Before he became the Republican Presidential nominee, Donald J. Trump had a controversial history as an Atlantic City casino owner. That history included catering to a high roller with Mob ties, as well as ties to thoroughbred racing.
According to Robert Cay Johnson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has been covering Trump for decades and recently published the eye-opening book, “The Making of Donald Trump,” (http://amzn.to/2cOLaw3) (Editor’s Note: Recommended reading before casting your ballot in November), Trump had a long relationship with reputed New Jersey mobster-affiliated Robert LiButti, who gambled millions of dollars at Trump’s Atlantic City casinos, flew on Trump’s helicopter, and partied on his yacht in the late 1980’s.
Johnson also writes that Trump tried to bed LiButti’s daughter, Edith, and that he lavished gifts on Robert LiButti to encourage him to keep gambling at the Trump Plaza.
LiButti was eventually banned in 1991 from all of the NJ casinos for his connection to the late Mafia boss John Gotti and the Gambino crime family.
That same year, Trump first faced questions about his dealings with LiButti after NJ state regulators launched an investigation into allegations by nine employees of the Trump Plaza, according to an investigative piece by Michael Isikoff of Yahoo! News (http://yhoo.it/2cs9VJW). The employees claimed that the hotel had repeatedly removed African-Americans and women from craps tables after LiButti, one of the highest-rolling gamblers in Atlantic City’s history, loudly complained about their presence when he was playing.
The probe resulted in a $200,000 fine against the Trump Plaza by the NJ Casino Control Commission for violating state anti-discrimination laws, and a $450,000 fine for gifting LiButti three Ferraris, three Rolls-Royces, a Mercedes and two Bentleys, but Trump has stated he barely knew LiButti, and would not be able to identify him in a two-man lineup.
LiButti, who died in 2014, was referred to as a “self-employed thoroughbred race horse broker” in his obituary that appeared in the Jersey Journal (http://bit.ly/2cTMEB1). But his tentacles in racing reached to the highest levels of the sport.
LiButti had been barred from racing in 1968 because of his underworld ties. In 1971 it was discovered that he was the true owner of prominent 3-year-old Jim French, after questions about the colt’s ownership prevented him from running in the Travers Stakes (and he was subsequently impounded by the Saratoga County sheriff’s office). The U. S. House of Representatives’ Select Committee on Crime had also launched an investigation of his hidden ownership of Jim French.
He also pleaded guilty to income tax evasion for filing a return in 1971 under the alias Ralph Libutti, but failed to file a separate return for more than $750,000 worth of horse deals he conducted in 1970, under the name Bob Presti.
Later, it was found that LiButti was doing business with Calumet Farm head J. T. Lundy, buying stallion seasons and horses for the farm’s associates and clients to the tune of about $5 million.
In the mid-1990’s, the Grade 1-winning handicap horse Devil His Due, who ran under the name of Edith LiButti’s Lion Crest Stable, was the subject of a long battle with the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS slapped a levy on the horse, saying it was really owned by Ralph LiButti. It was part of an ongoing effort to collect over $4 million in unpaid income taxes.
Robert LiButti eventually served five years in prison for tax evasion and bank fraud.
And Trump … well, he’s moved on to bigger and better things. Edith Libutti now says she’ll vote for him.