Updated news on the Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno, Lucchese and Colombo Organized Crime Families of New York City.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Russian mob investigators join probe into disapperance of Connecticut newlyweds

New York-based FBI agents assigned to the Russian organized-crime task force have joined the federal probe into the disappearance of a young Connecticut newlywed on his honeymoon cruise in 2005, his family’s lawyer told The Post yesterday.
And the family of George Smith IV now believes he fell victim to “foul play” after he was escorted, drunk, to his cabin from the ship’s disco by a group that included a California college student and three young Russian-Americans with Brooklyn ties.
“The family believes it was a robbery-gone-bad,” said Michael Jones, the lawyer for the Smith family of Greenwich, who have now abandoned their initial suspicions that his bride, Jennifer Hagel, might have played a role in the 26-year-old groom’s demise.
MYSTERY: George Smith IV and his bride, Jennifer Hagel, were honeymooning on a cruise when he disappeared hours after surveillance shots (below) showed them onboard.
MYSTERY: George Smith IV and his bride, Jennifer Hagel, were honeymooning on a cruise when he disappeared hours after surveillance shots (below) showed them onboard.
Jones also revealed other previously undisclosed details of the internal probe by the Royal Caribbean cruise line of the July 5, 2005, mystery in the Aegean Sea, which is the subject of an hour-long “Dateline” episode on NBC tonight.
Among them: that then-20-year-old college student Josh Askin failed an FBI polygraph when asked about his contact with Smith and the Russians that tragic night, and that Askin repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination when questioned by Jones in a deposition about whether he had killed Smith or knew who had done so.
Hagel and ship casino manager Lloyd Botha — who Askin had told investigators were getting cozy in the ship’s disco that night — both passed FBI lie-detector tests, Jones said.
Askin has testified to a Connecticut federal grand jury that he and the three Russian-Americans — cousins Greg and Zachary Rozenberg and their pal Rostislav “Rusty” Kofman — were in the room with Smith before he went missing, Askin’s lawyer said yesterday.
On the morning Smith vanished, Askin answered a public-address summons from the crew of the Brilliance of the Seas, which was already interviewing Hagel.
After overhearing the bride being asked where her husband might be, Askin, unprompted, “asked if blood was found outside the cabin” — before it was known that a smear of blood existed on an awning under Smith’s cabin balcony, Jones told The Post. Askin’s lawyer denies that his client asked that question.
Askin was also overheard on an elevator telling his shipboard girlfriend that Smith had $50,000 in his cabin and that Hagel was playing “$200 hands of blackjack” in the hours before Smith disappeared, Jones said.
Askin’s lawyer, Keith Greer, denied his client had anything to do with Smith’s disappearance or knew what happened to him.
He also said Askin pleaded the Fifth on the lawyer’s advice after the feds threatened to prosecute him if he deviated from his grand-jury testimony.
Arthur Gershfeld, a lawyer for Zachary Rozenberg, said Smith’s disappearance “had nothing” to do with his client “or those other boys.”
“At one point or other, [the authorities] are going to realize there was no criminal act here, no wrongdoing,” Gershfeld said.


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