A Little Lax, Perhaps? Ivanka and A Lax Friendship, Oh.. and Diamonds…

The Trouble With Ivanka’s Business Partner

The first daughter’s longtime friend and associate is falling afoul of his creditors—and the courts.

From POLITICO

His vendors call him a “career grifter.” His father’s creditors claim he’s a fraud and a serial extortionist who shakes people down with trumped-up threats of criminal charges. With these and other allegations piling up in court records along with judgments—against him, his wife and his businesses—for millions of dollars, his lawyers are abandoning him, saying he’s a deadbeat. All the while, he’s been living in one of the most luxurious mansions in the Bronx.

Meet Ivanka Trump’s longtime friend, matchmaker and business partner, Moshe Lax.

For the past decade, Lax, a 43-year-old New York diamond heir and entrepreneur, has been Trump’s partner in Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry, the first major venture of her business career.

Trump and her family have continued to associate with Lax even as his legal problems have mounted and Trump has been dragged into Lax’s business disputes. On election night, Lax and his wife stood at the front of the ballroom at the Trump campaign’s victory party in New York, and Lax went on to visit Trump Tower during the transition, while Tiffany Trump attended the launch party for a new Lax venture in February. Ivanka Trump has even continued to rely on Lax’s advice in recent years: In depositions they gave for an unrelated case last summer, both Trump and her brother, Don Jr., cited advice they received from Lax in assessing another business partner.

And according to court records, Trump renewed her licensing agreement with Lax in 2011, allowing him to continue using her name even after his company defaulted on payments and he violated numerous terms of their agreement.

“He cheated not just us, he also cheated Ivanka,” says Mahipal Singhvi of KGK, a company that was recently awarded a multimillion-dollar judgment against Lax, his wife and their businesses after they kept, but did not pay for, a large shipment of KGK diamonds.

Trump’s relationship with Lax and the mountain of legal and financial troubles—reported here for the first time based on dozens of interviews and public records—raise serious questions about the first daughter’s judgment, even as she continues to serve as a powerful White House adviser. In response to detailed questions sent to the White House and the Trump Organization, White House spokesman Josh Raffel requested more information about this article but did not provide comment. Following publication, a person close to Trump contacted POLITICO Magazine to say Lax was not a “close friend” of hers, and Trump Organization general counsel Alan Garten wrote in an email that the Trump family business “is still owed a significant amount of money” from Lax after terminating its licensing deal with him at the end of last year

Lax initially agreed to a telephone interview about his relationship with Trump, but then said he might be traveling to Washington imminently and would prefer to meet in person. In response to an email listing detailed questions about the judgments and allegations against him, Lax responded that he was the victim of a blackmail and extortion scheme by one of his creditors.

“I do have all the hard evidence that this is an extortion case for money,” he wrote. “I will pursue criminally.” Lax declined to elaborate, and POLITICO Magazine is withholding the name of the creditor, for lack of any evidence of wrongdoing.

***

Lax grew up in Brooklyn the son of a diamond magnate with a sideline in real estate. He began his partnership with Trump a decade ago when both were rich kids looking to make their mark in the world of business. In 2007, Lax approached Trump pitching her on a land deal in Fort Myers, Florida.

Trump found herself drawn to Lax, seeing him as a kindred spirit. “Moshe was looking to take his business to a whole new level,” she recounts in “The Trump Card,” a 2010 memoir in which the entire final chapter is devoted to her partnership with Lax. “In that way, I suppose, we were a lot alike, trying to make our own way along a path set out for us by our fathers and trying to extend that path in exciting new directions, which I guess explains why we hit it off.”

Lax was not the only person Trump would hit it off with through the proposed deal. Soon after meeting Trump, he called a meeting of real estate heirs to discuss business opportunities at Prime Grill, a steakhouse across the street from Trump Tower, according to an April profile of Lax in Mishpacha, a magazine serving the Orthodox Jewish diaspora. At Lax’s networking lunch, Trump met her future husband, Jared Kushner, for the first time (in the profile, Lax joked that it was a “state secret” whether he received a matchmaking fee and said he had gained an appreciation for President Donald Trump’s “decency” and “sense of humor” by working with him up close).

The real estate deal went nowhere, but Trump and Lax soon embarked on a more promising venture together. At the time, Lax had a steady supply of diamonds from his family’s business, but was having trouble differentiating his product. Trump had a famous name with which to brand jewelry and ideas about how to create a shopping experience geared toward working women buying for themselves—a break from other diamond retailers that catered to husbands and boyfriends.

The pair decided to embark on a joint business venture, Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry, converting Lax’s retail space on Madison Avenue into their flagship boutique.

According to Trump’s memoir, the partnership was a home run. “As of now, in this tough economy, we’re doing very well,” she wrote in 2010. “Actually we’re doing better than ‘very well’ … We’ve succeeded beyond my wildest expectations.”

But beneath the rosy picture Trump painted in public, there were a number of problems. In June 2011, Trump and Lax entered into a new licensing agreement. This agreement, which has since surfaced in litigation, states that Lax’s company defaulted on licensing payments to Trump and that Lax or his company committed numerous violations of the original deal, including entering into unauthorized sublicensing agreements and failing to keep accurate records. The agreement charges Lax’s company $300,000 per year and 36 percent of net proceeds for the right to use Trump’s name.

Despite those problems, Trump remained in business with Lax as troubles kept piling up.

In 2012, Lax’s company, Madison Avenue Diamonds, found itself in court after it accepted delivery of millions of dollars in diamonds but refused to pay for them, claiming that the vendor, KGK, had breached their agreement by delivering some computer files related to the diamonds late. Lax was represented by David Scharf of Morrison Cohen, who in the past had done extensive legal work for the Trump Organization (the firm later went to court with the Trump Organization over half a million dollars in disputed legal fees).

The diamond dispute entangled Trump in a web of litigation against her will. At one point, Judge Charles Ramos became agitated with Trump’s attempts to avoid testifying about her relationship with Lax.

Ramos expressed special annoyance at the fact that Trump submitted an affidavit from her lawyer in an attempt to quash a subpoena, rather than submitting one herself. “You know something, if she does not want to testify she can tell me she doesn’t want to testify,” Ramos said at a hearing on the matter. “She has not done that. She does it through counsel? Thanks a lot. The deposition will go forward.” Trump also made the unusual request that the deposition take place at her office in Trump Tower, which the judge denied.

At her deposition, Trump’s lawyer revealed that in addition to her licensing agreement with Lax, Trump had an ownership stake in Madison Avenue Diamonds through an entity called IHoldings Madison LLC. It’s not clear how large a share of the company Trump held, or for how long. In the personal financial disclosure she made this year upon entering the White House, Trump says she served as president of IHoldings Madison until this May.

In 2015, the court ordered Lax’s company and his wife, Shaindy—who had personally guaranteed payment of the diamonds and in whose name Lax conducts many of his financial dealings—to pay the stiffed vendor $2.4 million plus interest. Singvhi of KGK says the company has still not received the payments due, which at this point amount to $3.5 million.

In the meantime, Lax has had other problems.

***

In 2008, Lax’s father died, leaving him as co-executor of a vast estate. But his father also left vast debts, including $27 million owed to the IRS and a multimillion-dollar loan guaranteed by the Brooklyn real estate developers Joseph Brunner and Abe Mandel.

The fallout from that loan has led to some of the most disturbing charges against Lax: that he has been extorting members of his tight-knit religious community, threatening to bring criminal charges against them if they do not pay him—and that he engaged in a massive financial fraud to hide tens of millions of dollars left by his father from the government and creditors.

In 2014, Brunner and Mandel sued Lax, his wife, his brother-in-law Martin Ehrenfeld, his father’s estate, his father’s family trust and various corporate entities, claiming the defendants had used a series of shell corporations to hide Lax’s father’s money and avoid paying his father’s debts. The developers say that before his death, Lax’s father showed them documentation that his net worth was $174 million. According to their complaint, Lax and his co-defendants managed to make the fortune disappear—so that when creditors came calling, the estate had no assets to repossess.

The developers also claimed that Lax attempted to extort them in a scheme to avoid paying on the debts. In a sworn affidavit, Mandel said he received a call from Scharf in March 2014 informing him that a legal complaint was being prepared that would “destroy” him and Brunner and inviting him to a follow-up meeting to discuss the issue at Scharf’s office.

At the meeting, Scharf allegedly told the developers that his client was working with a former prosecutor, was prepared to accuse them of racketeering and would demand $20 million in damages—that is, unless they negotiated with Lax and his brother-in-law “to make this go away.”

In the affidavit, Mandel also said that a private intelligence firm had been approaching his business and personal contacts, telling them Mandel and his partner were under investigation and telling a charity he had given to that his gift was made with “stolen funds.” The developers submitted business card from the firm Sage Intelligence bearing the name Herman Weisberg, a former New York Police Department detective, that had been left with one of their acquaintances. Weisberg declined to comment for this story.

The developers said they were not the only victims, and that the defendants had been engaging in a “pattern and practice” of extorting and trying to extort other members of the Orthodox Jewish community, to which all involved belong, through “sham” entities called Diligence I LLC and Prudence LLC.

“Brunner and I inquired in our community about Scharf, Lax and Ehrenfeld,” states Mandel in a sworn affidavit. “We learned that they have been shaking down other people in our community for large settlement payments by threatening criminal actions.”

The Laxes and Ehrenfeld have denied wrongdoing. Scharf and his firm, who were never named as defendants, also deny any wrongdoing. Morrison Cohen has since withdrawn as counsel for Lax’s father’s estate, citing a conflict of interest (in June, the firm also withdrew from the KGK case, saying Lax and Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry had failed pay them).

Morrison Cohen’s withdrawal was just one of many bizarre turns the Brunner and Mandel case has taken. At one point, an attorney for Diligence claimed not to know who actually controlled the shell corporation he was representing. At another point, Lax claimed not to know the original identities of the lenders for the loan under dispute.

Judge Shirley Kornreich later concluded that Lax was lying, and over the course of the case she grew increasingly frustrated with such shenanigans. “A theme in this case is the pleading of ignorance by defendants and their counsel,” she wrote in one court order, listing off assertions that she did not find credible.

In June 2015, the lawyer for Diligence, Steven Schlesinger, withdrew from the case, saying his client had failed to communicate with him and had stiffed him on $85,000 worth of legal fees. Diligence then got a replacement lawyer, David Jaroslawicz, but he also withdrew from the case this January.

In his request to abandon the case, Jaroslawicz said he had been retained by someone named Elridge Glasford running a corporate services firm on the Caribbean island of Nevis—population 11,000—that he was “not computer literate” because of a disability, and that he was never paid for his work. In November, a lawyer representing Lax’s sister, Zlaty Schwartz, and his father’s estate, withdrew from the case, citing “irreconcilable differences” with the estate.

Since then, the case has settled, according to the developers’ lawyer, William Fried, who declined to comment, citing a confidentiality agreement.

***

Those cases represent only a small sample of the suits filed against Lax in recent years. In September 2013, the law firm Cohen & Perfetto sued Lax, claiming he stiffed them for $48,000 in legal fees. The case settled, with Scharf representing Lax.

Last January, Lax’s cousin, Aron, sued Lax and his sister for allegedly pursuing “unjust enrichment” by trying to evict Aron and his wife from a Brooklyn condo that they have resided in since 2006 but whose mortgage is in the name of Lax’s late father. Last October, the firm Porzio, Bromberg & Newman sued Lax for $100,000 in unpaid legal fees. And in June, the law firm Meltzer, Lippe, Goldstein & Breitstone sued Lax for $20,000 in unpaid legal fees. The cases remain ongoing. Lax has also been named as a defendant in a number of cases claiming failures to make mortgage payments.

Lax’s problems have continued to entangle Ivanka Trump. In recent years, the state of New York has issued at least three warrants for unpaid taxes against Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry, totaling over $300,000. The outstanding taxes were eventually paid.

The financial travails of Lax and his wife have also put Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry in danger of at least partly falling into the hands of the highest bidder at a public auction in order to satisfy their unpaid debts. In January, a New York couple, Michael and Rachel Goldenberg, sued Lax and his wife for stiffing them on a six-figure loan. Lax’s wife owned at least part of Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry, and in April, a New York court ordered her to turn over her stake in the company to the city so that it could be auctioned off to settle the debt. She apparently failed to do so, leading the Goldenbergs to request in May that she be held in contempt of court. In July, the court ordered the Laxs to pay the Goldenbergs $675,000, and the motion for contempt has been put on hold until September 19, the deadline for paying the debt.

The Laxes’ finances are further obscured by the fact that they are sometimes conducted under the name Chana Weisz, an alias used by his wife, Shaindy. Lax will sometimes write checks from a checkbook made in the name of Chana Weisz, according to a person who has seen him do this. The person recently received a five-figure check from Lax out of that checkbook but said they were unable to cash it because, as an alarmed bank teller pointed out, Lax’s signature did match the name on the check.

Amid so many setbacks, Lax did score at least one massive, if temporary, reprieve thanks to some highly irregular tax relief. In October 2015, the IRS released a $27 million tax lien against his father’s estate, saying the obligation had been satisfied. But last May, the IRS reinstated the lien, saying it had been released by mistake and that the $27 million in back taxes had never actually been paid.

Michael Macgillivray, a prominent Chicago attorney specializing in tax collections and a veteran of the IRS collections department, was gobsmacked by the botched lien release. “That is extremely extraordinary,” he said. “Of the things I’ve seen in my practice, nothing has even remotely approached a million dollars when there was an erroneously released lien.”

To read this article in its entirety click, here.

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Kushner, President Trump, The sins of the Father, Platinum… Part I

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http://forward.com/news/361035/jared-kushner-and-the-white-haired-mystic-whose-dad-got-a-ride-from-a-dead/

Jared Kushner and the White-Haired Mystic Whose Dad ‘Got a Ride’ From a Dead Sage

Jared Kushner’s family charities have given hundreds of thousands of dollars to a mystical Moroccan rabbi who some followers claim has miraculous powers.

The rabbi, David Chananya Pinto, is little known in the United States but has a coterie of wealthy backers. Two separate Kushner family foundations on whose boards Jared Kushner serves have given over $210,000 in grants to Pinto’s New York City study center.

It’s hard to square Donald Trump’s clean-cut, Modern Orthodox son-in-law with the white-bearded mystic who tells a story about a night in 1968 when his father got a ride from a second-century sage driving an Israeli-made station wagon.

Yet Kushner has shown an interest in Judaism’s mystical corners.

Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, plan to attend a Washington synagogue affiliated with the Chabad Hasidic group, a movement rooted in Jewish mysticism. And days before the presidential election, the couple visited the grave of the group’s former leader, where believers say prayers may be answered with miracles.

A spokesperson for Kushner would not comment on the foundations’ donations to Pinto’s charity. Pinto’s New York study center, Chevrat Pinto, did not respond to a request for comment.

The Kushner family are Modern Orthodox stalwarts, founders of a Modern Orthodox high school in New Jersey and members of Modern Orthodox synagogues. But while Modern Orthodox theology de-emphasizes the folk magic and mysticism found in some corners of Jewish tradition, magical beliefs have grown popular among rank-and-file Modern Orthodox Jews.

“There is definitely an upswing in turning to magic,” said Rabbi Alan Brill, a professor of Jewish studies at Seton Hall University. Brill has written on the phenomenon in an essay onModern Orthodox Jews in New Jersey reviving the ancient Jewish magical practice of baking keys into challah bread.

Brill also said that the popularity of traveling charismatic mystics was rising among some Modern Orthodox Jews. “It’s a different relationship than having to sit through a congregation each week,” he said.

Pinto is one of a handful of mystically inclined rabbis gaining popularity in the United States and Israel. His better-known nephew, Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto, attracted a large following of wealthy Jews in the United States and Israel before ending up in an Israeli prison for bribing a high-ranking police officer.

Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto was released from prison January 25 after serving a one-year sentence. He says he is no longer a rabbi.

Rabbi David Pinto wears the familiar black coat and hat of the ultra-Orthodox Ashkenazim, but he descends from a North African Jewish tradition of miracle workers and saints. Pinto’s ancestors were prominent rabbis; the grave of his great-great grandfather is a popular pilgrimage site for Moroccan Jews. Pinto’s organization describes his father and his grandfather, both rabbis, as “miracle workers.”

Pinto leads institutions in France and Israel, but he regularly visits his New York study center, where his followers include Jews from mainstream Modern Orthodox backgrounds alongside members of the French Jewish community. He delivers his lectures in English, speaking with a French accent.

Stories of the miracles that his father and grandfather worked, and the belief that they can continue to influence daily events, appear to play a major role in Pinto’s religious message. In a May 2016 lecture delivered in Mexico City and available online, Pinto told a story about his father getting picked up on the side of the road in 1968 by the purported author of the Zohar, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, who lived roughly 2,000 years ago.

According to Pinto, his father, Rabbi Moshe Ahron Pinto, lived 40 years in prayerful seclusion in his home in Morocco, and then, in 1968, sought the permission of the dead sage bar Yochai to move his family to Israel. Moshe Ahron Pinto traveled to Ashdod, then took a taxi to bar Yochai’s crypt in Meron. He finished praying late at night. A disciple who had accompanied him thought they would be stuck near the crypt until dawn, but as soon as they reached the road, an Israeli-made station wagon, an Autocars Sussita, appeared. The driver took them to a house in a nearby village.

“My father went out [of the car], [the disciple] closed the car, and suddenly there was no car,” Pinto said.

Pinto said his father told the disciple that the driver was bar Yochai, and that if he told anyone of the miracle he would die.

The idea that righteous rabbis have the power to perform miracles is a familiar one in mystical Jewish traditions, and particularly among North African Jews. In the literature of Pinto’s organization, dead rabbis and even Pinto himself are credited with causing everyday miracles to occur.

 

An article in the 2010 English-language edition of a magazine published by his organization in Paris reports that a “great miracle happened” at the home of a Chicago follower who hosted Pinto: Two days after receiving Pinto’s blessing, the follower’s daughter was matched with a man whom she eventually married.

The article also reports that after Pinto promised a French follower that God would “perform a miracle for you this week” if the man spent one more hour a day studying the Torah, the man’s son narrowly escaped electrocution.

The story claims that Pinto knows things by miraculous means. “Many people are surprised by the way that the Rav knows and sees things from afar,” the article says. Pinto, the authors report, denies being a prophet. “Everything is due to the merit of the fathers,” it quotes him saying.

In a brief recollection presented in a December 2016 weekly bulletin published by Pinto’s Israeli organization, Pinto claimed that a German boy had been revived from a three-month coma after a man who hosted him on a visit to Morocco prayed at the grave of Rabbi Chaim Pinto, his great-great grandfather.

“I would never dare bang on the tombstone of my grandfather,” Pinto wrote. “However, [the man] did it naturally, and he was answered immediately!”

In New York City, Pinto has a study center, called Chevrat Pinto, in an Upper West Side brownstone. The study center received between $10,000 and $50,000 from a Kushner family foundation nearly every year from 2004 to 2013. Jared Kushner sits on the boards of the two foundations that made the grants, the Charles and Seryl Kushner Family Foundation and the C. Kushner Companies Foundation. He is one of seven coequal directors of the Charles and Seryl Kushner Family Foundation, according to 2014 tax documents, and was a member of a board of directors led by his mother at the C. Kushner Companies Foundation, which no longer exists.

In total, Chevrat Pinto received $217,000 from the Kushners’ two foundations.

Jared Kushner’s aunt and uncle, Marisa and Richard Stadtmauer, have been ever more generous. Their family foundation has given Chevrat Pinto $592,000 in grants since 2009.

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