Trump Donors Include Pair Of Mafia Figures

Men linked to Colombo gang back incumbent

NOVEMBER 1--Donald Trump, who derides the Bidens as “an organized crime family” whose members should be “locked up,” has benefitted from about $40,000 in campaign contributions connected to a pair of actual Mafia figures, records show.

The donations to Trump’s reelection effort have come from two wealthy automobile dealers who have been identified by law enforcement officials and mob turncoats as members of the Colombo crime family, one of New York’s five La Cosa Nostra outfits.

One of the donors, John Staluppi, 73, first met the president in the late-80s when the men worked together to design the Donald Trump signature series Cadillac limousine. Trump’s deal with Staluppi and his partner--both of whom were convicted felons--was the first time the developer licensed his name for a product. The limo was marketed years before the Trump handle began appearing on steaks, water, bedding, cologne, vodka, etc..

Staluppi and his wife Jeanette were also officers of a helicopter charter service that was paid to ferry gamblers to Atlantic City casinos, including three owned by Trump. Staluppi, who had $250,000 credit lines at each Trump gambling joint, was eventually denied a casino service license by New Jersey regulators after FBI and Department of Justice officials identified him as a “member of the Colombo family, a career offender cartel.”

The other Trump contributor, John Rosatti, 76, is a lifelong friend of Staluppi who has also made donations this election cycle to Republican senators Steve Daines and Lindsay Graham, Jim Jordan, and John Cummings, who is running against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Staluppi (left) and Rosatti are pictured above.

According to Federal Election Commission records, Staluppi has made a pair of $1000 donations to the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, a joint fundraising operation benefitting Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. and the Republican National Committee. Staluppi has also donated $580 directly to the RNC.

In February, Staluppi’s wife gave $35,000 to Trump Victory, a joint committee whose fundraising principally benefits Trump’s reelection committee and the RNC’s efforts to help the incumbent win reelection. The Staluppi contribution corresponds with a private Florida fundraiser attended by Trump that cost $35,000 per couple for a photo with the president and attendance at a small reception.

Rosatti donated $1000 in April to the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, FEC records show.

Staluppi and Rosatti, both of whom are registered Republicans and convicted felons, donated to the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2004, while Staluppi has also contributed to the presidential committees of Bob Dole and George H.W. Bush. Staluppi and his wife each donated $2300 to Mitt Romney’s 2008 GOP primary campaign. However, Staluppi’s contribution was subsequently refunded by the Romney campaign (which kept Jeanette Staluppi’s donation). FEC records show that the couple has donated to an assortment of state Republican organizations, as well as officeholders like Tom Cotton, Mitch McConnell, Cory Gardner, and Ron DeSantis.

The bulk of political contributions made by Rosatti and Staluppi came after the pair moved to Florida, where they reside in waterfront mansions four blocks apart in Palm Beach Gardens.

The duo’s relocation south from New York came in the wake of an early-90s mob war between factions of the Colombo family aligned with imprisoned boss Carmine “The Snake” Persico and Victor Orena, the acting boss who sought to supplant Persico. The fallout from the multiyear street battle included about a dozen murders, numerous rubout attempts, and the imprisonment of dozens of Colombo family members and associates.

Additionally, several Colombo members began cooperating with the FBI, providing federal investigators with insight into the crime family’s organization, murder plots, and assorted illegal rackets.

The family’s former consigliere, Carmine Sessa, identified Rosatti and Staluppi as members of a Colombo crew headed by Theodore Persico, a nephew of Carmine Persico, according to a 1993 FBI report. In June 1990, NYPD detectives surveilling a Brooklyn catering hall spotted Rosatti and Staluppi attending the wedding reception of Lawrence Persico, another of Carmine’s sons. Other attendees included members of the Colombo crime family’s hierarchy. Additionally, an FBI surveillance team once photographed Rosatti (seen above) leaving a funeral home after paying his respects to a late Colombo soldier.

Upon cooperating with federal investigators, Salvatore Miciotta, a Colombo captain, told the FBI that Rosatti and Staluppi initially sided with Orena at the outset of hostilities. Miciotta said that Rosatti met with Orena at a Long Island restaurant and agreed to give $50,000 for the war effort, but turned down Orena’s request to provide untraceable cars to be used by roving hit squads. Miciotta also reported that Rosatti and Staluppi were later asked to kick in $50,000 apiece to help cover legal expenses for Orena and another Colombo member who were arrested after the war commenced.

It was only after Staluppi and Rosatti visited an imprisoned Colombo captain, Dominick Montemarano (pictured below), that the pair had a change of heart and defected back to the Persico side. The wartime status of Rosatti and Staluppi was the subject of a wiretapped conversation between Persico loyalists. “We got those two guys with us, Staluppi and Rosatti. They’re with us now, right?” one hoodlum asked. “Yeah,” a second wiseguy replied.

[While Rosatti and Staluppi escaped harm during the bloody Colombo battle, Rosatti was arrested on federal charges after he was caught carrying a .38 caliber handgun. In arguing for leniency on the felony rap, Rosatti’s lawyer contended that his client possessed the weapon due to “duress” caused by the gang war. Rosatti, who pleaded guilty to the gun charge, was sentenced to a year’s probation and fined $5000. Rosatti’s prosecution was handled by Andrew Weissmann, now best known for his role as one of Robert Mueller’s top deputies during the special counsel’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.]

At the time of the duo’s defection, FBI agents were aware that Rosatti and Staluppi were wavering. Gregory Scarpa, a Colombo captain who was also a top echelon FBI informant, told his handler in April 1992 that Rosatti and Staluppi “are looking to come over to the Persico side in view of Vic Orena’s arrest.”

In May 1988, Scarpa confirmed to the FBI that Staluppi was a member of the Colombo family. A few months later, Scarpa reported that Staluppi had, days earlier, been the subject of lengthy newspaper profile that focused on his lucrative auto dealerships, and his ownership of multiple homes, airplanes, helicopters, and yachts. The story, which contained no mention of organized crime, presented Staluppi as a “man to be taken seriously,” said Scarpa, who added that the puff piece “amused many Colombo members.”

Law enforcement agencies have been aware of Rosatti’s and Staluppi’s Colombo family affiliation for at least 40 years. During an investigation that began in 1980, an undercover cop worked as a chauffeur for Staluppi and reported back on meetings Staluppi had with Carmine Persico, Colombo soldier Pasquale Amato, and Rosatti. During a Christmas party hosted by Staluppi and Rosatti, the undercover cop noted, Colombo captains Sebastian Aloi and Frank Fusco “were treated as if they were honored guests.” Once, the cop reported, when a friend suggested a Saturday evening visit to a Long Island nightspot secretly owned by a Colombo soldier, Staluppi rejected the proposal, saying that law enforcement agents were at the club “taking plate numbers.”

While the undercover probe did not lead to criminal charges, Staluppi’s mob connections subsequently resulted in the rejection of his application for a liquor license for a Manhattan nightclub. And he was later turned down when seeking a license for his Atlantic City helicopter business. As part of a background investigation conducted by New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement, agents discovered that Staluppi’s phone book included entries for an assortment of Colombo family members (as well as contact information for Trump). Stapled to the back of the book was an invitation to the wedding of Montemarano’s daughter.

When regulators sought to bar him from entering any Atlantic City casino, Staluppi challenged the proposed ban since he was concerned that such a banishment would hurt his banking relationships and prohibit his attendance at auto industry events held in casinos.

In sworn testimony at an exclusion hearing, Staluppi acknowledged his business ties with various Colombo family members, but denied being a gangster himself. Staluppi also mentioned his role in the building of the Trump limousines, adding that he had socialized with The Donald. “I was on his boat, he was on my boat,” said Staluppi, who at the time owned a 132-foot yacht. In November 2009, Trump, Staluppi, and Staluppi’s wife were photographed together onstage during a charity dinner at the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach. Trump was honorary chairman of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America benefit, while the Staluppis were major donors.

During one of his many debriefings, Scarpa told the FBI that, “Staluppi was brought into the family because of his legitimate enterprises,” a reference to his network of auto dealerships. Another FBI source reported that Staluppi co-owned a dealership with Carmine Persico’s son Michael and had sold a dealership to one of Orena’s sons. Additionally, the source said, Rosatti and Staluppi both provided no-show jobs at their dealerships to Colombo family members.  

In mob parlance, Rosatti and Staluppi were seen as “earners,” prized sources of consistent cash that flowed up the family's chain of command.

According to Automotive News’s most recent rankings, Staluppi owns the country’s ninth-largest dealership group. His 41 dealerships, the magazine estimated, generate nearly $3 billion in combined yearly revenue. Rosatti’s eight dealerships sell about 15,000 cars, generating annual revenue in excess of $500 million, the publication reported.

The pair’s immense wealth has allowed for a recasting of the Brooklyn natives as charitable businessmen who collect classic cars, entertain on superyachts, own private jets (Staluppi has a Gulfstream V, while Rosatti has a Bombardier Global Express), and move between opulent residences. Rosatti’s web site describes him as a “family man, entrepreneur and philanthropist” and a “titan of the business world” who is “the personification of the American Dream.” The biography page on Staluppi’s web site contains links for “Philanthropist,” “Yacht Builder,” and “Car Magnate.”

It is the rare story about Rosatti or Staluppi that mentions their organized crime entanglements. Which has allowed them to adopt unusually high profiles for men connected to the Colombo gang.

At a charity auction in 2018, Staluppi paid $1.4 million for a Corvette Carbon 65 coupe signed by George W. Bush (proceeds of the sale went to a wounded warriors program at the George W. Bush Presidential Center). After Staluppi won the auction, he posed with Bush and celebrity emcee Jay Leno holding an oversize check.

In a Robb Report feature last month, Staluppi spoke of purchasing his latest yacht, a 238-foot model christened “Quantum of Solace” that has a “contra-flow swimming pool,” a professional DJ station, and a helipad. Staluppi, who is now seeking to flip the vessel for $58 million, recounted how he and his wife recently spent eight weeks on the yacht. “When Covid-19 hit and his preferred cruising grounds of Europe closed, they traveled from Maine to Boston, around Nantucket and Greenport, and dropped anchor off of Martha’s Vineyard,” the magazine reported.

Rosatti appeared in the premiere episode of Bravo TV’s “Million Dollar Listing New York” show in 2012. Portrayed as a rough-around-the-edges client of broker Fredrik Eklund, Rosatti is seen trying to unload his lower Manhattan condo (which featured a $5500 electronic toilet). After selling that two-bedroom unit, property records show, Rosatti upgraded to a three-bedroom apartment in the same building for $2.41 million in cash. When visiting New York City, Rosatti has docked his yacht at a slip at the nearby North Cove Marina in Battery Park City.

In addition to running his dealerships, Rosatti in 2011 founded the BurgerFi restaurant chain, which now has about 125 locations and is expected to go public later this month. According to Securities and Exchange Commission filings, BurgerFi has agreed to a $100 million merger with OPES Acquisition Corp., a blank check company that plans to offer shares in the "better burger" firm on the NASDAQ exchange.

The purchase agreement includes a $30 million cash payment to BurgerFi stockholders (Rosatti’s share of the company is not disclosed in SEC filings). Half of the $100 million purchase price will be paid in stock of the publicly traded company, while $20 million will be payable either in cash or stock shares. Earnout provisions in the deal--totaling $200 million--could prove extremely lucrative for Rosatti and his partners if BurgerFi achieves certain share price targets over the next few years.

In the initial SEC filing disclosing the proposed BurgerFi acquisition, OPES reported that it would “enter into a consulting agreement with a company owned by Mr. Rosatti on mutually acceptable terms.” However, in a late-September amendment, “all references to a Consulting Agreement with Mr. Rosatti” were deleted from the acquisition agreement.

Instead, Rosatti will serve as a “Special Advisor” to the public company, according to a recent investor presentation made by OPES’s chief executive. 

The SEC filings do not reveal why the consulting contract with Rosatti was scuttled. He is not identified as a “key employee” or listed among BurgerFi’s senior management team in proxy statements. (12 pages)

UPDATE: Rosatti is pictured below ringing the NASDAQ opening bell when BurgerFi shares began trading on December 17, 2020.