FBI wants to know what happened to a company run by the lawyer who oversees Donald Trump’s finances

A Trump business associate with ties to Russia and North Korea has come under federal scrutiny over a contract he orchestrated with the Seamen’s Church Institute. According to multiple sources with knowledge of the…

FBI wants to know what happened to a company run by the lawyer who oversees Donald Trump’s finances

A Trump business associate with ties to Russia and North Korea has come under federal scrutiny over a contract he orchestrated with the Seamen’s Church Institute.

According to multiple sources with knowledge of the case, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is examining whether Michael Garten, a top Trump Organization lawyer, violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, in part by arranging a deal through Seamen’s Church to handle advance payments from Russia and North Korea to an obscure North Dakota oil company.

In its July, 2012, contract with North Dakota-based Gencon Construction Services, the Seamen’s Church Institute was to hire an outside financial adviser to help it raise about $50 million for a fund to invest in European businesses, according to court records. The Seamen’s Church, which was given oversight of the funds, said it had authorized Gencon’s leasehold interest in the Morgan Creek Energy Center on the condition that the fund under its control paid at least $5 million to the company.

A federal complaint says that some of the money Gencon secured as part of the leasehold agreement was paid into accounts at the Seamen’s Church, and that some of the funds were then delivered by Gencon to Garten. In some instances, it was not apparent that Garten had been paid for his work. The Seamen’s Church did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

Gencon’s facilities management company, TRS Corp., was paid a total of $670,000 and $2.5 million by the institute and the fund during the latter part of 2012, according to a lawsuit filed by TRS. The company also was supposed to pay a $4.2 million-a-year management fee to a subsidiary of Garten’s firm, Bay Colony, according to the complaint.

The suit says that a member of Gencon’s board, Alan Kollof, also formed a company called Seamen’s Church Enterprises, LLC, with four other friends, who each received a $100,000 investment in the company. It was for those accounts that Gencon would make its first $5 million investment in the Morgan Creek Development Center. But, the suit says, the other Gencon board members did not appear to understand what they were doing. Kollof and their four friends told Garten that they would pay the other $10 million out of their own pockets, and that Gencon would make its contribution after it got its money. But Garten helped the four Gencon board members pass off those payments as their own, according to the suit.

TRS became one of the owners of the Morgan Creek property, and hired the company Bay Colony to manage the property, according to court filings.

The FBI’s interest in Garten is part of the bureau’s broader investigation into Trump’s business ties to Russia, the sources said.

“There is not a lot of documentation,” one source familiar with the case said of the inquiry. “They are looking at all of Michael’s transactions, starting with the Seamen’s Church Institute.”

Garten has worked as a lawyer for the Trump Organization for more than three decades, starting as a clerk in his father’s office. As executive vice president of the company, he’s played a key role in Trump’s legal and tax affairs. Since 2016, he has served as the company’s general counsel.

As part of his research for a recent front-page Washington Post story about Trump’s dealings with Russia, reporter Eli Saslow interviewed company employees and managers who have worked with Garten, as well as former Trump associates with ties to Russia, including Igor Sechin, the CEO of Rosneft, the Russian state-owned oil company.

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