Man in the Middle: Semion Mogilevich


Donald Trump

The criminals in The Usual Suspects may not have been aware they were working for Keyser Söze, as Gint suggests, but Trump can’t claim ignorance of who his bosses are. Per David Kay Johnson, David Bogatin arranged for shell companies to purchase those five deluxe Trump Tower apartments, and Trump personally attended the closing. “Thus,” Craig Unger explained, “according to the New York state attorney general’s office, when Trump closed the deal with Bogatin, whether he knew it or not, he had just helped launder money for the Russian Mafia.”


“In the morning, I wait for the next scandal. That’s the only way that my name is understood. And in the evening, I suffer if there hasn’t been one.”
—Semion Mogilevich, sarcastically

He’s been described as “a real-life Keyser Söze.” Despite being active for decades, there are only a handful of pictures of him. He neither looks nor sounds like the capo di tutti i capi of the most powerful crime syndicate that ever existed—“the most dangerous mobster in the world,” as the FBI once called him—or an elite intelligence operative. But then, neither did Söze. As Verbal Kint says in The Usual Suspects, “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”

At five-six and 300 pounds, he may look like the proprietor of some greasy New Jersey diner, the guy who rings up your cheeseburger deluxe, but Semion Mogilevich really does exist, and really does wield considerable power in the intersecting worlds of organized crime and intelligence. His tentacles extend everywhere, and his nickname—The Brainy Don—is well deserved (and not, as he claims in the one major interview of him that exists, because he has a ginormous head). An FBI report had this to say about his criminal enterprise, back in 1996:

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