Law enforcement agencies announced on Wednesday a litany of charges against 33 people — including 27 who were allegedly associated with a Russian crime syndicate. Authorities said the indictment represents one of the first federal racketeering charges ever brought against a vor v zakonei — a Russian phrase that translates roughly as "thief-in-law," reports NPR.
That vor is identified as Razhden Shulaya, 40, living in Edgewater, NJ, who investigators said also goes by "Brother" and "Roma." He and the 26 others are named as defendants in the Shulaya indictment, which charges that they operated a nationwide racketeering enterprise.
"The suspects in this case cast a wide net of criminal activity, aiming to make as much money as possible, all allegedly organized and run by a man who promised to protect them," FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said in the statement. The charges were announced by Joon H. Kim, the acting United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, as well as U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the New York City Police Department and the FBI.
The charges include a variety of racketeering, fraud, narcotics, firearms and stolen property offenses. The statement said most of the crews were based in New York but that the "Shulaya Enterprise" also had operations in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida and Nevada. Most alleged members of the syndicate were born in the former Soviet Union and maintained ties to Georgia, Ukraine and Russia.
Among the more colorful allegations is the charge that two of the defendants arranged the transport and sale of a whopping 10,000 pounds of "stolen chocolate confections" to a government informant.
The 27 defendants charged with racketeering each face penalties of up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 fines. If convicted, Jikia and Marat-Uulu could face life sentences on charges of firearm possession "in furtherance of a crime of violence," as well as charges of conspiracies to murder for hire and selling firearms to a felon.
The Justice Department said it had taken most of those charged into federal custody, but five were still at large.