Former Associate Of President Trump Helped Feds Bring Down First Ever Bonanno Turncoat

Felix Sater, a former associate of President Donald Trump, was instrumental in helping the Feds bring down capo Frank Coppa, the first member of the Bonanno crime family to flip and testify, ever, Cosa Nostra News has learned.

Felix Sater with Donald Trump
Felix Sater was a longtime Trump associate.

This was among the revelations that came to light in a 2009 sentencing transcript that was among a trove of documents unsealed on Monday for The Intercept on the order of U.S. District Judge Leo Glasser.

Coppa's decision to flip in 2002 after he was named in his third racketeering indictment in two years is historically regarded as a seminal moment in the Federal government's ongoing war against the Bonanno family and the New York Mafia.

Coppa's turnaround alone led to the arrests of dozens of wiseguys and induced many others in the Bonanno family to follow him, which helped the Feds to eventually take down Joseph Massino, then the Bonanno family's powerful boss, who would also flip and testify, becoming the first New York Mafia boss to do so.

Leo Taddeo, a senior FBI agent who worked with Sater, said of Sater in the recently released transcript, "He was instrumental bringing Frank Coppa in and as a result of his cooperation, caused further damage to the Bonanno family. Without his cooperation it would have been a few more years (before) the FBI would have effectively removed La Cosa Nostra from the penny stock business,"

Sater, a Soviet emigre who befriended Trump in the 2000s, who was convicted of racketeering prior to working with the president, was described as a highly valued FBI source who used his ties to the criminal underworld to inform on a range of criminal organizations, including Al-Qaida and arms dealers in Afghanistan.

Sater was gainfully employed at successful Wall Street brokerages when in 1991, at age 25, he got into a bar fight and slashed a man with a cocktail glass -- and went to prison for it. His life took a dramatic tumble. Then in 1998, Sater was convicted of racketeering for his role in a $40 million pump-and-dump stock fraud. That conviction, though, was kept under seal because Sater was providing intelligence to the FBI about the New York mafia, among other criminal organizations.

Some details about Sater’s role as an FBI informant have appeared in news stories and through his own testimony over the years. The court documents unsealed on Monday offer new information, including what prosecutors and an FBI agent had to say about Sater's role informing on the mob on Wall Street at a 2009 sentencing hearing.

Sater wore a wire for so long during a decade of "constant undercover work" that it "got to a point where it became too dangerous to allow a confirmation of his cooperation to be known," Todd Kaminsky, then assistant U.S. Attorney, told Judge Glasser.

“There was nothing he wouldn’t do,” he said. “No task was too big.”

Kaminsky credited Sater with implicating several high-ranking members in La Cosa Nostra, telling a federal appeals court that his cooperation “runs a gamut that is seldom seen.”

“It involves violent organizations such as Al Qaida,” he said, according to another newly unsealed transcript. “It involves foreign governments. It involves Russian organized crime.”

Frank Coppa
Frank Coppa

Sater ultimately was sentenced to probation and a $25,000 fine in the stock fraud case because of his work for the government.

Federal prosecutors had argued for years that these records should remain sealed because Sater's life could be in danger if his cooperation efforts were revealed. Sater himself undermined that argument by talking about his cooperation in media interviews.

Coppa testified only once — at the 2004 racketeering and murder trial of then-boss Joseph Massino.

Gang Land reported in September 2010 that Coppa had been spotted in south Florida in 2009, where he was allowed to keep a home and property that was valued at $1.7 million when he took the witness stand against Massino in 2004.

Coppa's rap sheet includes murder conspiracies, drug dealing, stock fraud, loansharking extortion and tax fraud going back to 1963. He was inducted into the crime family in 1977. He served as an acting capo, a full captain, and was a member of the family's Administration during the late 1990s, when he and Massino vacationed together with their wives.

At the hearing Todd Kaminsky, then assistant U.S. attorney, told Judge Glasser:

"I don't think there's any question that Mr. Sater has prevented far more financial fraud than he has caused. ... Mr. Sater was really the F.B.I.s entry into the types of financial frauds that were being perpetrated at the time, in the mid to late 90s, the criminal financial wizards were one step ahead of law enforcement and literally that was until Felix Sater cooperated with the F.B.I.

"The 19 other defendants in the United States v. Coppa case that came before your Honor is certainly the most concrete form of that. But far and beyond those 19 defendants Felix Sater explained to the F.B.I. how these schemes operated. And then there are instances far too numerous to mention in a 5K letter but they would take any given investigation they were looking into at the time bring it in front of Felix Sater and he would explain to them what was going on. He clearly illuminated and elicited information to them which brought countless arrests and halted the fraud at the time. That would be enough your Honor for us to stand here and tell you that Felix Sater went above and beyond but that was only the beginning.

"Time and time again all agents here and numerous others who couldnt be here today have told the government Felix Sater was one of the best cooperators we worked with. There was nothing he wouldn't do. No task was too big. He was really helpful and was the key to open a hundred different doors that they couldn't open prior to that time."

Leo Taddeo, then-Assistant Special Agent in the City of Baltimores Field Office, said:

"I worked with Mr. Sater from the outset of this stock fraud investigation and he was the epitome of professionalism in our efforts to not only uncover the scheme but all of the different individuals involved. He answered every single phone call I made to him. He answered every question honestly. He did his best to be truthful and not exaggerate. A person in his situation would have easily believed that he could get more favor from the F.B.I. by making a bigger story than what was already apparent but he didnt exaggerate or try to make himself anymore important than he already was.

"I also observed his interaction with his family and other individuals and I can say hes a dedicated family man and actually a pleasure to work with. In terms of the effects of his cooperation in addition to what is in the 5K letter I just want to add in the mid-90s the F.B.I. was facing the probability of seeing organized crime on Wall Street but not being able to do much about it. And given between success and failure for us is often an effective cooperating witness. Felix Sater was that cooperating witness.

"Your Honor Your Honor he was instrumental bringing Frank Coppa in and as a result of his cooperation caused further damage to the Bonnano family. Without his cooperation it would have been a few more years where the F.B.I. would have effectively removed La Cosa Nostra from the penny stock business. And I would easily credit Felix not only his efforts but the cascading efforts of bringing other witnesses in to basically eliminate the threat on Wall Street. Once again I know he worked with other agents and I heard nothing but similar comments from them about the nature of his cooperation and his personality and professionalism and I'm here today on his behalf. I hope that his family can get on with their lives and he can go on to be prosperous and a good dad and husband."