By Wendy Siegelman and Stacy Jannis
In 2015 Lev Parnas and Ivana Trump met at a Miami club that shared the same address as a company Ivana worked for in the 1990s. During that time they also had close business associates who now work together.
In October 2019 Lev Parnas, a Florida-based Ukrainian immigrant and former stock trader, was indicted with his business associates Igor Fruman, David Correia and Andrey Kukushkin, for conspiring to make illegal foreign campaign contributions.
Since then the work of Parnas and Fruman on behalf of Rudy Giuliani, and by extension on behalf of Giuliani’s client Donald Trump, have become a central part of the House impeachment inquiry. Parnas, Fruman and Giuliani worked together to seek damaging information about Joe Biden to help Trump in his 2020 presidential campaign. They also sought evidence to blame the DNC for its own hack and to exonerate Russia.
At the same time, Parnas and Fruman were advocating on behalf of Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash, who had partnered with Paul Manafort, was a major backer of Ukraine’s pro-Russian political Party of Regions and has deep ties to Russian organized crime. Parnas was also hired as a translator for Firtash, who is under house arrest in Vienna as he fights against a U.S. extradition request.
Trump has claimed he does not know Lev Parnas or Igor Fruman, but many photographs have been published since their indictment showing them at events with Giuliani, in photos with Trump, in one with Trump and Pence and others with members of Trump’s family and inner circle.
2015 photo of Lev Parnas and Ivana Trump at Lique
An April 23, 2015 photo from Lev Parnas’s private instagram account was published by the Wall Street Journal and shows Parnas posing next to Donald Trump’s ex-wife Ivana Trump, two women and his business partner David Correia. They are at the Miami Beach restaurant Lique, with a caption saying: Fraud Guarantee pow wow at Lique The atmosphere TRUMPS the rest! #FraudGuarantee #IvanaTrump #bigbusiness #greatvibe #lastnight #Trump
It’s not clear from the photo of Lev Parnas with Ivana Trump, what the nature of the encounter was. Perhaps it was a brief social encounter or perhaps it was a business meeting related to Fraud Guarantee, the firm run by Parnas, Correia, and Fruman that paid Rudy Giuliani $500,000 in 2018.
But new research reveals that Parnas and Ivana have several other business connections. The club, Lique, where they were photographed in 2015, has the same address as a scandal-ridden business Ivana Trump worked for in the 1990’s — and one of her business partners at the time is now partnered with Robert Grinberg, a long-time friend and associate of Lev Parnas at several pump and dump stock firms.
Giuliani has described Parnas and Fruman as his clients, and Reutersreported that in August 2018 Parnas paid Giuliani $500,000 to consult for his firm Fraud Guarantee:
Boca Raton-based Fraud Guarantee, whose website says it aims to help clients “reduce and mitigate fraud,” engaged Giuliani Partners, a management and security consulting firm, around August 2018. Giuliani said he was hired to consult on Fraud Guarantee’s technologies and provide legal advice on regulatory issues… Federal prosecutors are “examining Giuliani’s interactions” with Parnas and another Giuliani associate, Igor Fruman, who was also indicted on campaign finance charges.
Corporate records show a Fraud Guarantee, LLC incorporated in Florida on October 3, 2013 and dissolved in 2014. There is another Delaware based Fraud Guarantee, LLC that was incorporated on October 4, 2013 that may still be active.
A Wall Street Journal story described information on Pitch Book that said New York-based Magnolia Ventures had made a $1.5 million investment in Fraud Guarantee in June 2018, however, it’s not known if the investment was ever made. And a recent New York Times story reported that the $500,000 paid Giuliani by Fraud Guarantee was financed by lawyer Charles Gucciardo:
The company being promoted by Mr. Parnas, Fraud Guarantee, was billed as a way for investors to get insurance against the risk of being defrauded. Mr. Gucciardo’s money was a loan that could be converted into a stake in the company, according to people familiar with the deal…But it is not clear the stake would have any value, since Fraud Guarantee does not appear to have any customers.
Lev Parnas’s company Fraud Guarantee may have received an infusion of $2 million in the summer of 2018 and then paid half a million dollars to Trump’s personal lawyer Guiliani for vague services from a company without any clear business track record.
Three years prior, Parnas met in April 2015 with then-candidate Trump’s ex-wife Ivana and tagged the photo of their meeting at Lique as a ‘Fraud Guarantee pow wow’ raising questions about the nature of that encounter.
Lique is at same address as Ivana’s former business
Originally called Rouge in 2011, the restaurant was reopened as Lique in 2014 by Ukrainian immigrant and restaurateur Alex Podolnyy.
Although it is a public restaurant, Lique is considered something of a private club, lounge and nightspot, often frequented by the same crowd night after night. Lique is a favorite of the well-heeled Russian and Ukrainian immigrant community of Sunny Isles, Florida, aka “Little Moscow,” where several Trump condos are located. It hosts many special events for the close knit immigrant community including birthdays, Russian singing contests, fashion, and yacht shows.
And Lev Parnas chose Lique for some special occasions. In addition to his April 2015 pow wow with Ivana Trump, Parnas celebrated his birthday at Lique in February 2017:
Lique is located directly across the water from Sunny Isles on NE 163 street. Coincidentally, Lique’s address was also listed as the headquarters of Ivana Trump’s former Florida business partners. While there is no indication that Ivana’s earlier business is directly connected to Lique, the address is not an office building, but a single retail business location, so it’s an unusual coincidence.
In 1997 Ivana Trump had partnered with Melvin (Mel) Rosen and Charles C. Arnold, in the business Tel Com Wireless Cable TV Corp (or Tel-Com), later named 5th Avenue Channel Corp, to promote her products.
An April 2000 SEC filing for 5th Avenue Channel Corporation, which was majority owned by Melvin Rosen, lists the same address on NE 163rd Street in Miami as the location that in 2014 would become Lique.
The story of Ivana’s 5th Avenue Channel Corp deal highlights how after divorcing Trump, she continued, as he did, to pursue deals with business partners who had a proclivity for lawsuits, business violations and criminal behavior. And some of them overlap with associates of Lev Parnas.
Ivana Trump’s 5th Avenue Channel Corp deal
In the late 1990’s, Ivana was contracted by a group of Florida-based private investors, traders, and stock promoters, including Mel Rosen and Charles Arnold, to host a shopping channel and website. Their joint venture ended up a failure, complete with accusations of stock price manipulation, fraud and threats to investors.
Penny-stock promoter Charles Arnold was an investor and consultant for Tel-Com Wireless Cable TV, and was influential in bringing Mel Rosen on board as the new president in May 1997. A few months later Rosen hired scandal-ridden brokerage firm Meyers Pollock Robbins:
Rosen himself hired the brokerage firm Meyers Pollock Robbins as financial consultants to Tel-Com on July 24 of last year. That was two months after the attorneys general of four states had held a news conference to announce a crackdown on Meyers Pollock for fraudulent sales practices.
One former employee of Meyers Pollock Robbins, Robert Grinberg, was a long-time friend and close business associate of Lev Parnas. And Robert Grinberg is now a partner in a couple of businesses ventures with Ivana’s former business associate Charles Arnold.
Ivana Trump’s deal with Rosen and Arnold included stock options and a salary to promote products and sell her wares. Prior to her partnership with Tel-Com’s 5th Avenue Channel, she had established jewelry, cosmetics and fashion lines which she sold through HSN, QVC London and TSN in Canada. Much like her former husband, Ivana often boasted she was a wildly successful businessperson. However, by 1997 she was reportedly using tricky financial maneuvers to hide her money and avoid paying her debts.
There is no question that Ivana was an experienced sales person and marketer of her own brand and products, and protector of her own financial interests. What is less clear is why she became involved with some very shady financial partners after her divorce from Donald Trump.
In December 1998 the New York Times described Ivana’s business:
Mix the frenzy over Internet stocks with the image of Ivana Trump and allegations of thuggery and you get Tel-Com Wireless Cable TV Corp., a television-and-Web-site company whose stock has gone from a sleeper to a screamer in recent weeks.
Almost a year later, by November 1999, the Wall Street Journal would describe the business saying:
“The crowd around Ivana’s latest business venture makes Donald look sweet.”
Ivana Trump & pump and dump stock accusations
In 1998, Ivana was accused of helping to inflate Tel-Com’s stock prices after announcing the launch of shopping site “5th ave dotcom” on the Rosie O’Donnell show. At the same time Tel-Com was being exposed as a haven of penny stock swindlers and mob related thugs. From the December 1998 Wall Street Journal:
Friday morning, Ivana Trump’s 5th Avenue Channel opened for business on the Internet, offering more than 10,000 items for sale. The site looked great. But also on Friday morning, several terrified investors told Barron’s and the police that their families had been threatened by convicted criminals who accused the investors of selling short shares in Tel-Com Wireless Cable TV, the North Miami Beach firm that is running Ivana’s Internet retailer. These investors said they were visited at their homes by Michael and Boris Vax, brothers who pleaded guilty to federal racketeering charges in 1995.
Investors said the Vax brothers complained about negative news coverage of Tel-Com that had led to financial losses for Charles Arnold. According to one investor Michael Vax had said, “you should worry about your kids.”
The following year a March 1999 SEC 8-K filing described a share exchange agreement in Tel-Com for investors Mel Rosen, IBC Partners, a Florida general partnership with a director Eric Lefkowitz, and Ivana Trump. Despite the scandal at the launch, Ivana was all-in.
Later in the summer of 1999 the New York Postreported that 5th Avenue Channel Corp, which was part owned by Ivana Trump, was being investigated by the SEC. While the SEC investigation did not result in any charges, by 2002 former Tel-com investor Charles Arnold was implicated in a separate scandal known as “Operation Bermuda Short,” a sting operation in which more than 40 people were charged with stock manipulation.
The notorious Vax brothers
After bad press emerged about Tel-Com, and several investors complained that they had been threatened at their homes by Michael and Boris Vax, Ivana’s attorney said his client knew nothing about them, and she was “gung ho” on the business.
The Vax brothers had both served time in jail years before they had reportedly threatened investors in Ivana’s business, and Michael Vax was reputed to be an acquaintance of a mafia figure with links to Donald Trump.
Michael Vax has been described by law enforcement officers as an acquaintance of Russian mobster Vyacheslav Ivankov, who last year was sentenced to 10 years in jail by a Federal court in New York for extortion.
The Washington Post described how Vyacheslav Ivankov, an associate of Russian mobster Semion Mogilevich, was in Trump’s orbit — Ivankov was a regular at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City and lived in Trump Tower. However, there was no evidence of a personal interaction between Trump and Ivankov. Ivankov had also been in jail with Evgeny Dvoskin who was involved in the Trump Tower Moscow project, and was mentioned in the Mueller report in a conversation with Felix Sater about arranging a possible trip to Russia for Michael Cohen and Donald Trump.
Michael Vax, who had threatened investors in Ivana’s business, and who was an acquaintance of notorious mobster Vyacheslav Ivankov, would also later be arrested in a crime along with a business associate of Lev Parnas.
Parnas and Grinberg stock fraud, 1990’s style
Parnas and Grinberg made their American Dream come true during the heyday of penny stock pump and dump schemes. They were both featured in a December 2000 Jewish Press article about Chanukah in Brighton Beach, where they sponsored a street celebration. According to the article:
The remarkable event was made possible through the generosity of Lev Parnas, 29, and Robert M. Grinberg, 30, a pair of very successful young Russian immigrants who are living the American dream.
From 1992 to 2003 Lev Parnas and Robert Grinberg ran Florida-based Program Trading Corp., which was expelled from FINRA in 2003 for failing to pay fines. Parnas was listed as Director and President and Grinberg was Director and CEO. Another trader who worked at Program Trading Corp was William Fox who, along with Lev Parnas, was an alumni of the notorious Euro-Atlantic Securities trading firm. Euro-Atlantic was implicated in a mafia stock manipulation scam during 1996–1997, the same years that both Parnas and Fox worked there.
In 1995, Grinberg worked briefly at Meyers, Pollock Robbins Inc. a mob controlled pump and dump stock trading firm. Meyers Pollock Robbins Inc. caused investors to lose more than $176 million by selling worthless stocks from 1992 to 1997, in a massive, organized multi-state swindle. By 2001 more than forty of the firm’s employees were indicted on fraud or larceny charges. In 1997 as investigations of the firm were being reported, they had been hired to advise Ivana Trump’s Tel-Com business partners.
One of the people sentenced in the $176 million scheme at Meyers Pollock Robbins was Thomas Gucciardo — who coincidentally has the same last name as Charles Gucciardo who gave $500,000 to Lev Parnas’s company Fraud Guarantee that was used to pay Giuliani. There is no evidence, however, that they are related.
Another link between Parnas and Grinberg and someone associated with Ivana’s Tel-Com business emerged in 2013. According to RFERL, Steven Koifman, who worked for Parnas and Grinberg at Program Trading Corp. from 1999 to 2000 and again from 2002 to 2003, was arrested in 2013 along with Michael Vax for charges related to securities fraud.
Koifman and Parnas were close childhood friends, according to a 2010 Boca Raton police report that was filed following an altercation between the two men.
Coincidentally, during the same time period that Ivana’s business was accused of stock manipulation, and that Parnas ran and worked at several securities firms expelled by FINRA, Felix Sater, who partnered with Trump ten years later, was charged with the same type of mob-related financial crimes at White Rock and State Street Partners. It has been reported that his cooperation agreement included help in taking down other mafia controlled trading rackets in the late 1990s.
Grinberg and Arnold are now business partners
The overlaps in business associates of Lev Parnas and Ivana Trump continues today. Currently Parnas’ long-time friend and former business partner Robert Grinberg and Ivana Trump’s former shopping channel backer, Charles Arnold, are partnered in two separate business ventures.
And Grinberg and Arnold are both on the board of Florida marijuana company RBC Hemp LLC. According to its website, RBC Hemp will establish a processing facility in Hendry County, Florida and grow hemp nearby for industrial purposes. When Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were recently indicted, charges included information about a Russian national who helped fund them and was involved in the marijuana business. However, there is no indication of any connection between these two marijuana ventures.
A multitude of overlapping connections
In addition to the one photo showing Lev Parnas and Ivana Trump in April 2015 at Lique, it’s not evident they have further ties of any kind. But it is clear that they have business associates from the late 1990s through the present, who have in turned worked with each other, or have gone to prison together.
One of the Vax brothers who reportedly intimidated investors, and was an acquaintance of Ivana’s business associate Charles Arnold, would years later be indicted with an associate of Lev Parnas. And during the same period Ivana’s business was accused of inflating stock prices and later investigated by the SEC, Parnas was running a stock company that would be expelled by FINRA, with his long-time friend Robert Grinberg, who is now involved in two businesses ventures with Charles Arnold.
As we learn of more contacts between Lev Parnas, Igor Fruman and Donald Trump — despite his claim that he does not know either gentleman — we should also keep in mind that Parnas, Fruman, Trump, and others in his orbit, including his ex-wife Ivana, share overlapping business connections as well.