Nevada Cannabis Entrepreneur Questioned Over Dealings with Trump Lawyer Michael Cohen
Authorities believe Cohen and his family loaned $26 million to local canna-business owner Semyon “Sam” Shtayner, but the businessman claims the money was for taxi medallions, not pot.
Published on May 21, 2018

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Local government officials in Henderson, Nevada have questioned a locally-licensed cannabis cultivator over his involvement with President Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen. Documents allege that Cohen and his father-in-law lent $26 million to Semyon "Sam" Shtayner, who recently started a canna-business in Nevada, but Shtayner claims that this money was instead used to finance his involvement in the taxi industry.

As part of the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, federal investigators seized documents and records from Cohen's home, office, and hotel. In addition to his political dealings, investigators were also interested in the attorney's involvement in the taxi industry. Following this thread of the investigation, the business dealings between Shtayner and Cohen's father-in-law, Fima Shusterman, came to light.

Shtayner and Shusterman, both born in the Ukraine, started out as taxi drivers after immigrating to the U.S., but soon became major players in the taxi industries in New York City and Chicago. In 1993, the two men pleaded guilty to federal money-laundering charges in a case relating to cab drivers, but both continued to invest heavily in the industry. Cohen also partnered with his father-in-law, and currently owns 22 cabs in Chicago, and 30 taxi medallions – physical plates all cab drivers are required to display – in New York.

The day before Donald Trump was elected president, Shtayner created Cannaboss LLC, a Nevada-based cannabis firm. Within months, the businessman moved into a majority position at the canna-business, which is licensed to grow weed and manufacture edibles. In his application for the cannabis license, Shtayner explained that "he personally manages over 500 taxi medallions, but he is looking to transition from the medallion business to the cannibas [sic]" business, the Associated Press reports.

Earlier this month, Nevada city officials questioned Shtayner over his involvement with Cohen and Shusterman. The businessman claimed that the money that he received from Cohen and his family was solely related to the taxi business, and was not used to fund any cannabis ventures. In his statement, Shtayner said that Cohen "absolutely and unequivocally has no connection to my Marijuana Facilities," according to the Wall Street Journal.

Shtayner also said that the loans from Cohen and his family were from many years ago, long before the current Russia scandal, and that the amount was significantly less than the $26 million being reported by the press. The businessman also explained that he was shifting the focus of his business endeavors from taxis to weed because of the recent economic downturn that the taxi industry is facing. In contrast to this struggling industry, Shtayner said that he believes "the Nevada marijuana industry will see steady and substantial growth."

The businessman's explanation seems to have satisfied the curiosity of Henderson authorities. "Staff are no longer looking into anything further related to Mr. Shtayner unless new information is brought to our attention," a spokesperson for the city told WSJ.

Chris Moore
Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.
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