Top real estate lawyers offer advice on moving shady money into US: report

Gerald Ross, John Jankoff and Marc Koplik among attorneys caught on camera

TRD New York /
Feb.February 01, 2016 10:00 AM

Several top New York real estate lawyers – about a dozen in all – were caught on video providing advice to undercover investigators who posed as representatives of shady foreign officials seeking to move money into the United States, according to an investigation by transparency advocate Global Witness.

The investigation follows a recent move by the U.S. Treasury to require all-cash buyers of Manhattan residential properties over $3 million to disclose their identities, part of a wider crackdown on alleged money laundering in the real estate industry, reported in the New York Times.

The Real Deal has outlined several potential workarounds for the new rules, including the use of “straw man” buyers — trusted third parties — and wire transfers, which aren’t classed as “all cash” deals.

John Jankoff of Jankoff & Gabe P.C. was recorded telling Global Witness investigators — who claimed to represent an African mining minister – about the possibility of establishing anonymous Swiss bank accounts.

“If it’s not in his name,” Jankoff told the undercover advocates, “then he needs what is known as a straw man.”

Gerald Ross of Fryer & Ross L.L.P. raised the possibility of using his firm’s bank accounts as a conduit for transferring the fake minister’s money into the country, according to Global Witness.

“It’s not because they’re hiding money,” Ross later told the New York Times. “It’s because they’re afraid of being screwed by somebody.”

A recent president of the American Bar Association, James Silkenat, now of Sullivan & Worcester made clear to investigators that he couldn’t assist them with anything illegal, but nonetheless said there were “other banking systems that are less rigorous on this than the U.S.”

He told investigators his firm “could provide you with the list of countries where the banking systems require less detail on ownership or source of funds.”

Silkenat told the Times his advice was aimed at addressing privacy concerns. He said he had tried to make clear “we would be a wholly ill suited choice as legal counsel for any potential client who was looking to violate U.S. or foreign money laundering or other laws.” [NYT]Ariel Stulberg

Related Articles

Elsa Segura (left) was arrested in connection to realtor Monique Baugh's (right) murder (Credit: iStock)

Second suspect charged in real estate agent’s abduction, murder

Monique Baugh (Credit: Facebook)

Real estate agent abducted during showing and then murdered

Creston Apartments at 2030 Creston Avenue in the Bronx (Credit: Google Maps, iStock)

Construction firm with alleged mob ties worked on Bronx affordable housing project

Former HFZ Capital Group executuve John Simonlaca (Credit: HFZ, iStock)

Meet the HFZ exec accused of taking mob bribes

HFZ managing director John Simonlacaj and The XI development (Credit: LinkedIn and Wikipedia Commons)

HFZ’s High Line condo-hotel project was ATM for the mob, prosecutors say

Battle of the boroughs: Tallying the city’s top law firms by real estate sales

Battle of the boroughs: Tallying the city’s top law firms by real estate sales

From left: Luise Barrack, Jonathan Mechanic, Jay Neveloff, and Robert Ivanhoe (Illustration by Hannah Drossman)

Sizing up NYC’s real estate law firms with the highest attorney headcounts

This week, the State Department of Taxation and Finance issued a new memo that notably made no mention of condos. (Credit: iStock)

Regulators quietly change stance on condos in LLC law