• D.C.
  • BXL
  • Lagos
  • Dubai
  • Beijing
  • SG
rotating globe
  • D.C.
  • BXL
  • Lagos
Semafor Logo
  • Dubai
  • Beijing
  • SG


May 21, 2024, 8:22am EDT
business

Prison consultant helps ex-Trump adviser navigate life behind bars

Sam Mangel
PostEmailWhatsapp
Title icon

The Scene

Federal prison consultant Sam Mangel regularly fields requests from Peter Navarro, his client and former economic adviser to ex-President Donald Trump, to help other inmates navigate the legalities of their incarceration.

It’s part of Mangel’s job advising mainly white-collar criminals on how to deal with life behind bars. He spent 20 months in prison after being charged in 2016 in an insurance fraud scheme, and now uses his knowledge of the prison bureaucracy to help inmates get into certain facilities, obtain coveted jobs while they are there, and nab spots in programs that can shave time off their sentence.

Navarro was sentenced to four months in prison for defying subpoenas in the congressional probe of the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol, and is serving time at a minimum-security facility in Miami. Given Navarro is 74, Mangel found him work at the air-conditioned law library there.

AD

“Peter is constantly sending me questions to answer for other inmates,” said Mangel, whose clients include politicians, high-profile crypto executives whom he declined to name, and doctors. “He is also teaching them about economics and politics.”

Mangel, who is based in Florida, talked about his unusual job and how he helps the well-heeled try to make the best of their time in prison in the edited conversation below.

Title icon

The View From Sam Mangel

Gina Chon: How would you explain what you do?

AD

Sam Mangel: People have called me a prison concierge. I bifurcate what I do into two parts. The first part is pre-sentencing, and that’s trying to help my clients understand what they’re going to be facing. Clients who are very, very high profile, they’re the most challenging. When they’re first charged, they feel they didn’t do anything wrong, or that the big bad government doesn’t have a case against them. And a lot of egos tend to get in the way.

Denial is the biggest problem to overcome. I explain that 98% of all government charges in federal matters lead to a conviction, including through a plea. Would you walk into a casino where you know those are the odds against you?

They need to understand what is going to happen to their life. You’re going to get fired from your banks, you’re going to get fired from the credit card companies, from your private banking relationships. If you are a father and a husband, you have responsibilities to your family. And you need to start preparing now.

AD

The second part is after they have pled or been found guilty, explaining certain programs to them that can take time off their sentence, what kind of facility would be best for them. And then I’m with them until they get out, whether that’s in a few months or 10 years.

Q: You are seeing high flying CEOs and politicians at one of the lowest points of their life. How do you help them deal with that aspect of it?

A: It’s about removing the fear. I always tell a defendant, it’s a lot easier on you going into prison. You’re going to get three meals a day, a place to sleep. You’re going to have a lot of time to work out and take care of yourself. It’s much more difficult on the family, the loved ones you leave behind. They have the financial responsibility. They have the social responsibility, and the stigma.

Q: How are business or political celebrities treated in prison and what do they do with their time?

A: They’re looked up to. A lot of the younger inmates put them up on a pedestal. They want to hear their stories. If you were in crypto, inmates want to learn as much bitcoin and finance. With Peter Navarro, a lot of people want to know about Trump and politics.

White-collar individuals tend to write a lot of business plans when they’re in prison. People dream.

Semafor Logo
AD