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U.S. Charges 31 Members Of Russian Gang With 'Dizzying Array' Of Crimes

The Russian gang was accused of operating a fraud on casino slot machines in Las Vegas and elsewhere

U.S. prosecutors on June 7 arrested and charged more than two dozen alleged members of a Russian organized crime gang working out of New York City with what they called a "dizzying array of criminal schemes."

The U.S. attorney's office in southern New York said the suspects operated internationally and across the United States trafficking in drugs and stolen goods, including cigarettes and shiploads of chocolate, while engaging in extortion, murder for hire and credit card fraud.

Most of the 33 defendants were led by Razhden Shulaya and Zurab Dzhanashvili and were born in the former Soviet Union with strong ties to Ukraine, Georgia, and Russia, prosecutors said.

Shulaya was a Russian "vor," one of the first ever charged with racketeering in the United States, prosecutors said, explaining that he belongs to an "order of elite criminals from the former Soviet Union who receive tribute from other criminals, offer protection, and use their recognized status as vor to adjudicate disputes among lower-level criminals."

The indictment, unsealed in a Manhattan federal court, accuses the gang members of plotting to rob victims by seducing and drugging them with chloroform and using electronic devices to hack casino slot machines, among other crimes.