AT&T and drug giant Novartis got nothing but bad publicity when they asked Donald Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen for help with business, but a Florida immigration firm that tapped him appears to have gotten nearly everything it wanted. When Nicholas Mastroianni II hooked up with Cohen last year, his business was threatened by a looming regulatory crackdown on the federal EB-5 program that offers foreigners permanent residency visas if they invest in certain U.S. real estate projects.
Cohen put Mastroianni in touch with a lobbying firm that was paying him for referrals. And although it’s not clear exactly what the firm did, the proposed crackdown on the visa program collapsed and Mastroianni’s business — U.S. Immigration Fund — is now set to pocket tens of millions in fees for acting as a visa broker in a string of ongoing projects.
“Without regulation, the fat cats are still lapping at the bowl,” said David North, a fellow at the nonpartisan research firm Center for Immigration Studies who has supported the EB-5 overhaul efforts led by Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley.
Neither Cohen nor Mastroianni responded to requests for comment about their newly revealed business relationship.
U.S. prosecutors in Manhattan have seized documents from Cohen’s office and home as part of a criminal investigation into his personal business dealings.
Mastroianni has been connected to Trump associates who faced scrutiny before. Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn reportedly investigated the family real estate firm once run by Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner after an aborted effort by USIF to help the Kushners raise $150 million in visa money in China.
Kushner Cos. said last year it would no longer seek visa money to avoid any perception of a conflict with Kushner’s role in the White House.
In a recent interview with real estate trade publication The Real Deal, Kushner’s father, Charlie Kushner, said he’s been told that the Brooklyn investigation of his firm is over. A spokesman for the Brooklyn prosecutors wouldn’t comment, citing a policy of neither confirming nor denying the existence of an investigation.
By Associated Press for CBS NEWS
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