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July 20, 2019

White House Twitter wrangler knew undocumented immigrants worked at Trump golf club, ex-employees say, drawing attention from New York AG

February 13, 2019
The Trump National Golf Club is seen in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019. (Seth Wenig / AP)

The White House Twitter wrangler knowingly oversaw undocumented immigrant workers while he managed President Trump’s tony Westchester County golf club, ex-employees say — an allegation that the New York attorney general is looking into, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Dan Scavino, the White House social media director who helps the President craft his tweets, ran the Trump National Golf Club in Briarcliff Manor as the general manager and oversaw the upscale estate’s day-to-day operations — including the hiring of immigrants with fake employment papers, three former undocumented workers told the Daily News this week.

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Gabriel Sedano, a Mexican national and worked at the club from 2005 until he was fired last month along with dozens of other immigrant employees at Trump properties in New York and New Jersey, said he knew of at least 30 undocumented workers at the Westchester club who were there without proper documentation.

Sedano said Scavino — like other managers — knew of their illegal status but looked the other way.

“He was involved in the hiring,” Sedano said. “If they needed more people, he would always have to say yes because he was the general manager. Everything went up to him.”

The social media director has not been accused of setting up immigrants with phony documents.

Anibal Romero, an attorney who represents Sedano and 25 other undocumented immigrants who worked at Trump clubs, said he’s been in contact with New York Attorney General Letitia James’s office about the allegations.

A source familiar with the matter said James’s office is aware of the allegations and is on a fact-finding mission to that effect. The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, stressed the AG has not formally opened an investigation and declined to comment on the specific claims about Scavino.

A spokeswoman for the AG declined to comment.

It’s a crime to knowingly employ an immigrant unauthorized to work in the U.S.

Gabriel Sedano standing outside the clubhouse at Trump's Westchester County golf course in 2009.
Gabriel Sedano standing outside the clubhouse at Trump’s Westchester County golf course in 2009. (Obtained the Daily News)

Scavino — who started out working as Trump’s golf caddy in the 1990s — was first employed by the Westchester club in 2004 as an assistant manager and quickly climbed the ladder to become general manager.

As GM, Scavino supervised the club’s department managers but would still interact with low-level staffers, according to Sedano and two other former workers, housekeeper Margarita Cruz and landscaper Juventino DeLeon.

“He always mentioned that he started from the bottom,” Sedano said. “He told me many times, ‘you’re doing a good job.’”

But compliments aside, Sedano said he was never through his 14 years of full-time employment offered benefits or health insurance while his documented colleagues were. Cruz and DeLeon said they weren’t offered benefits either.

Sedano’s pay stubs, which were reviewed by The News, confirm he didn’t have insurance. It’s unclear if Scavino made the decision not to provide benefits for the undocumented workers.

Additionally, his wage was only raised from $17 to $23 over the course of his entire 14-year employment there, which the pay stubs also reflect.

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Meanwhile, workers who had legal status were given benefits, better raises and even promotions, according to Sedano, Cruz and DeLeon.

They said the disparities were a result of their undocumented status. They also said this fact was widely known around the club.

“We would always talk about it,” DeLeon said and alleged Scavino himself was once in the room when such conversations took place.

In contrast, an ad recently posted to Facebook by a club manager states workers will receive “health/dental” benefits “once qualified.”

Sedano (left) speaks with his attorney Anibal Romero in Manhattan this week.
Sedano (left) speaks with his attorney Anibal Romero in Manhattan this week. (Chris Sommerfeldt/Daily News)

In addition to benefits and wage inequities, Sedano recalled there was a particular system in place to prevent undocumented immigrants from driving the club trucks.

Hispanic employees were never asked to drive because it was assumed they didn’t have licenses, as a valid Social Security number is generally required to obtain them, Sedano said. The undocumented workers either used fake Social Security numbers or ones obtained from other people, according to Sedano.

On one particular occasion, Sedano and some of his coworkers were asked to transport a grill and a golf cart to Scavino’s home.

But when Sedano asked for keys to a truck, his maintenance manager shut him down.

“You can’t drive the car, because you’re not on the list,” Sedano recalled the manager as saying.

Sedano said Scavino and other managers were privy to this list.

Scavino, who could not be reached for comment, left the Trump club to join the President’s 2016 campaign as its social media liaison. He was tapped as the chief social media director for the White House after Trump’s election.

The White House declined to comment and referred to the Trump Organization, which did not return requests for comment.

The News has previously reported the New Jersey attorney general’s office — with assistance from the FBI — is looking into similar allegations of immigration fraud at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminister.

At that club, immigrant workers allege management would set them up with fraudulent work papers. Sedano, DeLeon and Cruz say they obtained their fake documents on their own.

Amid intense widespread media attention, the Trump clubs fired scores of undocumented employees at their properties last month, as first reported by The Washington Post. The Trump Organization has denied any knowledge of the workers’ illegal status.

Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva and seven other Democrats, including New York Rep. Nydia Velazquez, called on the FBI Tuesday to launch a full-scale investigation into the Trump clubs.

“Additionally, we request that the victims of the alleged criminal and civil violations be protected as material witnesses and victims,” the Democrats said in a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray. “If the Department of Homeland Security deports any of these workers, it would be an obstruction of justice.”

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