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Noteworthy CRE Names Land On Trump's Last Pardon List

During the waning hours of his term, President Donald Trump issued 73 pardons and 70 commutations, including to commercial real estate professionals who had been convicted of a variety of federal offenses. 

Donald Trump

A&H Acquisitions head Alex Adjmi, who pleaded guilty to five felonies in the 1990s involving money laundering for the Cali cartel of Colombia, received a pardon. He spent 44 months in prison.

Adjmi’s petition was supported by influential members of the Syrian Jewish community in New York, such as Haim Chera, son of Stanley Chera and head of retail at Vornado Realty Trust, and Bobby Cayre, head of Aurora Capital, The Real Deal reports.

Former Washington, D.C., developer Douglas Jemal received a pardon for a 2006 wire fraud conviction, charges he has long denied. Four years ago, Jemal began commercial real estate projects in Buffalo, New York, including the redevelopment of the then-vacant Seneca One tower.

Miami developer and Dragon Global CEO Robert Zangrillo, who was convicted of conspiring with a consultant to bribe athletic officials at the University of Southern California to get his daughter into that school, also received a pardon.

Former Sunwest Management CEO Jon Michael Harder had the remainder of his 15-year sentence commuted by the president. In 2015, Harder, whose company owned senior housing properties, pleaded guilty to two counts of mail fraud and money laundering for his role in bilking more than 1,000 investors out of $120M. Some of those investors lost their life savings.

Eliyahu Weinstein, a New Jersey man who pleaded guilty to orchestrating a $200M Ponzi scheme based on nonexistent real estate and phony land deals, received a presidential commutation of his 24-year sentence, which began in 2014.

Gary Hendler, a Philadelphia-area radio host and owner of Suburban Real Estate in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, received a pardon of his 1980s conviction for conspiracy to distribute controlled substances.

Trump also pardoned former New York Observer editor-in-chief Ken Kurson, who was charged late last year with cyberstalking his ex-wife and others. That publication, now the online-only Observer, includes the real estate supplement Commercial Observer. Jared Kushner acquired the New York Observer in 2006.

Sholam Weiss, who was convicted of racketeering, money laundering and other crimes in Florida in 1999, had his 835-year sentence commuted after being in prison for more than 18 years. Via a scheme involving mortgage-backed bonds, he helped defraud the National Heritage Life Insurance Co. of $450M, leading to its collapse in 1994 and costing many investors their life savings. His sentence is thought to be the longest ever handed down for a white-collar crime.

Before Wednesday, Trump had granted clemency in 94 cases, including 49 the president issued in the week before Christmas. One of those December pardons was for Charles Kushner, the Kushner Cos. patriarch. He spent over a year in prison after being convicted of falsifying tax returns, making illegal campaign donations and retaliating against a witness.

The last-minute list included a number of well-known names, such as former presidential adviser Steve Bannon and rappers Lil Wayne and Kodak Black, both of whom were convicted in Florida on weapons charges. 

The list featured more than a dozen people who, like Hendler, had been convicted of nonviolent drug offenses, some of which occurred nearly 40 years ago. The president also granted clemency to Anthony Levandowski, a Google exec who provided trade secrets involving autonomous vehicles to Uber, and Robert Bowker, who pleaded guilty to trafficking in wildlife in the 1990s.