You wouldn’t want in-laws like these.
Nine members of the dangerous “Thieves-In-Law” organized crime syndicate were charged in Brooklyn on Wednesday for running a criminal enterprise that raked in millions — primarily through extortion and threats of violence, authorities said.
Agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration strike force swooped down on eight of the Russian mobsters in Brighton Beach and Coney Island, where they operated by their own rules and laws that terrorized the Eastern European citizens of those neighborhoods — and often resulted in the use of physical violence.
The defendants, who reported to and took orders from their bosses in the former Soviet Union, were all charged with extortion, drug trafficking, loansharking, illegal gambling and extortionate debt collection, according to an indictment unsealed in Brooklyn federal court.
Leonid Gershman, Aleksey Tsvetkov, Renat Yusufov, Igor Krugly, Vyacheslav Malkeyev, Isok Aronov, Yusif Pardilov and Librado Rivera were arraigned in court and pleaded not guilty. One other cohort, who was not named, was also charged.
Two others, Leonid Kotovnikov and Semen Parnis, were also charged in a separate indictment with masterminding a cocaine trafficking conspiracy, using fancy cars like BMWs and Cadillac Escalades to deliver drugs, prosecutors said. They are not part of the “in-laws” gang and also pleaded not guilty.
The suspects lived a life of luxury, driving around in high-end sports cars as thousands of dollars in illegally obtained funds flowed freely into their bank accounts.
The feds say the syndicate would collect on millions of dollars in outstanding debts by extorting payments in the US while threatening victims and their family members living abroad.
On one occasion, the gangsters tracked down the father of an extortion victim in Russia in an effort to locate his son, who owed them $200,000, court papers state.
Gershman allegedly warned the dad, “Thieves have found him . . . in Israel,” and “they were at [his] place today.”
In a separate incident, the mobsters confronted another blackmail victim who was having trouble repaying his debt, which had an interest rate of 100 percent per year, the documents state.
They reminded him that “the person who is going to work with you [to repay the debt] … is a boxer with cauliflower ears.”
DEA agents also learned that the syndicate operated large-scale illegal poker games in various Brooklyn gambling dens, where players made up to $150,000 in wagers in a single game, court papers state.
And the syndicate was involved in the narcotics business, trafficking large amounts of pot totaling approximately 100 kilograms (220 pounds), according to the indictment.
To make their case, Brooklyn prosecutors and the strike force used wiretap surveillance, confidential sources and conducted undercover narcotics purchases.
“The United States remains the land of opportunity,” US Attorney Robert Capers said in a statement. “But that does not include an opportunity for international organized criminal groups to profit by victimizing individuals residing here or abroad.”
DEA Special Agent-in-Charge James J. Hunt also chimed in, stating, “As history often repeats itself, racketeering, loansharking, extortion, and illegal gambling are just some of the crimes the defendants are charged with committing here in Brooklyn, similar to crimes committed by the Thieves-In-Law in the former Soviet states.”