In an email reply to questions, Ustaev said he purchased the properties in the Trump buildings for private use, but declined to comment on his family's U.S. business. "I am living in Russia, I am working in Russia, and going abroad only for business purposes or vacations," he said.
Many of the Russian buyers were from the country's provinces. One is Oleg Misevra, a wealthy coal magnate and former traffic police commander whose company's main assets are in the Pacific island of Sakhalin in Russia's Far East. He has caught Putin's eye: At a 2010 regional meeting of Putin's United Russia party, Putin praised Misevra's work and held a lengthy question and answer session with him.
A corporation Misevra controls, Swiss Residence Aliance Inc, purchased Penthouse #1 in Trump Hollywood for $6.8 million in 2010. The six-bedroom duplex is 8,200 square feet and boasts 12-foot ceilings, according to real estate listings. Misevra did not respond to requests for comment.
Some of these Russian buyers appear to have done well in America. Another local politician, Vadim Valeryevich Gataullin, bought an apartment for $3.5 million in the Trump Hollywood. He did the deal through a company registered in Florida called VVG Real Estate Investments LLC. Five years later, Gataullin sold the apartment for $4.1 million to a Delaware-based limited liability company whose owner is not identified in state records.
In early 2012, Gataullin bought a second apartment in the same building, unit 2701, for $920,000, according to Florida records. Several months later, Gataullin sold the apartment for $1.1 million to a couple from Venezuela, property records show.
Gataullin is from the semi-autonomous Russian Republic of Bashkortostan, an oil-producing region in the foothills of the Ural Mountains. The son of a deputy regional prosecutor, he was a deputy in the regional parliament from 2013 until 2015.
As a member of the regional parliament, he was required to declare his income and assets under Russian federal law, according to a representative of the Bashkortostan regional parliament. A copy of the income declaration Gataullin filed for in 2013, when he was still owner of the second Trump unit, contains no mention of the apartment.
Gataullin did not respond to messages sent to his company in Bashkortostan.
More recently, Gataullin has been actively investing in the Miami area. His VVG Real Estate has spent at least $28 million on property in Broward County between 2012 and 2016. It also bought and sold six properties in Miami Dade County between 2015 and 2016 for a total profit of $238,400, property records show.
VVG is also the registered licensee on a small motel close to the beach in Hollywood. An employee there told Reuters that Gataullin "appears and disappears like a ghost" and was currently in Russia. A secretary at Gataullin's holding company in Russia told Reuters on March 17 that he is not in Russia.
The American experience has been a mixed one for some of the Trump buyers. Among them is Pavel Uglanov, a businessman who served as a deputy minister for industry and energy in the regional government of Saratov, in central Russia, from 2010 to 2011.
Uglanov bought unit 3704 of Trump Hollywood in Hollywood, Florida, for $1.8 million in 2012. He sold the 3-bed, 3,395 square foot apartment for $2.9 million two years later.
Back in Russia, Uglanov made unsuccessful runs for the Saratov city assembly in 2006 and 2011, the second time as a member of Putin's United Russia party. After leaving his deputy ministership in 2011, Uglanov told his then-wife, Anastasia, they were moving to Florida.
Anastasia said in an interview in her Miami apartment that her ex-husband never told her why. "I don't know what goes on in a man's head," she said.
In Miami, Uglanov opened a gas station, called Niko Petroleum. When that business struggled, he sold it. He then started a charter boat business and a trucking firm. They struggled, too.
Uglanov did not have connections in the United States like he did in Russia and he didn't understand how Americans do business, his ex-wife said.
Last August, Uglanov posted a photograph of himself on his Facebook page posing alongside Alexander Zaldostanov, leader of the "Night Wolves" biker gang. The Wolves, and Zaldostanov personally, were made subject to U.S. financial and travel restrictions. The U.S. government said gang members stormed a Ukrainian government naval base and a gas facility during Russia's annexation of Crimea.
An aide to Zaldostanov did not respond to questions from Reuters. The group, in interviews in Russian media, has denied storming the base and the gas facility.
Zaldostanov has had multiple meetings with Putin, according to the Kremlin's website. The Russian president awarded Zaldostanov the country's "medal of honor" in 2013.
In a phone interview late last month, Uglanov confirmed the Trump apartment purchase. He said it was a personal matter and declined to answer questions. "Basically, my private life is not your business," he said.