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Cinespace Chicago Film Studios occupies 1.45 million sq. ft. of what use to be the old Ryerson steel mill in North Lawndale. With Cinespace’s latest expansion, its 37 sound stages will make it the largest film studio in America.

Before Greece Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras met with Trump at the White House in October 2017, he spent the weekend in Chicago.

While here, he toured the Cinespace Chicago Film Studios.

His guide was studio President Alex Pissios and members of the Mirkopoulos family. They own and run Cinespace in Toronto and Chicago. It will soon have a total of 37 sound stages in Chicago—making it the largest film studio in America.

It’s generated almost $3 billion in economic activity for Chicago over the last eight years. The last two years, account for almost one third of that.

Tsipras was in town to discuss Greece’s growing TV and film production industry. Plans are under way for a $6 million film school and Hollywood-style studio on the Greek island of Syros, in the Aegean Sea.

Greece announced a 25% cash rebate for productions shooting in the country. The country will invest $450 million over the next six years to fund its local film industry.

Syros saw more than 200,000 tourists in 2018. It’s estimated more than a million Russians will travel to Greece this year. They visit for vacation and investment. During Greece’s financial crisis, the price for Syros’ luxury villas dropped by half. Russian oligarchs invested heavily.

Ivan Savvidis is a Greek-Russian tobacco tycoon who sold his Greek tobacco company SEKAP to Japan Tobacco for $1.6 billion last year. He’s a former member of the Russian parliament and Putin confidante who’s working with the Kremlin to sow discontent in the Aegean region.

He’s spent hundreds of millions of dollars in Greece on a football club, a water-bottling company, a luxury hotel, beach resorts, coastal land and the port of Salonika. A few years ago, his Dimera Media company paid $61.5 million for Greece’s fourth national TV station’s license.

He and Tsipras have a history. He’s previously said Tsipras reminded him of a young Vladimir Putin.

Tsipras has been the leader of the Syriza party for almost a decade. In the months prior to his 2015 election, leaked e-mails revealed Syriza officials had close ties to Aleksandr Dugin and Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev. They allegedly worked to develop relationships with Greek politicians and other public figures sympathetic to Russia. They are also a direct link with Russia and American white supremacist figures like Richard Spencer and anti-LGBTQ groups like the World Congress of Families (WCF), which was founded in Rockford, IL.

Tsipras and Trump also have much in common. Under Tsipras, Greece sold weapons to Saudi Arabia; ran overcrowded and dangerous migrant camps and privatized various public entities.

More than a decade ago, Trump tried to sway Greek officials into letting him build a luxury town on 2.5 acres of seaside property near its Ellinikon airport. The plans called for skyscrapers, luxury homes, a hotel and a casino. He was denied.

Trump’s Hotel Tower in Chicago is five miles from Cinespace. A decade ago, Pissios and his uncle Nikolaos Mirkopoulos paid $18 million for the closed Ryerson steel mill in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood.

Almost a third of that was a grant from former IL Governor Pat Quinn’s administration. It was one of the five grants worth $27.3 million that it got from Quinn. (It later returned the last grant worth $10 million and is currently suing the state over the matter.)

Cinespace used the Belmont Bank & Trust to deposit four of the grants. Since 2011, Belmont’s given Cinespace nine loans worth $24 million. James Banks is the bank chairman and also Pissios’ zoning attorney. His uncle is former Alderman William Banks, 36th.

Pissios was introduced to Quinn, Rahm Emanuel, Richard M. Daley and other politicians through union boss John T. Coli Sr. He was a key player in bringing Cinespace to Chicago and getting the state funding. Mirkopoulos considered Coli an ally and necessary teammate for getting the studio built.

Coli was the Secretary-Treasurer for Local 727. He was also the president of the Teamsters Joint Council 25, which represents more than 100,000 workers. Motion picture workers are one of the groups Local 727 represents.

A prior investigation of the Teamsters Union during Coli’s tenure revealed mob influence, bribes and kickback schemes. He’s the son of Eco James Coli, a Chicago Outfit member who was Local 727’s secretary-treasurer for 20 years. Coli‘s said his dad was a hit man for the mob.

Before Emanuel decided against running for a third term, a dozen unions had already donated close to a million dollars to his campaign. When Quinn was governor, he received more than $11 million in union donations.

Last month, Coli plead guilty to extorting Pissios for $325,000. The payments started the same year the studio opened. Pissios said he was paying Coli because of a deal his uncle had made before he died.

“We’ll shut it down tomorrow,” Coli told Pissios. “We’ll shut it down within an hour…I will fucking have a picket line up here and everything will stop.”

Pissios was wearing a wire. It was part of the 2016 agreement he made with federal officials after being arrested for bankruptcy fraud for not paying taxes on a $100,000 loan he got from his uncle Nick.

Dimitrios Jim Mirkopoulos is Pissios’ cousin. He’s vice president of Cinespace. He represents Cinespace with the major Hollywood production companies.

Six years ago, he became an owner, content advisor and a director of 3doo, a Virtual Reality 3D company that claims to have created the first of its kind marketplace for 3DVR content.

The Video on Demand platform is accessed on the 3doo Player app which is available in more than 190 countries. It comes pre-installed or downloadable on more than 100 million devices, including Android and 3D-capable TV sets sold by LG, Panasonic and Samsung.

3doo has some other interesting directors.

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Former 3doo Chairman Peter Pappas and 3doo board member John Sitilides (right) attend the International 3D and Advanced Imaging Society’s 6th Annual 3D Awards in 2015 in Burbank, CA

Peter J. Pappas, Sr. was the Chairman of the Board for 3doo and P.J.M. Holding Group before he died in 2017. P.J.M. companies have renovated the Chrysler Building, Citicorp Building, AOL Time Warner Center, GM Building, Yankee Stadium, Citifield and Morgan Stanley Properties. It did the mechanical contracting work for the World Trade Center—Building No. 4 at Ground Zero and the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.

In 2011, P.J. Mechanical, one of the companies owned by Pappas, was one of six subcontractors indicted by Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance, Jr. for overbilling clients. It colluded with Lehr Construction to pad billing by at least 10%. James Pappas, President and COO of P.J. Mechanical and son of Pappas Sr., was charged with Grand Larceny in the Third Degree. The arrests were part of a larger investigation into fraud and corruption in New York City’s construction industry.

Pappas Sr. also developed real estate in Palm Beach, FL; hosted fundraisers for Gov. George Pataki and Sen. Alfonse D’Amato; was anti-Obama; was president of the Greek Americans New York Republicans; and was longtime friends with Telly Savalas.

John Sitilides is a 3doo board member. He has a government contract to manage the State Department’s professional development program for senior U.S. diplomats in Greece and Cyprus. He’s also a Washington, D.C.-based geopolitical strategist and diplomacy consultant. Last May, he appeared on RT to discuss Trump’s North Korea summit & influence of China, Russia, Japan and South Korea. He’s a member of the Federalist Society.

Seven years ago—while 3doo was providing its app on millions of TV sets in Germany, Great Britain, Russia, Poland and France—it signed an agreement with Bernard Salzman to supply its 3D content. Salzman is an Emmy nominated filmmaker who has worked for more than 30 years with studios like Disney, HBO, Showtime, CBS, PBS, Fox, Paramount and MGM. He’s located in Miami.

A few months before the deal, Salzman opened 3D Global Content Solutions in Miami. The plan was to work with 3doo to “reach deep into the global film and TV distribution arena to secure the rights to short and long form 3D content. And convert 2D content to 3D by using the latest technology and software.” It was dissolved a year later.

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[Name?], Bernard Salzman, Keanu Reeves and Oleg Prudius on the set of the movie “John Wick 2”. Prudius was a stuntman on the film and trained with Reeves.

Salzman’s business partner is Oleg Prudius, a.k.a. Vladimir Kozlov. He’s an Uzbek-born Ukrainian-American producer and retired professional WWE wrestler. He won the 2010 WWE Tag Team Championship with Santino Marella.

Salzman is registered with at least 20 inactive or active companies in the Miami area. Three of those are with Prudius: Tag Team Entertainment, 3D Global Content Solutions and Quasar Entertainment. All are less than eight miles from Trump’s three Sunny Isles Beach towers.

Quasar has collaborated on more than 150 TV and movie productions. In 2014—the same year Salzman signed with 3doo—it produced and released Russian pop-singer Vera Brezhneva’s “Luna” music video. Seven years earlier, Maxim magazine readers voted her “Sexiest Woman of Russia.”

Brezhneva is married to Mikhail Kiperman, who works for Ukrainian billionaire oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky. In 2016, Kolomoisky and his business partner were accused of defrauding Ukraine’s PrivatBank of $5.5 billion.

He’s currently being investigated by the FBI for various financial crimes. He’s also a known funder of the far-right Azov battalion, a group of Ukrainian fighters believed to have “have participated in training and radicalizing United States-based white supremacy organizations.”

Prudius is also an advisor at KrypNet, a “cryptocurrency exchange banking system for regular people.” Founded in 2017, consumers can use its KrypATM to convert currencies into crypto assets, withdraw deposits and buy and sell Bitcoin. There is no bank account. Users can apply via a KrypATM for a KrypCard to use the service.

Sergey Zivenko is CEO and co-founder of KrypNet. He’s the former head of Rosspirtprom, Russia’s Ministry of Alcohol. Since 2002, he’s owned the rights to popular Russian vodka brand Gzhelka. He’s a longtime Putin associate.

KrypNet’s headquarters is located in Nevis, the Caribbean island of 11,000 considered to be one of the world’s most secretive tax havens.

The COO of Kryp is Ilya Shurygin, the co-founder of Quickpay, a Russian financial services company that specializes in micro-payments, money transfers, banking software and payment terminals. It allows buyers to pay for their goods and services using cash remittances made at its terminals. Users don’t use plastic cards or bank accounts for the service.

Quickpay has offices in and/or is operating machines in Panama, UAE, Russia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Its U.S headquarters is six miles from Trump’s towers in Sunny Isles.

In 2013, Quickpay was bought by Net Element International, a tech group with headquarters in Miami and Moscow. Oleg Firer, the company’s CEO, is also Grenada’s ambassador to Russia. He has a long history of criminal activity in Miami. Net Element has been heavily funded by Kenes Rakishev, a Kazakhstan oligarch, who is also its chairman. Rakishev is the son-in-law of Kazakhstan’s ambassador to Russia. Net Element’s Miami office is less than two miles west of Trump’s Sunny Isle’s towers.

Salzman started Gold Diggers Enterprises with Nikolay Parkhomenko in 2012. The next year, Episode 1 for “Gold Diggers” a reality TV show was released online. Parkhomenko is listed with seven companies in the Miami area. He lives two miles from Trump Towers Sunny Isles’ towers.

Salzman’s currently filming “Capone: The Man that Knew Too Much.” A documentary he’s directing and wrote with Deirdre Marie Capone, Al Capone’s niece.

Frank Nitti was promoted by his cousin Capone to be “finance minister” for the Chicago Outfit. He’s considered the brains behind the millions of dollars the Mob has made off of film studios for more than a half century. By getting its mobsters hired on as motion picture workers or paying off mob-friendly union members and officials, the gangsters gained measurable control over the TV and movie industry.

One of the studios it extorted was 20th Century Fox. It’s been operating in Chicago for a half century.

Fox has been filming “Empire” at Cinespace for the last five years. It’s where Jussie Smollett and two TV extras were working when they allegedly agreed to carry out a MAGA-themed hate crime. The Chicago Police believe the entire attack was staged by Smollett and that he did it because he was ‘dissatisfied’ with his salary. His PR team deny those allegations. The incident happened a half of a mile east from Trump’s Chicago Tower.

Last week, Dan Webb was named the special prosecutor to review the initial Smollett investigation. He and Lanny Davis are currently the two attorneys representing Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash in his fight against extradition to the U.S.

Incidentally, the 6-part miniseries “Surviving R. Kelly” debuted the same month of Smollett’s alleged assault. Accused rapist R. Kelly was walking his dog outside his condo in that same Trump Tower when he was arrested in July. His more than 40 federal charges include child pornography, enticement of a minor, obstruction of justice, racketeering, kidnapping, forced labor and sexual exploitation of a child.

The two females formerly living with Kelly recently hired local attorney Gloria Schmidt to represent them. She also represents the two brothers involved in Smollett’s attack and has filed a civil suit against Smollett’s lawyers.

Cinespace also has various Chicago real estate investments.

After declaring bankruptcy during the 2009 housing bust, last year Pissios and his partners invested $3.8 million in nine city properties.

He’s a part-owner of Lawndale Real Estate, which owns a number of properties on the south and west sides. One of those is leased to The Herbal Care Center cannabis dispensary. It’s owned and run by Perry Mandera, a trucking company owner who also owns the VIP’s Gentlemen Club. The dispensary is a 6-minute walk to Cinespace.

Last November, the Chicago Plan Commission approved a $200 million mixed-used development in North Lawndale. Cinespace is a neighbor and a partner on the project. It plans on occupying a “significant portion of the commercial space.”

In August, Pritzker extended the state’s film tax credit to 2026. At the signing was “Law & Order” creator Dick Wolf who’s three shows “Chicago Fire,” “Chicago P.D.” and “Chicago Med” are all filmed at Cinespace.

When asked about the Coli indictment, Wolf said “he knew little about the matter and financial arrangements for shooting there are handled by someone else, not him.”

Written by

Citizen Journalist

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