The son of a Holocaust survivor, Mr. Cohen grew up in the Five Towns area of Long Island, just east of the New York City borough of Queens. It was a comfortable life — both his father and an uncle were doctors, and he attended a local private school then called Woodmere Academy.
“My cousins are all either lawyers or doctors,” Mr. Cohen told The New York Times last year.
One of those relatives was his uncle Dr. Morton W. Levine. Uncle Morty, as he was known to his family, had no children of his own, and he and Mr. Cohen were close. He even let his nephew drive his Bentley.
Dr. Levine, a family practitioner, provided medical assistance to members of the Lucchese crime family, “which aided their illegal activities,” according to a sworn affidavit in 1993 from an F.B.I. special agent. The agent was involved in the investigation of the Lucchese underboss, Anthony (Gaspipe) Casso, who “regarded Levine as someone who would do anything for him,” according to the affidavit. That account was buttressed by testimony from a longtime Lucchese associate in an unrelated 2006 federal trial. In 1992, Dr. Levine bought Mr. Casso’s home while Mr. Casso was a fugitive. Dr. Levine has acknowledged in court documents that Mr. Casso was a patient. But he said he did not know that the house belonged to Mr. Casso and denied any wrongdoing.
Dr. Levine also owned El Caribe, a Brooklyn catering hall that for decades was the scene of mob weddings and Christmas parties. Two of New York’s most notorious Russian mobsters once maintained offices there.
Mr. Cohen was among the minority owners of El Caribe, Dr. Levine has said, although he added that Mr. Cohen gave up his ownership stake after the 2016 election.
Dr. Levine had crossed paths with Mr. Trump years before his nephew went to work for him. The doctor was part of an investment group with some garment executives that unsuccessfully challenged Mr. Trump’s 1989 bid for the Atlantis Casino in Atlantic City.