U.S. Crushes Russian Gang Charged with Mob Crimes and Chocolate Theft

Federal authorities arrested more than two dozen alleged members of a Russian gang involved in robbing, racketeering, selling narcotics, and other crimes, including even stealing chocolate, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Wednesday.

casino-1144952 960 720 copy copyCasino slot machines (Photo: deluxtrade, CC0 Public Domain)A total of 33 people – from New York to Las Vegas – were charged for their roles in a “dizzying array of criminal schemes,” the statement said.

It listed plotting to rob victims by seducing and drugging them with chloroform, committing murder-for-hire, using electronic devices to hack casino slot machines, and stealing and trafficking more than 10,000 pounds of chocolate.

The chocolate part illustrates how innovative Russian and Eurasian crime groups have become, Mark Galeotti, a Russian crime specialist at the Institute of International Relations Prague, Czech Republic, told the New York Times.

“What surprises me actually is that they were still involved in the traditional types of crime,” he told the paper.

 Most of the suspects were born in the former Soviet Union and operated throughout the U.S. as well as internationally.

Many of them were part of the Shulaya Enterprise, a racketeering scheme headed by Razhden Shulaya and Zurab Dzhanashvili.

According to the statement issued by the Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Razhden Shulaya was dubbed a “vor v zakone” or “vor,” which means "thief-in-law" in Russian and refers to "an order of elite criminals from the former Soviet Union" who receive tribute from other criminals.

The suspects were involved in a wide net of crimes and were allegedly run by "a man who promised to protect them. But that protection didn't include escaping justice," the statement quoted FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr.

According to the New York Times, the court documents show that investigators collaborated with paid informers. One, described as CS-1, had served about six years in prison for a murder-for-hire plot before working with the FBI.