Trump celebrates new year with convicted felon

Story highlights

  • Cinque and Trump have known each other for years
  • Trump's transition team didn't deny the two men have known each other

Washington (CNN)A new video raises questions about President-elect Donald Trump's relationship with Joseph "Joey No Socks" Cinque, who once reportedly survived a mob hit and was associated with the infamous mob boss John Gotti.

The video shows Trump ringing in the new year on stage with Cinque at his Mar-a-Lago hotel in Palm Beach, Florida. The Secret Service told CNN everyone who attended the party was subject to screening via a metal detector.
Cinque was convicted in 1989 of criminal possession of stolen art, a felony. He was sentenced to "conditional discharge" in 1990, according to records provided by a New York Supreme Court clerk. CNN was told the actual indictment was destroyed in a fire.
Cinque did not serve jail time. While there is no record of how long the conditional discharge sentence lasted, a lack of further court records in the case indicates that he did not violate the discharge, the clerk told CNN.
In a 1995 profile in New York magazine, Cinque noted his former friendship with Gotti. The article also reported Cinque was "shot three times and left for dead" in a 1980 incident he called a "robbery," while "officials" described as "more likely a hit." The article also detailed Gotti's criminal record.
Cinque is the president and CEO of the American Academy of Hospitality Services, an organization that over the years has listed Trump as "ambassador extraordinaire." His children also served as honorary trustees on the board, which is made up of several Trump friends and business associates.
In 2013, the Academy awarded Trump a Six Star Diamond Award for his Trump International Golf Links Scotland. In total, 17 Trump properties have received AAHS awards.
Cinque has made numerous appearances with the Trump family. In February 2009, Cinque and the President-elect appeared together in a promotional video for the Academy where Trump said, "I'd especially like to congratulate and thank Joe Cinque, the head of the academy, for the unbelievable job that he does. There's nobody like him. He's a special guy. There's just nobody close."
Reached for comment, Trump's transition team told CNN, "Mr. Trump never denied knowing Mr. Cinque."
Donald Trump Jr., one of Trump's adult sons, and Cinque were judges together for the 2008 Miss Universe Contest. And Cinque appeared at Trump's 59th birthday celebrations in Atlantic City.
Andy Langsam, Cinque's attorney, said that Trump has a "business relationship" with the Academy and Cinque.
"The PEOTUS owned and controlled (now his Organization and children) fabulously run, beautiful and highly qualified properties that definitely are well deserving of the recognition provided by The American Academy of Hospitality Sciences," he told CNN. "That doesn't mean anyone at The Academy knows on any personal basis the recipient's CEO, CFO, Officers, Directors or General or Limited partner(s) and to suggest otherwise is wrong."