In infomercial, Trump University and soccer corruption collide

June 2, 2016

By Mark Hosenball and Emily Flitter

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Screnshot of Trump University infomercial

Seated in front of shelves of books, Donald Trump touted his now-defunct real estate school, Trump University, by promising prospective students they would learn about business, salesmanship and what it takes to succeed.

“That’s what it’s all about – success,” Trump says. “It’s going to happen to you.”

The two-minute infomercial, filmed more than a decade ago, pitches a for-profit school that is now the subject of lawsuits by students who contend they were defrauded out of thousands of dollars through a program that didn’t deliver what had been promised. New York state’s attorney general, who also has filed a lawsuit against Trump University, has described the entity as straight-up fraud.

Trump, now the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, says the allegations are without merit and says the vast majority of students gave the program favorable reviews.

There is a back story, though, to the setting for the infomercial – one that overlaps with the world of soccer.

The Trump Tower apartment where the infomercial was filmed belonged to disgraced former U.S. soccer boss Chuck Blazer and his then-domestic partner, Mary Lynn Blanks, according to Blanks.

FIFA executive member Chuck Blazer attends the 61st FIFA congress at the Hallenstadion in Zurich June 1, 2011. Beleaguered Sepp Blatter called on his federation's 208 members to help him solve soccer governing body's problems without external help as he opened the annual Congress on Wednesday. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann(SWITZERLAND - Tags: SPORT SOCCER HEADSHOT)

FIFA executive member Chuck Blazer. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

Blanks told Reuters in an interview that Trump paid Blazer $5,000 to use the apartment to film the infomercial, which is still available on YouTube.

A spokesperson for Trump and his campaign did not respond to an email requesting comment.

The books in the infomercial include some heavy-duty volumes directly behind Trump and less weighty tomes on other shelves.

Blanks said that the bookshelves were brought into the apartment by the TV crew and many of the books were from her collection of popular reading material. “Chuck doesn’t read books,” Blanks said. Some books were brought up from a storage room, she said, adding that she recognized her books among those on the shelves to the side of Trump.

Blazer, a former top soccer official in the U.S. and western hemisphere as well as a member of the ruling body of international soccer, FIFA, recently pleaded guilty to corruption charges. In a plea deal with prosecutors made public last year, Blazer agreed to pay millions of dollars in back taxes and to forfeit what prosecutors said were proceeds of corruption.

Blazer lived in Trump Tower for years and also ran U.S. soccer affairs from an office in the building. At one point, he also kept his brood of cats in a separate Trump Tower apartment, for which the New York Daily News said he paid $6,000 per month. Blanks’ relationship with Blazer is recounted in detail in a new biography of the former soccer boss, “American Huckster,” by Mary Papenfuss and Teri Thompson.

Blazer and Blanks no longer live together. In the years before they separated, Blanks said she accompanied Blazer to soccer-related events while he was acting as an informant for U.S. investigators, sometimes wearing a bugging device.

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