Michael Cohen and the Mysterious Beauty Central Fleet
Did the Trump campaign use a fleet of business jets to mask the movement of its passengers?
March 7, 2017 – Eric R Rosenwald
My investigation was inspired by Louise Mensch’s reporting on Trump campaign links to Russian intelligence services. Without her lead, this report wouldn’t be possible. @BowieZMusic (Twitter) contributed additional research and analysis. @CivMilAir (Twitter) contributed flight tracking data. I will periodically update Figure (1). Version 2 adds new tracking data for P4-MES, Roman Abramovich's Boeing 767. Version 3 (added on 24 MAR) includes data for M-YFTA, Farkhad Akhmedov's Bombardier BD100 business jet. My March 26: story, "AWOL in Aspen", is a continuation of this report.
In recent years, flight tracking websites have given the public an ability to view what was once obscure, difficult-to-find air traffic data. Using a new avionics technology, ADS-B, aircraft broadcast their identity and location passively. Through a worldwide network of receivers, flight tracking databases collect and store this information. Websites like FlightRadar24.com allow users to view and analyze live and archived data. Flight tracking resources gave journalists the ability to report on an undisclosed FBI aerial surveillance program, U.S. Air Force reconnaissance activity in Libya, and a program to surveil the 2015 Boston Protests.
Aircraft owners can request that commercial websites like Planefinder.net, FlightAware.com and FlightRadar24.com block their aircraft from public view. However, tracking website blocking policies differ, and aircraft data that may be accessible on one site may be blocked on another. Not all of the data is reliable, and different websites may use independent raw data sources. Planefinder.net supports an app, Planefinder, that frequently offers qualitative flight data that isn’t available or visible in other databases.
Journalist Louise Mensch reported on connections between members of the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence services, sometimes using flight tracking resources to identify aircraft close to President Trump and his associates. I have previous experience reporting on aircraft activity with the aid of tracking websites, and I decided to investigate further.
In February, Louise Mensch identified a January 3, 2017 Instagram photo posted by Samantha Cohen, the adult daughter of Michael Cohen, President Trump’s personal attorney. The distinct yellow and blue stripes on the winglet were identical to those that appear on several Gulfstream jets owned by Beauty Central LLC, in particular, N999LR. All of the Beauty Central LLC aircraft end with the registration letters “LR”, which may stand for Leandro Rizzuto, the billionaire owner of CONAIR, maker of small appliance, health and beauty products.
The Christopher Steele intelligence dossier on then-candidate Donald Trump and his links to Russia, released in January 2017, identified Michael Cohen as a secret intermediary between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence services.
Dmitry Rybolovlev, a Russian billionaire and associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Donald Trump, owns an Airbus A319 private jet with registration code M-KATE. The location of Dmitry Rybolovlev’s plane, and its proximity to Donald Trump’s Boeing 757, were the the focus of many reports on the link between the two billionaires. Roman Abramovich, another Russian billionaire with links to the Trump family, owns a Boeing 767 with registration code P4-MES.
I compiled and analyzed flight tracking data between August 1, 2016 and March 18, 2017 for six aircraft, using color-coded cells that correspond to aircraft location. I primarily used the Planefinder app to retrieve flight data – most of which was blocked on other flight tracking databases. As such, the entirety of my data set can be independently verified. I am also providing a screen capture video showing the process I used to extract the data. Figure (1) lists, over time, the location of four Beauty Central LLC aircraft (N555LR, N999LR, N33LR and N789LR), as well as M-KATE (Dmitry Rybolovlev) and P4-MES (Roman Abramovich). Figure (2) includes photos of Beauty Central LLC aircraft and M-KATE. Figure (3) includes the January 3, 2017 Sarah Cohen Instagram photo of a Gulfstream V wing.
I make no assertions as to the location of Michael Cohen or anyone else, at any time. My report is based solely on open-source, independently-verifiable information. I recorded a screen capture video of the process I used to collect this data: