A gang of alleged Russian mobsters was charged this week for participating in a massive racketeering scam, with alleged crimes including murder-for-hire conspiracy, hacking into casino slot machines, plotting robberies, running illegal gambling parlors, selling narcotics and, somehow, stealing and smuggling 10,000 pounds of chocolate treats. One of these doesn't seem quite like the others, but, hey, it's important to mix things up or you can get burned out on a life of crime.
Yesterday, Manhattan's Federal District Court unsealed the immense indictment—31 people are named in it, the majority of whom hail from Russia and Ukraine but currently live in New York, New Jersey and Florida. The indictment names Razhden Shulaya, 40, of New Jersey and Zurab Dzhanashvili, 37, of Brooklyn, as ringleaders, claiming the duo helped spearhead an illicit poker operation in Brighton Beach; the aforementioned murder-for-hire attempt; and the plot to hack into electronic slot machines at casinos in Philadelphia and Atlantic City to predict their win percentages.
The gang is also charged with attempting to get a woman to seduce a man in Atlantic City, then knock him out with chloroform to rob him. They're also accused of attempting to create an "after-hours" nightclub at which they could sell drugs. Then, of course, there's the smuggling—the defendants are charged with transporting and selling cases of untaxed cigarettes, but more interestingly, they're accused of stealing a cargo shipment containing about 10,000 pounds of "chocolate confections."
The indictment is apparently one of the first federal racketeering charges brought against a Russian 'vor,' or mob boss—in this case, Shulaya. It's also noteworthy that one of the group's biggest charges involved computer hacking—"Using computers is second nature to many of these groups," Mark Galeotti, a Russian crime specialist at the Institute of International Relations Prague in the Czech Republic, told the Times. "Yes, there are tattooed thugs around. But actually the kind of Russian gangster one sees in America is more likely to be a fraudster, a hacker or semi-criminal businessman."