our constitution bylaws, is supposed to maintain and upkeep and accurate member list of the association. He did not allow me to do this. I requested it several times,” he said sitting in the law offices of his lawyer, Harvey Levine.
“He never gave a reason why” other than to say the list contained private information, Valentin said.
“In his words, and I quote, ‘No one will get the member list.’ ””
The Banks Connection:
Chief Department Philip Banks, once the police department’s highest-ranking uniformed officer, apparently received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Jona Rechnitz’s real estate firm, JSR Capital, according to financial disclosure reported by Banks in 2014. Photographs of him in Israel with Rechnitz and Reichberg are very telling in terms of the closeness of his relationship with them. Pictures and videos paint a picture of high finance and extravagant trips and reports hint at allegedly payments in cash and potentially diamonds. Banks also attended the Wiesenthal sensitivity training program.
“The investigation has also included former Chief of Department Phillip Banks, once the police department’s highest-ranking uniformed officer, and Seabrook, head of the correction officers union, the source said.
Banks earned $250,000 to $500,000 from unspecified investments from JSR Capital Inc, Rechnitz’s real estate firm, according to a financial disclosure report Banks filed in 2014.
A lawyer for Banks has previously denied wrongdoing.
De Blasio has said that he was confident his campaign and administration had not committed any improprieties.”
Wiesenthal, Platinum, Seabrook and Banks:
It has been reported that Seabrook’s political clout extended far beyond his position with the Corrections Officers’ Benevolent Association. He used his clout to “gain better financial deals for the union.” It has also been reported that he used [union] finances to endorse political candidates, many of whom presumably assisted him in accomplishing his endeavors, whether personal or professional. Seabrook, as has been posted earlier, was intricately involved with the Simon Wiesenthal Center, attended its sensitivity program, encouraged his colleagues and officers to attend which included Philip Banks, whom it should be noted was a long time friend of Seabrook.
In 2015 The New York Times reported:
“”Mr. Seabrook has amassed tremendous political clout as the head of his 9,000-member union and long used his endorsement of candidates, or the threat that he would withhold it, as a lever to gain better financial deals for the union, like higher pension benefits. During the last round of elections, the union gave out nearly half a million dollars in political donations, mostly to candidates for state offices.
The subpoena also demanded records concerning the union’s financial dealings with a disparate group of people and institutions, including Koehler & Isaacs, the union’s longtime law firm; the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an organization based in Los Angeles that focuses on Holocaust research; two hedge funds; and Philip Banks III, a longtime friend of Mr. Seabrook’s who was the New York Police Department’s top chief when he stepped down last year, about 10 months after being passed over for the job of commissioner.
Prosecutors often cast a wide net in their subpoenas, sometimes to obscure what they are really after, or to pressure people named into becoming cooperating witnesses, or simply to see what they can turn up. So it is unclear what conclusions can be drawn, if any, from the people and institutions named in the subpoena.
Mr. Seabrook did not return repeated calls and text messages seeking comment. A spokesman for the office of Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, would not comment, nor would the F.B.I., which is also participating in the investigation.
No evidence has been made public indicating that Mr. Seabrook or others named in the request were involved in any criminality. But the subpoena comes just months after Mr. Bharara sued the city over widespread abuse of inmates and malfeasance at Rikers.
While the lawsuit and an earlier report about jail brutality released by Mr. Bharara’s office last August were never explicitly critical of Mr. Seabrook, an investigation by The Times last year showed that the union president has long been an obstacle to reform efforts at Rikers.
He has resisted stiff punishments for officers charged with excessive force, intervened in investigations and fought stronger screening measures meant to stop guards from smuggling weapons and drugs into jails, The Times found.
For years, Mr. Seabrook, who makes nearly $300,000 annually, has presided with nearly unchecked authority over his union, while becoming close to mayors and governors and exercising extraordinary influence over the city’s Correction Department.
During that time, he has weathered many challenges to his authority. Early in his tenure, he faced allegations of sexual harassment by several women with whom he had worked, settling at least one of the suits. His opponents in the union have been driven out or, in some cases, found themselves the subject of criminal prosecutions.
But Mr. Seabrook has never faced a threat like Mr. Bharara, whose corruption investigations over the last year have led to the indictment of some of New York’s most powerful politicians.
Among the requests in the subpoena is one for any record of “services provided to the union” by Mr. Banks, the former police chief. However it is unclear what, if any, connection he has had to the union. A search of business records by The Times did not turn up any ties to Mr. Seabrook.”