Trump hosted 'small-time mobster' Joey 'No Socks' Cinque at New Year's party
Joseph Cinque – reportedly a convicted felon who bestows hospitality awards, often to Trump – was seen at president-elect's New Year's bash at Mar-a-Lago
Donald Trump rang in 2017 at a New Year's Eve bash at his Mar-a-Lago estate with Joseph Cinque – reportedly a convicted felon who goes by the nickname "Joey No Socks".
Cinque, a longtime acquaintance of Trump's, can be seen grinning on stage as the president-elect reads off a list of accomplishments he intends to achieve in office.
In a video of the speech, which was obtained and published by the Palm Beach Daily News, Cinque, wearing a tuxedo, claps and cheers loudly – even pumping his arms in the air when Trump pledges to repeal the Barack Obama's signature healthcare law, the Affordable Care Act. On Trump's other side, a man awkwardly holds what appears to be a gilded statue of a bald eagle.
Cinque runs the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences, a company whose primary action is to bestow Star Diamond awards, "the most prestigious award of true excellence in hospitality", according to its website.
Often on the receiving end of these coveted awards: Trump. According to an analysis by the Associated Press, more than a dozen Trump golf courses, hotels, casinos and private clubs have been awarded the Star Diamond.
As recently as last May, the Associated Press reported, Trump was listed on the group's website as an "ambassador extraordinaire", and in a 2009 video tribute to Cinque, Trump said: "There's nobody like him. He's a special guy."
Trump's relationship with Cinque is well documented on the company's website, which includes videos featuring photographs of him with Trump posing with various awards over the past several years. One company video features a montage of photos set to Frank Sinatra hits, including one of Cinque posing with Trump and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani in what appears to be a boardroom. The video also features photos with Bill Clinton, Muhammad Ali and a number of beauty pageant queens.
When asked about him in May, Trump told the Associated Press that he did not know Cinque well and was not aware of Cinque's reported criminal conviction.
"If a guy's going to give you an award, you take it," Trump said. "You don't tend to look up his whole life story."
The Trump transition team did not respond to a request by the Guardian to clarify the nature of the president-elect's relationship with Cinque. The American Academy of Hospitality Sciences has also been contacted for comment.
A New York Magazine profile from April 1995 described Cinque as a "small-time mobster, a scam artist and an art fence" who "used to be friends with John Gotti" – the former boss of the Gambino crime family.
The profile, titled The Preppy Don, went on: "In most cities, such qualifications might be an impediment to Cafe Society, but New York plays by its own set of rules."
The profile says he was arrested in 1989 on felony charges when police retrieved a "gallery's worth of stolen art from his apartment", including two prints by Marc Chagall that were valued at more than $20,000 apiece that had recently been stolen from New York's Center Art Gallery.
A contemporaneous news report by UPI said that despite obtaining a warrant, Cinque wouldn't allow the police to enter his "posh apartment" overlooking Central Park. Officers broke down the door with a battering ram and discovered an "art lover's paradise".
Cinque pleaded guilty to the felony charge and didn't serve time in prison, according to New York magazine. Of the conviction, Cinque called it a "mistake".