What was our president-elect doing on New Year’s Eve? Hanging out with former art thief Joseph “Joey No Socks” Cinque at Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump’s swanky Palm Beach, Florida, estate.
To mark the occasion, Cinque presented Trump with a large painted statue of an eagle, which he dubbed a “one-of-a kind bronze Eagle award,” on behalf of the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences, reports the Daily Beast. Cinque is director of the for-profit organization, which bestows Star Diamond Awards, the self-described “most prestigious award of true excellence,” to high-end hotels and restaurants.
According to a profile published in New York magazine in April 1995, however, Cinque also has a checkered past, with one colorful incident involving fine art:
In 1989, Cinque was arrested on felony charges; police had retrieved a gallery’s worth of stolen art from his apartment. Though police had arrived armed with a search warrant, Cinque had refused to let them in—so they’d called in a battering ram and broken down his front door. Inside they’d found two Chagall prints, valued at more than $20,000 apiece, that had recently been stolen from the Center Art Gallery on 57th Street, and a $9,000 Cecille Schatzberg sculpture stolen from the Lever Brothers Gallery on Park Avenue.
Cinque was convicted of a felony for possession of stolen property, and received a “conditional discharge” in 1990, reports CNN.
In May, Trump denied knowledge of Cinque’s criminal past. “If a guy’s going to give you an award, you take it,” he told the Associated Press. “You don’t tend to look up his whole life story.”
In addition to having accepted Star Diamond awards for over a dozen of his golf courses, hotels, casinos, and private clubs, Trump was reportedly listed as an “ambassador extraordinaire” on the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences website as recently as 2015.
According to CNN, Trump praised Cinque in a 2009 promotional video for the academy, saying, “There’s nobody like him. He’s a special guy.” The former felon also judged the 2008 Miss Universe Contest alongside Trump, and attended the businessman-turned-politician’s 59th birthday party.
At Mar-a-Lago, Trump reportedly gave a speech on stage with Cinque, repeating his campaign promises to lower taxes and build a wall, informing guests, “all I can tell you is we’re gonna do a good job.”
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