Over the past week we've taken a look at Cyprus, the haven for dirty rubles, the Bank of Cyprus, its former co-chair now Trump commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, his curious involvement with Russian and Chinese billionaires, and how Ross built his fortune through vulture capitalism and stiffing the American taxpayer for millions in environmental cleanup costs.
Now the New York Daily News, by way of Forbes, reports that Ross is being accused of stiffing his business associates out of $120 million.
It is difficult to imagine the possibility that a man like Ross, who Forbes estimates is worth some $700 million, might steal a few million from one of his business partners. Unless you have heard enough stories about Ross. Two former WL Ross colleagues remember the commerce secretary taking handfuls of Sweet’N Low packets from a nearby restaurant, so he didn’t have to go out and buy some for himself. One says workers at his house in the Hamptons used to call the office, claiming Ross had not paid them for their work. Another two people said Ross once pledged $1 million to a charity, then never paid. A commerce official called the tales “petty nonsense,” and added that Ross does not put sweetener in his coffee.
There are bigger allegations. Over several months, in speaking with 21 people who know Ross, Forbes uncovered a pattern: Many of those who worked directly with him claim that Ross wrongly siphoned or outright stole a few million here and a few million there, huge amounts for most but not necessarily for the commerce secretary. At least if you consider them individually. But all told, these allegations—which sparked lawsuits, reimbursements and an SEC fine—come to more than $120 million. If even half of the accusations are legitimate, the current United States secretary of commerce could rank among the biggest grifters in American history.
Those who’ve done business with Ross generally tell a consistent story, of a man obsessed with money and untethered to facts. “He’ll push the edge of truthfulness and use whatever power he has to grab assets,” says New York financier Asher Edelman. One of Ross’ former colleagues is more direct: “He’s a pathological liar.”I can't think of a more perfect fit for service in the Trump administration than a grifter right out of the mould of the president himself.
Donald Trump termed Ross a “legendary Wall Street genius” and named him to his cabinet. “In these particular positions,” Trump explained to a crowd of supporters, “I just don’t want a poor person.”