On sale now at amazon.com

Early Gangsters of New York City. 1800-1919. : Criminal gangs offer large scale Malware-as-a-Serv...

Early Gangsters of New York City. 1800-1919. : Criminal gangs offer large scale Malware-as-a-Serv...: Brian Karlovsky (ARN) The arrest of masterhacker ‘Paunch’ has led to cybercriminals to revert to less sophisticated methods of Malwar...

Russian star Grigory Leps may appeal US sanctions – White House


MOSCOW, December 23 (RAPSI) – Russian singer Grigory Lepsveridze (better known as Grigory Leps) has the right to seek reconsideration of the sanctions imposed against him by the US, according to a statement released by the White House on Monday.
The US authorities released the statement after a petition to lift the economic sanctions against Leps surpassed the required 100,000 signatures on the White House Website.
After asserting that a “rigorous process” with “multiple levels of review” was carried out prior to Leps’ designation on the list, the official statement noted that: “At any time, Mr. Lepsveridze may seek reconsideration of his designation by filing a petition with OFAC for an administrative review pursuant to 31 C.F.R. § 501.807. OFAC will consider any arguments and evidence submitted in the administrative petition in determining whether to maintain or withdraw the designation of Mr. Lepsveridze.”
In November, the US Treasury released a statement on its website saying that it had blacklisted six individuals and four companies for alleged connection with the Brothers’ Circle crime syndicate whose two key members are Vladislav Leontyev and Gafur Rakhimov.
The White House statement explains that Leps was designated on October 30, and his name was added to a list of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons, “because he acts for or on behalf of Vladislav Leontyev by transporting money on his behalf.”
Leontyev is described in the statement as a vory v zakone (thief in law) who was designated in February 2012 for acting for or on behalf of the Brothers’ Circle as one of its “key members.” The statement goes on to assert: “Mr. Leontyev has been involved in various criminal activities, including narcotics trafficking, and was also involved in a shooting in 2003 between regional factions within Russian organized criminal networks over an attempt to seize control of a precious metals business. At the time of OFAC's action, Mr. Leontyev was wanted by Russian authorities for illegal transactions involving precious metals and narcotics.”
According to information provided by the US Treasury Department, The Brothers’ Circle is one of five transnational criminal organizations sanctioned by the US, along with the Camorra, the Yakuza, Los Zetas, and MS-13.
The Brothers’ Circle comprises leaders and senior members of several Eurasian criminal groups that are “largely based in the countries of the former Soviet Union, but which also operate in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America,” the Department of the Treasury said.



Boston Bombers' family 'was on the run from Russian mob'


A new report on the family of the two accused Boston Marathon bombers reveals that Tsarnaevs claimed they came to America after the father was kidnapped and tortured by Russian mobsters who then cut off their dog's head and left it on their doorstep.
After struggling to find a place in America, the older brother Tamerlan turned to conspiracy theories and radical Islam while the younger brother, Dzhokhar started stealing marijuana - earning $1,000 a week and sometimes carrying a gun to protect his stash.
The Boston Globe claims that the Tsarneav brothers appear have been motivated less by Islamist ideology and more by their own personal failings and inner demons - making the April 15 bombings more like the mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School and the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater than an al-Qaeda terrorist plot.
Family friends, including some who are medical professionals, believe that Tamerlan possibly suffered from schizophrenia - which could have driven him to extremism.
The report gives some insight about why the two brothers to allegedly plant a pair of homemade pressure cooker bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon this spring.
The blasts killed three and injured more than 260 people. The brothers then allegedly murdered an MIT campus police officer three days later as they engaged police in a running gun battle.
 Tamerlan was killed and Dzhokar was badly wounded by arrested after a daylong manhunt that shut down the city of Boston.
The Tsarnaev family moved to Boston from Kyrgastan after claiming that they were being persecuted because they were Chechen Muslims.
Tamerlan and Dzhokar's mother Zubeidat told friends and neighbors that she and her husband Anzor were lawyers in their native land and that Anzor worked as a prosecutor, according to the Globe.
Zubeidat claimed that when Anzor tried to prosecute a Russian mob boss, the gangster kidnapped Anzor and tortured him for a week.
Before they dropped him, barely alive at a hospital, the mobsters killed the family's German Shepherd and dumped its head on the family doorstep, according to this story.
'Zubeidat went to the hospital and when she saw how horribly beaten he was she said that she realized they had to get out of the country,' a family friend told the Globe.
The Globe posits that none of that story was likely true. Neither Zubeidat nor Anzor had law degrees, the newspaper reports.
It's likely that Anzor had been smuggling cigarettes and fell afoul of the local organized crime syndicate, friends say.
Alternatively - the family saw the glamorous life in America portrayed in Hollywood movies and decided they wanted a piece of it.
Anzor's brother was already in the United States - finding success as a lawyer.
The family submitted an application requesting asylum, claiming that they had been persecuted in their homeland for being Chechen Muslims.
'He made that up … so that the Americans would give him a visa,' Badrudi Tsokaev, a family friend say of claims that Anzor had been persecuted.
Mark Kramer, a Harvard University researcher who frequently testifies in asylum cases for family from post-Soviet states said he found 'no basis for being granted asylum at all' in the Tsarnaev case.
In America, the family fell apart - despite grand ambitions. Neither of the parents was able to find success.
In August 2011, Anzor and Zubeidat divorced. Anzor returned to Dagestan in Russia. Zubeidat soon moved back there, as well.
The Tsarnaev brothers struggled, too. Tamerlan, who was 26 when he was killed, had ambitions of becoming an Olympic boxer and found some success in the ring. But he eventually dropped out of training - just as he dropped out of school time and again.
He became increasingly focused on his Islamic faith and withdrew of society. He stayed home and took care of his daughter and surfed Islamist websites online while his American wife worked as a home care nurse and was responsible for the family income.
He mentioned to several people that he had begun hearing voices.
'He was torn between those two people,' Donald Larking, 67, who attended mosque with Tamerlan for two years, told the Globe.
'He said that several times. And he did not like it.'
Dzokhar, meanwhile, became obsessed with drugs. In high school, he had been captain of the wrestling team and a decent student.
He smoked a lot of marijuana in high school, friends said, but once he went away to college, he began selling it.
He flaunted his stash, weighing it out on the desk in his door open. At the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, he gained a reputation as having some of the best weed on campus, the Globe reports.
Friends said he often hauled in $1,000 a week in cash. He sometimes carried a handgun to protect the stash, too, friends told the newspaper.
But his fast lifestyle and focus on drugs meant his grades were sinking rapidly. He had a D average and was on the verge of being kicked out of school when he and his brother allegedly planted the bombs in April.


Former high-stakes poker game hostess hostess



s for high-stakes poker games pleads guilty in NY amid
NEW YORK — A former high-stakes poker game hostess to the stars has pleaded guilty in New York in a sprawling federal prosecution.
Molly Bloom pleaded guilty to illegal gambling Thursday in Manhattan.
Prosecutors allege two Russian-American organized crime enterprises laundered $100 million from illegal online sports betting.
Bloom moved her poker games from Los Angeles to New York to cater to Wall Street financiers. She returned to the West Coast in 2010. Her lawyer says she was giving up poker. She has since signed a book deal.
Media reports have linked Leonardo DiCaprio and Ben Affleck to the games. A spokesman for both film stars has declined to comment.
Playing poker isn't a crime, but it's illegal to profit by promoting it.



Roger Touhy, Gangster: The life and times of Terrible Tommy O'Connor

Roger Touhy, Gangster: The life and times of Terrible Tommy O'Connor:   THE LIFE AND TIMES OF TERRIBLE TOMMY O’CONNOR       Is it possible that Tommy O’Connor, the Irish mob boss from the V...

Spain Police Arrest Eight in Russian Mafia Probe


Spanish police said Wednesday they had arrested eight people on the holiday island of Majorca as part of an operation coordinated by Interpol against a Russian organized crime group.
The eight are suspected of laundering money for the Taganskaya criminal group, police said in a statement.
They are accused of tax fraud, document falsification, influence peddling and membership in a criminal organization.
"This is one of the largest criminal organizations in Moscow, which specializes in extortion from businesses that it pushes into bankruptcy and takes control of," the statement said.
"The searches carried out as part of the operation allowed investigators to confirm that Taganskaya used our country to launder money from its criminal activities in Russia," it added.
Spain's Mediterranean coast has become a top destination for Russian tourists, especially the Balearic Islands and the beach resorts near Barcelona in the northeast.
The influx of big-spending Russian tourists has been welcomed by hotel operators even as it raises fears that the region could become a magnet for criminal organizations.
In January police arrested five people in Lloret de Mar near Barcelona who are suspected of laundering large sums of money for Russian criminal gangs linked to Semion Mogilevich, one of the FBI's 10 most wanted fugitives.
Police said searches carried out as part of that investigation found evidence that the suspects had links with major Russian crime groups like Solntsevskaya and Solomonskaya.




NYPD Officer Accused of Helping Albanian Mob Shake Down Astoria Restaurant Owner


By Jonathan Dienst

An NYPD officer is accused of using his squad car to pull over the owner of a restaurant in Astoria and warning him to start paying the Albanian mob $4,000 cash a month or he and his family could be hurt, law enforcement officials say.
Prosecutors say police officer Bensik Llakatura is heard on tape during the July stop warning the restaurant owner that “these people, they run Astoria.” The officer allegedly told the owner he was “lucky” he survived a previous run-in with an armed associate who had tried to extort him.
The FBI said Llakatura, who is assigned to work on Staten Island, was heard on tape saying, “Make sure you don’t call the cops because if you do, you’re done.” He also allegedly told the owner if he “went into witness protection, they’d go after your family,” according to authorities familiar with the case.
The owner who was threatened, along with a co-owner, told the FBI about the confrontations, and the agency gave them marked cash to make the payoffs.
Llakatura, who allegedly collected $6,000 in "protection" money, was charged with extortion along with two alleged mobsters who are accused of collecting payments totaling $24,000 over a five-month period.
Investigators said there is evidence, including text messages, that the three men tried to extort other area business owners. Both alleged mobsters have previous arrests on extortion-related charges.
“The defendants told their victims they offered ‘protection’ but in reality they peddled fear and intimidation through the Albanian community – their community – in Queens,” U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said in a statement.
“Llakatura didn’t serve his community with honor; he instead abused his powers to the detriment of the public trust,” said FBI New York Director George Venizelos.

All three men pleaded not guilty in federal court in Brooklyn Tuesday afternoon. Attempts to reach their attorneys were not immediately successful. 



Following books are available on amazon





Russia charges 'criminal organization' behind Blackhole malware kit



Banking fraud scheme funneled 70m rubles to crooks

By Neil McAllister, 6th December 2013 

The Russian government has charged a group of people with organized crime offenses related to the creation and use of the Blackhole malware kit.
Word first leaked out via Europol in October that a man going by the alias "Paunch", who was suspected of being the creator of the infamous crimeware tool, had been arrested in Russia. 
On Friday, the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs Investigation Department posted a notice that a total of 13 individuals had been charged with crimes under Article 210 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, which covers "creation of a criminal community (criminal organization) and participation therein."
According to the Ministry's press release, the group used Trojan horse programs and other malware to engage in "massive embezzlement of funds from the accounts of individuals and legal entities," to the tune of about 70m Russian rubles ($2.1m).
Russian banks throughout Moscow, Tyumen, Ulyanovsk, Krasnodar, Petrozavodsk, and the Kursk region were reportedly targeted in the scheme.
All of that seems to have come to an end now, however, as security researchers report that the Blackhole kit stopped being updated shortly after the suspects were arrested – aren't life's little coincidences funny sometimes? – and cybercriminals have reportedly begun moving on to other tools.
None of the accused were named in the Russian government's notice.
Under Russian law, anyone convicted under paragraph 1 of Article 210, "creation of a criminal community (criminal organization) for the purpose of committing one or several grave or especially grave crimes," faces imprisonment for 12-20 years and fines of up to 1m rubles ($30,600).
The accused have also been charged under paragraph 2 of Article 210, "participation in a criminal community (criminal organization) or in an association of organizers, leaders, or other representatives of organized groups," which carries an additional penalty of 5-10 years' imprisonment and fines up to 500,000 rubles ($15,300).
The accused are all currently being held under "pretrial restraints," although no date was given for when the case is expected to be brought before a judge








Russian Diplomats Charged With $1.5M In US Medicaid Fraud


By Lecia Bushak  

Forty-nine Russian diplomats were charged with massive health care fraud after attempting to garner health benefits meant for the poor by providing inaccurate information about their incomes.
Both former and current Russian diplomats, along with their families, received up to $1.5 million in benefits since 2004 from a Medicaid program that is meant to provide for a low-income demographic — families that are making $3,000 a month or less. However, only about eleven of the diplomats are still currently living in the U.S., and no arrests have been made yet due to diplomat immunity.
According to the AP, FBI agent Jeremy Robertson discovered a pattern of false Medicaid applications from these particular diplomats and undertook an investigation lasting over a year. He found that the diplomats and family members reported their household income lower than it actually was, while they simultaneously spent thousands on watches, jewelry, designer clothing, and vacations. Federal policy allows certain qualified immigrants, such as lawful permanent residents (LPRs), refugees, and other protected immigrants access to Medicaid.
“Diplomacy should be about extending hands, not picking pockets in the host country,” said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in a news conference in NYC, according to the AP. “[W]e would be prosecuting and making arrests… [if it wasn’t for diplomat] immunity,” Bharara continued, meaning that diplomats are exempt from legal punishment. Typically, however, diplomats can be expelled from a country if they commit crimes. “Being a diplomat does not give you the right to commit health care fraud,” George Venizelos, head of the New York FBI office, said according to the AP. “The defendants selfishly took advantage of a health care system designed to help the unfortunate.”
Russian Health Care Fraud In The U.S.
This isn’t the first time the U.S. has charged Russians living on American soil with health care fraud. In 2012, a crime ring of Russian doctors and other medical professionals located in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, was charged with stealing over a quarter million dollars from insurance companies. They reportedly ran nine clinics throughout New York City — in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens — that provided excessive, costly medical treatments like physical therapy, acupuncture, X-Rays, pain management, and psychological services. “[The details of the case]…cast an unflattering spotlight on how immigrants from the former Soviet Union have often dominated such schemes in the city,” a New York Times report stated. The same report noted that Brighton Beach, which has a huge Russian immigrant community, has one of the highest rates of health care fraud in the nation, according to federal statistics.
Follow Us
And Russia has, in turn, accused the U.S. of “politically motivated” prosecution of its citizens. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law that bars certain Americans from Russia, including a few U.S. Justice Department officials. Attorney Preet Bharara, who brought both the Brighton Beach health care charges as well as the diplomat charges, is one of the officials barred from Russia.
“Obviously, particularly in Soviet times, but even nowadays, Russia still has a large amount of red tape and bureaucratic systems that are parasitic and hostile, almost designed to make you pay bribes,” Professor Mark Galeotti, an expert on Russian organized crime at New York University, told the Times. “So from cradle to grave, they have been used to that.”






Producer of Showtime's 'Ray Donovan' gets 2 years of probation in NYC gambling case


NEW YORK — A Hollywood producer who had a role in a high-stakes sports betting business prosecutors say was linked to organized crime has been sentenced in New York to two years of probation.
Bryan Zuriff is executive producer of the Showtime series "Ray Donovan." He had pleaded guilty to an illegal Internet gambling charge.
Zuriff apologized before hearing the sentence on Monday in federal court in Manhattan. He told the judge he's been battling a gambling addiction.

Prosecutor had accused him of helping to run a bookmaking business linked to two Russian-American organized-crime enterprises that laundered $100 million in proceeds from poker games and other betting.

Russian police arrest shadow bankers funding Hizb ut-Tahrir




Russian police have arrested, in a large-scale operation, six chiefs of a criminal ethnic community that were engaged in illegal banking transactions, with a capital turnover making up 1.5 billion roubles a month, the Russian Interior Ministry said in a statement on Monday.
 The statement adds that as a result of the police operation, police have found and seized criminal evidence that the six have been engaged in illegal financial activities.
 Police say the criminal ring consisted of several branches, each with their own agenda. Some of them collected the money, supervised the encashment of funds, their transportation to temporary deposits and distribution, while others transferred the funds to accounts in shell companies.
 The money was procured as a result of financial maneuvers and illegal commercial activities carried out by foreign nationals, mostly from Central Asia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Abkhazia.
 According to the statement, the presumptive criminals were engaged in shadow trading at major marketplaces of the Moscow region, as well as other Russian territorial entities, specifically the Pokrov City vegetable warehouse, the marketplaces of the Perm Territory and other major trading sites.
 The funds were also transferred to foreign shell companies that totaled some 120 organizations, including offshore ones. In their illegal activities, "shadow bankers" made use of the informal value transfer system, known as hawala, which allows huge amounts of cash to be moved within a network of money brokers operating outside of traditional banking channels.
 According to Russian police, this financial channel funded, among others, the international pan-Islamic terrorist group Hizb ut-Tahrir. It was banned from the country by a federal court decision in February 2003.
 All six chiefs of the criminal ring have been arrested and are now facing multiple charges, including illegal banking and organized crime.
 The police report says the criminal network comprised over 40 active members who performed individual tasks within the organization.

 The Russian home affairs ministry told reporters it had taken the law enforcement over 18 months to identify every link in this illegal broker system that had been siphoning substantial funds overseas. A criminal case has been initiated to bring all those implicated in it to justice.

Russian Mafia Graves on Display in London Photo Exhibit



WASHINGTON, November 23 (RIA Novosti) – A series of photographs of the extravagant and kitsch gravestones of Russian mobsters has gone on display at an art gallery in London, marking the first time the images have been seen outside Russia, a culture website has reported.

The photographs by Denis Tarasov, from the Urals city of Yekaterinburg, capture the startlingly lifelike portraits engraved on the tombstones of mafiosi and “thieves-in-law” – a term which refers to the upper echelon of Russia’s criminal world and its leadership inside the Soviet Union’s prison camps.

Entire generations of mob families are represented on the tombstones, which Tarasov photographed in Yekaterinburg and the Ukrainian city of Dnepropetrovsk, The Calvert Journal reported.

Discussing his work, Tarasov told the site: “Photography allows you to see in an object something that wasn’t there to begin with. And that is why it is more interesting.”

The exhibit also features images of equally extravagant non-mafia tombstones, some as high as 3 meters (9.8 feet), that were paid for by well-to-do families, according to The Calvert Journal.

Tarasov’s photography has not always been received favorably in Russia, where an exhibition on Russian Cossacks was once banned by government officials in the city of Pervouralsk, The Calvert Journal reported Wednesday.

In London, his work seems to have met with a warmer reception.

The Calvert Journal quoted a visitor who said: “The photographs of the gravestones help you get a sense of the Russian mentality — something you don't see when you travel there …When you go to another country, you don't normally go visiting graveyards.”

Tarasov’s photographs are part of the Body Language exhibit running at the Saatchi Gallery in London until March 16.

Russian gangster, who killed 19 in small town, sentenced to life in prison


Russian gangster Sergei Tsapok, the leader of a criminal gang in the town of Kushchevskaya, was sentenced to life imprisonment. Two of his accomplices will also spend the rest of their lives behind bars. 
The town of Kushchevskaya became known for the whole country in 2010, when 12 bodies with stab wounds were found in in the beginning of November in a privately-owned house. As it was revealed later, the victims were the owner of the house, farmer Akhmetov and his family, as well as two neighbors and guests from Rostov-on-Don.

As part of the investigation, eight people were arrested, including Sergei Tsapok. His gang killed 19 people in the town of Kushchevskaya from 1998 to 2010

Billionaire US art dealer Hillel “Helly” Nahmad admits to running $100m global gambling ring


Moscow

A high-flying New York art dealer has admitted to leading a multi-million-dollar international gambling ring in a case that also involves Russian mobsters and a Hollywood “Poker Princess” who set up games for movie stars like Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio.
Hillel “Helly” Nahmad, whose worth was estimated by Forbes at $1.75bn, pleaded guilty in a Manhattan federal court to operating a gambling business and agreed to forfeit $6,427,000 and the Raoul Dufy painting “Carnaval à Nice, 1937,” worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Under a plea bargain with prosecutors that saw other charges dropped, Nahmad faces up to five years in prison, rather than 92 years he previously faced on charges of money laundering, racketeering, conspiracy and other crimes.
“Judge, this all started as a group of friends betting on sports events, but I recognise that I crossed the line,” Nahmad said in court.
What supposedly started as a group of friends grew into a multi-million-dollar criminal business. Nahmad was one of 34 defendants indicted in April for involvement in two related gambling and bookmaking rings accused of running illegal high-stakes online gambling, as well as underground poker games for professional players, Wall Street financiers and celebrities. Prosecutors say they laundered at least $100m. One of those indicted allegedly sent mixed martial arts fighters to collect a debt.
Professional poker player Vadim Trincher, who operated what prosecutors called “the world’s largest sports book” out of his $5m apartment in Trump Tower, headed up one ring that focused on oligarchs in Moscow and Kiev, while Nahmad, Vadim’s son Illya and a man named Noah “The Oracle” Siegel ran the other ring catering to multi-millionaires and billionaires in New York and Los Angeles. According to the indictment, the Nahmad-Trincher Organisation took tens of millions of dollars in bets each year through gambling websites operating illegally in the United States, then laundered the money through bank accounts and plumbing, real estate, car repair and used-car businesses.
While Nahmad “got away relatively easy,” the “real question is what happens to the Trinchers and others who seem to have been involved in more serious criminal activity,” New York University professor Mark Galeotti, an expert on Russian organised crime, told The Independent.
“If they are convicted, and on serious charges with serious penalties, then this can be said to have dealt a solid blow to Russian organised crime in the United States,” he said.
At the top of the indictment was the Russian Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, who is wanted by Interpol and was previously indicted for allegedly bribing ice-skating judges at the 2002 Winter Olympics. He continues to live openly in Moscow. According to the indictment, he used his status as a criminal authority to resolve disputes with clients of the gambling rings through “threats of violence and economic harm.” In an interview on television channel Mir 24, Tokhtakhounov called the gambling ring case “yet another fairytale from the Americans,” although he admitted he “might have given advice” to his friends among the defendants.
One of the other figures indicted is Molly Bloom, who won her notoriety as the “Poker Princess” who previously admitted to hosting illicit high-stakes games for movie and sports stars including Damon, DiCaprio, Ben Affleck and Pete Sampras.
Nahmad’s family controls one of the world’s largest collections of Impressionist and Modernist art.




Defendant in Taiwanchik's US organized-crime case pleads guilty



MOSCOW, November 15 (RAPSI) – Vadim Trincher, a defendant in a high-profile US criminal case targeting Russian-American organized crime, pleaded guilty Thursday to having operated an international gambling ring catering to wealthy sports betters in Russia, the US, and Ukraine, according to a report by The New York Post.

In April US officials unveiled charges against 34 alleged members and associates of two interconnected Russian-American organized criminal enterprises. Among other things, the groups were accused of having operated at least two international bookmaking organizations catering to an extraordinarily wealthy clientele based in the US, Russia, and Ukraine.

US prosecutors claimed in a statement accompanying the unveiling of the indictment that the first organization - the Taiwanchik-Trincher Organization, allegedly run by Vadim Trincher - is accused of having laundered tens of millions of dollars from Russia and Ukraine into the US via Cyprus. The second organization - the Nahmad-Trincher Organization, allegedly run by Illya Trincher - is believed to have been financed by a prestigious New York City art gallery, among other sources.

According to the Post, Vadim Trincher pleaded guilty in a federal court in New York City, and faces between 21 and 27 months in prison in accordance with a plea deal struck with federal authorities. He is reportedly expected to forfeit 13 properties as well.

The statement accompanying the indictment's unveiling boasted that among the defendants was Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, aka Taiwanchik, who gained international fame after having been separately indicted on allegations of having engaged in official bribery during the 2002 Winter Olympics, which were hosted by Salt Lake City.

The statement claims that Tokhtakhounov "used his status... to resolve disputes with clients of the high-stakes illegal gambling operation with implicit and sometimes explicit threats of violence and economic harm," adding that he received $10 million for his service during a single two-month period.

Tokhtakhounov faces up to 90 years in prison if convicted of the charges presently pending against him as part of this indictment, which include substantive and conspiracy charges under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), conspiracy charges relating to money laundering and extortion, and charges of operating an illegal gambling business and of unlawful internet gambling.


US-Blacklisted Russian Singer Admits Knowing Mafia Suspect

RIA Novosti. Alexey Filippov

MOSCOW, November 15 (RIA Novosti) – A popular Russian crooner blacklisted by the United States last month for alleged ties to organized crime confirmed Friday that he was acquainted with a person identified as a key member of an international underworld syndicate.
The US Treasury said on October 31 that it had blacklisted singer Grigory Lepsveridze – known better by the stage name of Grigory Leps – on suspicion of couriering money for Vladislav Leontyev, who was blacklisted last year for being “a key member of the Brothers’ Circle” and for involvement “in various criminal activities, including narcotics trafficking.”
The Brothers’ Circle is one of five transnational criminal organizations outlawed in the United States. The US Treasury describes the Brothers’ Circle as comprising leading figures from Eurasian criminal groups that are chiefly based in the countries of the former Soviet Union but that operate globally.
“I’ve known [Leontyev] for 30 years. I don’t even remember how we became acquainted. He is an ordinary normal man, as far as I know,” Leps told reporters. He noted that neither Russia nor European countries suspect Leontyev of illegal activities.
Leps is an multiple award-winning Russian singer with an income this year estimated by Forbes magazine at $15 million.



Deals Reached In Russian Gambling Case

Poker News Daily
By Earl Burton

 In stunning news from New York City, two of the alleged masterminds of the gambling ring that supposedly had Russian organized crime ties have pleaded guilty in court to a variety of charges.
In federal court on Wednesday, poker professional Vadim Trincher reached a plea agreement with prosecutors that will significantly cut any time he might serve in prison. Trincher agreed to plead guilty to illegal gambling charges, according to the New York Daily News, admitting that he took bets from gamblers in the United States and in Europe. Trincher would be sentenced to 20 years in prison if found guilty in a court proceeding but, through the plea deal, the agreement between Trincher’s lawyers and the feds will call for somewhere between 21 and 27 months in jail.
In confessing to his part in the gambling ring, Trincher admitted running what prosecutors called “the world’s largest sports book” out of his Trump Tower apartment in New York City. That operation supposedly took in as much as $50 million during its operation, which Trincher then laundered through bank accounts around the world. The laundering also included such legitimate businesses as plumbing, real estate, car repair and a used-car business, according to the British newspaper The Independent.
One of the other main figures in the case is noted art dealer Hillel “Helly” Nahmad, who also pled guilty on Wednesday to operating a gambling business. Nahmad, facing charges of money laundering, racketeering and conspiracy that might have netted him a 92-year jail term, instead chose the plea deal that could only get him five years in prison. Nahmad, who is estimated by Forbes Magazine to be worth $1.75 billion, also forfeited almost $6.5 million and a painting that is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In admitting his role in the gambling ring, Nahmad stated to the court, “This all started as a group of friends betting on sporting events…I recognize that I crossed the line.”
Trincher and Nahmad join five others who have already pled guilty to their involvement in the case. In July, Hollywood producer Bryan Zuriff pled guilty to acceptance of financial instruments for unlawful internet gambling. Zuriff, who was the executive producer of the Showtime series “Ray Donovan” (from which he was subsequently fired), paid a $500,000 fine, but still faces up to five years in prison when he is sentenced at some time this month.
In August, William Barbalat and Kirill Rapoport pled guilty regarding their roles in the case. Both men pled guilty to traveling in interstate commerce in aid of an unlawful activity and conducting an illegal gambling business, which was a poker game that reportedly ran from 2010 to early this year. Barbalat and Rapoport also could get as much as five years in jail for their roles in the case.
In September, poker professional Justin ‘BoostedJ’ Smith and Edwin Ting both pled guilty to different charges. Smith pled guilty to taking payments for internet gambling and Ting confessed to operating an illegal gambling business. They also face up to five years in jail for their involvement in the case.
The five men who have previously pled guilty to these charges may not actually serve the maximum, according to reports. Because of their plea deals, they may receive less (or no) time in jail. Trincher and Nahmad, however, will probably see some significant jail time for their roles as the “masterminds” of the gambling operation.
According to the Independent, the third man who is alleged to have been at the helm of the operation, Alimzhan “Taiwanchik” Tokhtakhounov, is still at large.
Viewed as one of the kingpins of the Russian organized crime syndicate, Tokhtakhounov is alleged to have attempted to bribe judges at the 2002 Winter Olympics ice skating competition (among other crimes) and was named in 2011 as one of Forbes Magazine’s “Most Wanted Fugitives.” The Independent reports that, surprisingly, Tokhtakhounov is living openly in Moscow at this time. Interviewed by a Russian television station, Tokhtakhounov has called the federal case in New York “yet another fairy tale from the Americans,” although he does admit he might have given some advice to friends who were indicted in the case.


Want the latest poker news in your twitter feed? Follow PokerNewsDaily on Twitter.





Scion of Art Family, in Court, Admits Role With a Gambling Ring

   
Anthony Lanzilote for The New York Times

By WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM



Mr. Nahmad, 35, whose family, having amassed one of the largest collections of Impressionist and Modernist art in the world, is worth an estimated $3 billion, admitted playing a leadership role in a gambling ring. During a proceeding in United States District Court in Manhattan, he agreed to forfeit more than $6.4 million in cash and a painting worth several hundred thousand dollars. 

Under an agreement his lawyers worked out with prosecutors, Mr. Nahmad, who was initially charged with racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, gambling, money laundering, conspiracy and other crimes, pleaded guilty to a single charge of operating a gambling business. He had been indicted in April along with 33 reputed members and associates of two related Russian-American organized crime enterprises. 

He was one of several suspects accused of playing leadership roles in one of the enterprises. It was said to be a $100 million gambling and money-laundering network that organized poker games and sports betting operations and drew hundred-thousand-dollar wagers from celebrities and billionaires. 

Mr. Nahmad, wearing a dark gray suit, a white shirt and a dark striped tie, spoke in a clear voice before Judge Jesse M. Furman and admitted that he had helped conduct an illegal business that accepted more than five bets in a day totaling more than $5,000, satisfying the legal requirement for the charge. 

“Judge, this all started as a group of friends betting on sports events, but I recognize that I crossed the line, and I apologize to the court and my family,” Mr. Nahmad said. 

The indictment portrayed Mr. Nahmad, who is known as Helly, as a financier, money launderer and bookmaker. If he had gone to trial and been convicted on all counts, he would have faced a maximum of 92 years in prison, although his sentence under federal sentencing guidelines would probably have been shorter. 

But in exchange for admitting to the single gambling charge, the recommended sentence under the guidelines will be significantly shorter: 12 to 18 months. Under the agreement, his lawyers can ask Judge Furman to impose a sentence that includes no jail time and the dismissal of the other charges in the indictment. The painting that Mr. Nahmad agreed to forfeit as part of the plea agreement was “Carnaval à Nice, 1937” by Raoul Dufy. 

Mr. Nahmad is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Furman on March 19. 

Mr. Nahmad was the 14th of the 34 defendants charged in the case to plead guilty. The others who pleaded guilty agreed to forfeit a total of $9 million, officials said. 

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, along with the Internal Revenue Service and the New York Police Department. Mr. Nahmad’s lawyers, Benjamin Brafman and Paul L. Shechtman, said in a statement that they were pleased the government had agreed to dismiss the racketeering and fraud charges. 

“Today, Hillel has accepted responsibility for his participation in illegal gambling,” the statement said. “We are hopeful that at sentencing, the court will not impose any period of incarceration, recognizing Hillel’s unblemished background and his many redeeming qualities.” 

Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, whose office prosecuted the case, said: “Hillel Nahmad headed an illegal sports gambling business with ties to a Russian-American organized crime ring. Nahmad bet that he would never get caught and he lost.” 

In the plea agreement, Mr. Nahmad acknowledged being an organizer and leader of the ring; he was the primary source of financing for the gambling business and entitled to a share of its profits. In court, Joshua A. Naftalis, one of the assistant United States attorneys prosecuting the case, told the judge that Mr. Nahmad provided the gambling business millions of dollars transferred from his father’s Swiss bank account. 

After the court proceeding, Mr. Brafman, in an email, emphasized that his client’s father, David Nahmad, who set up the family’s gallery in the 1970s, at the corner of Madison Avenue and 76th Street, had no involvement in any wrongdoing. The government, he said, “has never alleged otherwise.” 

“All the senior Nahmad knew was that he was paying a personal debt of his son,” Mr. Brafman said. 

Outside court, Mr. Brafman said the case against his client would have no effects on the family’s gallery business. 

David Nahmad and other relatives have been a presence at the fall auctions. Last week, the elder Mr. Nahmad bought “Mousquetaire à la Pipe” (1969), a prime example of Picasso’s late paintings of musketeers, for $30.9 million with fees. 

And hours after entering his guilty plea, the younger Mr. Nahmad attended an auction at Christie’s. 

He has been a fixture on the New York City night-life scene. He lived in a $21 million apartment at Trump Tower and was friends with celebrities like Gisele Bündchen and Leonardo DiCaprio. 

In recent weeks, he has still been somewhat visible in those circles. During Fashion Week in September, he was seen at a party at the Standard in the meatpacking district of Manhattan. 


Carol Vogel contributed reporting. 









Russia: $46 Million In Afghan Heroin Seized From Smuggling Gang

Russian law enforcement seized US$46 million of Afghan heroin in a series of raids, authorities announced on Wednesday.  RIA Novosti reports that the Federal Drug Control Service, Russia's anti-drug agency, conducted several raids throughout multiple regions, collecting a total of about 145 kilograms of drugs.
In a statement, the agency said that six members of "an international organized crime group consisting of nationals of the Russian Federation and Central Asian republics" were arrested as a result of the operation.
In the first stage of the operation, police captured three suspected gang members and confiscated 85 kilograms of heroin.  The second stage involved the arrests of three other suspected drug couriers in the central Vladimir Region.  A truck belonging to one of the alleged couriers contained 59 additional kilograms of the drug.
The Federal Drug Control Service stated that the drugs had been smuggled from Tajikistan through Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan in late October.
The head of the anti-drug agency’s Moscow branch, Lt. Gen. Vyacheslav Davydov said that the recent raids had increased the amount of heroin seized in 2013 to 900 kilograms.
Heroin use is a concern in Russia, where according to official statistics reported by RIA Novosti, 30,000 die each year from usage.
https://reportingproject.net

Russian Cops Seize $46M of Afghan Heroin

MOSCOW, November 6 (RIA Novosti) – Russia’s anti-drug agency said Wednesday that it had seized a total of $46 million worth of Afghan heroin, about 145 kilograms of the narcotic, during a recent series of raids.
The drugs had been smuggled from Tajikistan inside trucks that passed through Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan in late October, the Federal Drug Control Service said in a statement.
“Six participants of an international organized crime group consisting of nationals of the Russian Federation and Central Asian republics were detained,” the statement said.
The police operation was conducted in several stages. Initially, 32 kilograms of heroin was seized from an alleged gang member in the Moscow Region. Another suspect, detained soon after, was found with some 26 kilograms of the drug. A third suspect had 27 kilograms, the statement said.
The final stage of the operation resulted in the apprehension of three alleged drug couriers in central Russia’s Vladimir Region. A total of 59 kilograms was seized from a truck owned by one of the purported couriers.

The head of the anti-drug agency’s Moscow branch, Lt. Gen. Vyacheslav Davydov, told journalists on Wednesday that police in the region had seized a total of 900 kilograms of heroin since the start of this year.
Some 30,000 Russians die from heroin use every year, according to official statistics

US Treasury blacklists Russian pop star

WASHINGTON, October 31 (RAPSI) – Russian pop singer Grigory Leps has been placed on a blacklist of sorts by the US Treasury Department on suspicion of having ties with organized crime, US Treasury spokesman John Sullivan told RIA Novosti on Thursday.
The US Treasury released a statement on its website in which it informed of putting six individuals and four companies on blacklist, for the alleged connection with the Brothers’ Circle criminal enterprise leaders Vladislav Leontyev and Gafur Rakhimov. Among those on the list, is Grigory Viktorovich Lepsveridze, who is widely known in Russia as a popular singer Grigory Leps.
The Treasury Department statement claims that, "Grigory Lepsveridze couriers money on behalf of Vladislav Leontyev." Leontyev was blacklisted under the same executive order last year for serving as “a key member of the Brothers’ Circle and has been involved in various criminal activities, including narcotics trafficking.”
The statement goes on to stipulate that, "Today’s action generally prohibits [US] persons from conducting financial or commercial transactions with these entities and individuals, and freezes any assets they may have under [US] jurisdiction."
According to information provided by the US Treasury Department, The Brothers’ Circle is one of five transnational criminal organizations sanctioned by the US, along with the Camorra, the Yakuza, Los Zetas, and MS-13.
The Brothers’ Circle comprises leaders and senior members of several Eurasian criminal groups that are largely based in the countries of the former Soviet Union, but which also operate in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America, the Department of the Treasury said.

U.S. use of extradition to nab Russian suspects draws Moscow’s anger

A little known extradition case in Costa Rica is shedding light on Russia’s practice of vigorously defending its citizens arrested overseas and threatened with extradition to the United States on organized crime charges.
The case involves Maxim Chukharev, a Russian arrested in May for money laundering through Liberty Reserve, a money exchange platform that U.S. prosecutors say was the “bank of choice for the criminal underworld” before it was seized.
Last week, after a Costa Rican court gave the go-ahead for Chukharev to be sent to the United States, two senior Russian diplomats gave a dressing down to Costa Rican Ambassador Mario Fernandez Silva in Moscow, warning him that Costa Rica should ignore the extradition request because the “extraterritorial application of America law” is a “vicious practice which should be stopped.”
In a statement Friday, the Russian Foreign Ministry reiterated a warning for Russian nationals not to travel to any country that has extradition treaties with the United States if they suspect they are wanted by U.S. law enforcement agencies.
“Experience shows that the trials of those who were basically abducted and taken to the U.S. are biased, based on shaky evidence and conspicuously accusatory. As a rule, they result in illegitimate verdicts with long prison terms,” the statement said.
A spate of recent arrests of overseas Russians casts a light on what U.S. officials say is the significant role of Russia in transnational crime. But the issues involved generate starkly different opinions from those worried by global crime syndicates and others who voice unease over the long reach of U.S. justice.
U.S. organized crime experts say Russian criminals working overseas often have connections within the Russian government, and that the Russian government’s defense of them is designed to keep those links from emerging in public light.
“Most of these guys operate with a significant amount of state protection. When they go down, the Russian state goes into full panic mode,” said Douglas Farah, a national security consultant and co-author of a book on Viktor Bout, a Russian arms trafficker extradited from Thailand and convicted in a U.S. federal court in 2011. Bout, dubbed the “Merchant of Death” because he supplied weapons to a series of radical and outlaw groups, is now serving a 25-year prison term.
Russia is not the only nation concerned about the U.S. prosecutions, however. The long arm of the U.S. law in pursuing foreigners in third countries makes some legal experts in Europe and Latin America uncomfortable.
“It gives the impression that there might be a certain abuse of power from a powerful country,” said Juan Carlos Esquivel, a Costa Rican lawyer who is president of the anti-money laundering committee of the Inter-American Bar Association. Esquivel noted that the use of digital currencies is not regulated in his country.
“If Costa Rica doesn’t obey what the United States suggests, what happens? Tomorrow, the U.S. could come out with regulations prohibiting U.S. citizens from investing here,” he said.
An expert on money laundering at the University of Hamburg, Ingo Fiedler, said he is uneasy over how U.S. laws seem to trump international regulations.
“The USA has the tendency to export their law to other countries by threatening the respective countries,” Fiedler said. “Thus I can understand Russia’s decision that they do not want a citizen committing a crime in Costa Rica to have a trial in the USA.”




Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/10/25/3711562/us-use-of-extradition-to-nab-russian.html#storylink=cpy

Ceasars signed deal with hotelier accused of having tie to Russian mob

A Caesars Entertainment subsidiary signed a licensing deal with a New York hotel firm after Caesars’ own investigation turned up material alleging a principal in the hotel company had ties to Russian mobsters and had helped sponsor a visa for a reputed professional hit man, according to a report from Massachusetts casino investigators.
Caesars, the former partner of Suffolk Downs, withdrew from the racetrack’s East Boston casino venture Friday, at the urging of its partners, after learning that state investigators would recommend to the gambling commission that Caesars be disqualified from bidding for a Massachusetts license.
Suffolk Downs is in talks with other gambling companies to replace Caesars. Hard Rock International and Rush Street Gaming are leading contenders. The casino proposal is facing Nov. 5 referendums in East Boston and Revere.
Caesars confirmed over the weekend that state investigators had raised red flags over a branding deal with Gansevoort Hotel Group, a New York boutique hotel company. Caesars severed the agreement after Massachusetts regulators flagged it as a problem.
In early 2013, Caesars announced it had entered into the branding deal with Gansevoort, essentially to use the Gansevoort name on the former Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall in Las Vegas, which Caesars is refurbishing. The 20-year agreement required Caesars to pay Gansevoort a fee based on hotel room revenue, according to the report. The fee was not based on gambling revenue.
State investigators raised issues with one of the principals of Gansevoort, Arik Kislin, who was alleged in a 2012 New York Post article to have ties to Russian mobsters.
Massachusetts investigators found that a Caesars corporate investigator had conducted a check into Kislin’s background, turning up several pieces of eyebrow-raising material.
That material included an article published in 2000 by the Center for Public Integrity that reported allegations that Kislin’s uncle was a member of a Russian organized crime group and that the uncle owned a business allegedly being used by another man, Michael Chernoy, for fraud and embezzlement from Russian banks. Other reports the company reviewed said Chernoy faced a worldwide arrest warrant from Spain for money-laundering and organized crime charges, and that a company Kislin owned once cosponsored a US visa for Anton Malevsky, a man alleged to be a Russian assassin for a Moscow crime gang, according to the report.
Further investigation by Caesars turned up additional information that suggested that Kislin had ties to criminals and criminal activity, the report stated.
“During this investigation, investigators have consulted with various law enforcement entities, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, regarding Arik Kislin and the information detailed within this investigative report,” state investigators wrote. “In response to our request for information, we received information from the FBI that Arik Kislin is in fact known to them and has been linked to various members of Eurasian Organized Crime.”
Commission investigators also took issue with Caesars’ debt, its treatment of a high-roller who claimed the company encouraged him to gamble while intoxicated, and the work history of a Caesars executive who was chief executive of two companies that came under scrutiny by the Department of Justice for illegal Internet gaming operations while he ran them, according to the report.
A Caesars spokesman responded to the report last night.
“We strongly disagree with the staff recommendation and were prepared to address each of the concerns raised by the report,” the spokesman said. “We withdrew our application at the urging of, and in deference to, our partners in the project.”
Investigators also raised questions about the financial suitability of Richard Fields, largest shareholder in Suffolk Downs.
The review of Fields’ personal income tax returns revealed continuous reporting of significant losses, the report states.
“The absence of any positive income has resulted in the investigators being unable to determine Fields’ ability to contribute to future capital funding requests from the board of managers of Suffolk Downs.”
Investigators wrote that Joseph O’Donnell, another major owner of the track, told them that “Fields’ possible inability to satisfy future funding requests would not be a detriment to the casino project.
“O’Donnell informed us he would cover any unfunded capital calls which may occur in the future,” the report states.
Suffolk Downs’ chief operating officer, Chip Tuttle, said in a statement Wednesday that after reviewing the full report, the remaining partners were confident Suffolk Downs would pass the background check and be deemed suitable to bid for a casino license.
The commission will hold a public hearing on the contents of the report on Oct. 29.
Suffolk Downs is competing for the sole Greater Boston resort casino license with a Wynn Resorts project in Everett and a Foxwoods proposal in Milford.
The commission is expected to award the license in early 2014

Suffolk Downs officials appear before Gaming Commission

The October surprise for Suffolk Downs, that its casino partner had been linked to organized crime and allegedly plied a high-roller with booze and pills, arrived during an Oct. 2 meeting between Suffolk executive Charles Baker and gaming regulators.
A week before Boston and Revere voters could cast ballots on plans to turn the racetrack into a resort casino, Suffolk Downs officials appeared Tuesday before the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, and discussed lessons learned by its failed partnership with Caesars Entertainment.
“I take everybody at their word, so I’m not saying that anybody deliberately misinformed us,” said Baker, who said in the future he would seek documents in addition to verbal briefings from potential partners.
Baker said while vetting Caesars, he read a Wall Street Journal article about Terrance Watanabe, a high roller who racked up $14.7 million in debt during four months in 2007 at Caesars’ Las Vegas properties, while staff allegedly “plied [him] with liquor and prescription pain medication,” and did not discourage him from making unwanted sexual advances to casino workers.
Baker said Caesars officials said they were resolving the allegations with Las Vegas regulators, and said he knew nothing of the company’s dealings with a man tied to Russian organized crime, even though Caesars had communicated with Spectrum Gaming investigators working on behalf of the Gaming Commission in April.
“Caesars knew full well that this was a serious matter,” said attorney Tom Reilly, the former attorney general, who was hired by Suffolk after Baker learned what the Gaming Commission investigators had discovered. He said, “Suffolk was blind-sided by this but acted very quickly to deal with it.”
Suffolk executives said they had no knowledge of Caesars’ involvement with Arik Kislin, a principal of Gansevoort hotels, whose company Blonde Management was linked to Trans Commodities, an alleged Russian mob front owned by his uncle. Caesars had entered a licensing agreement with Gansevoort in Las Vegas, but reportedly backed out of that deal after the commission’s investigation was made public.
Director of Investigations and Enforcement Bureau Karen Wells said that since Caesars has withdrawn from the application, she recommends a suitability finding for all the other Suffolk executives and owners, who are currently seeking another casino partner to join the development.
“We are very far along in design and construction drawings,” said Baker, who said Suffolk is meeting with gaming companies that have applied to do business in Massachusetts as well as companies that have not sought Massachusetts licensure and said he “fully expects” to identify a casino partner before the Dec. 31 phase two application deadline.
“Understanding the matter you just went through, are there additional steps in your due diligence that you’re taking?” asked Commissioner Bruce Stebbins.
“As you might not be surprised, I’ve spent a lot of nights sort of thinking about what we might have done differently in this event, and given that, there are some things we’re doing that are a little different,” said Baker, who shares a name with a gubernatorial candidate. He said Suffolk would “insist that all relevant documents be turned over to us.”
Baker also said the parting with Caesars is “amicable.”
“This is a uniquely vulnerable industry,” said Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby, who advised the developers, “There is nothing more valuable than someone whose job it is to say the unpopular thing.”
The uncertainty could extend into Election Day, Nov. 5, when Suffolk is scheduled to seek voters’ approval for a resort casino near Revere Beach, even without a casino partner.
Commissioner Ed McHugh noted Caesars brands are included within the host community agreement voters will be asked to approve.
“There’s actually a commitment to build a World Series of Poker room or rooms,” McHugh said.
“We will have a poker room of that standard and that quality,” Baker said.
The commission planned a second meeting Tuesday afternoon to discuss next Tuesday’s vote.
Suffolk Downs has reached out to the voting public to inform people of the situation, Baker said. An explanatory ad produced by the race track aired during the World Series.
The plans for 4,000 jobs, deals with local vendors and nearby entertainment entities would remain the same with the new partner, as would the architectural designs.
Some have previously commented skeptically about the $1 billion revenue projection contained in the host community agreement, including casino opponent and former mayoral candidate Bill Walczak, who said in a statement, “This projected gaming revenue number is ludicrous. This casino will have to clear more revenue than any casino in the Western Hemisphere.”
Steve Wynn, who along with Foxwoods, is competing against Suffolk Downs for the eastern Massachusetts casino license, previously expressed concern to the commission about the level of scrutiny applied by gaming investigators outside the Bay State’s jurisdiction.

“We're scared to death, chairman. We're scared to death, not that you won't pick us, but that you will,” Wynn told the commission on Oct. 17, just before Suffolk cut ties with Caesars.

Saatchi gallery to exhibit tombstones of Russian gangsters

London's Saatchi Gallery will exhibit photos of tombstones belonging to Russian mobsters as part of an exhibition that looks at the physical body and its relationship to the political and the social. Body Language will show the work of 19 emerging international artists who use a range of media to reflect on the human form. On display will be a series of photos by Russian photographer Denis Tarasov, taken at cemeteries in Russia and Ukraine. The tombstones in the photos depict figures in the mafia wars of the Nineties in all their finery. Some pose in front of iconic national monuments while others stand next to expensive cars or sip champagne. Some even sit on throne-like chairs as a way to illustrate their status when alive. Body Language opens on 20 November and runs until 16 March 2013. 

Ceasars signed deal with hotelier accused of having tie to Russian mob

A Caesars Entertainment subsidiary signed a licensing deal with a New York hotel firm after Caesars’ own investigation turned up material alleging a principal in the hotel company had ties to Russian mobsters and had helped sponsor a visa for a reputed professional hit man, according to a report from Massachusetts casino investigators


Caesars confirmed over the weekend that state investigators had raised red flags over a branding deal with Gansevoort Hotel Group, a New York boutique hotel company. Caesars severed the agreement after Massachusetts regulators flagged it as a problem.
State investigators raised issues with one of the principals of Gansevoort, Arik Kislin, who was alleged in a 2012 New York Post article to have ties to Russian mobsters.
“During this investigation, investigators have consulted with various law enforcement entities, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, regarding Arik Kislin and the information detailed within this investigative report,” state investigators wrote. “In response to our request for information, we received information from the FBI that Arik Kislin is in fact known to them and has been linked to various members of Eurasian Organized Crime.”

In Russia's Vast Far East, Timber Thieves Thrive


Forests cover about half of Russia's land mass, an environmental resource that President Vladimir Putin calls "the powerful green lungs of the planet."
But Putin himself acknowledges that Russia, the world's biggest exporter of logs, is having its timber stolen at an unprecedented rate.
The demand for high-value timber is fueling organized crime, government corruption and illegal logging in the Russian Far East. The hardwood cut in the endless forests often ends up as flooring and furniture in the United States, Europe, Japan and China.
At a meeting on timber management earlier this year, Putin said that illegal logging has increased by nearly 70 percent over the past five years, and he added that timber thieves have no problem selling their product.
Illegal loggers are often linked to violent organized crime, and together, they undermine what officials say could be sustainable forests and contribute to Russia's endemic corruption by paying off local officials.

Threat To The Siberian Tiger
But there's another reason illegal logging is considered a threat in the Far East.
"This provides an important habitat, both in terms of shelter and food, for such unique animals as the Amur tiger. Only about 450 of these beautiful animals are left in the wild," says Nikolay Shmatkov, the forest policy projects coordinator for the World Wildlife Fund in Russia.
The Amur tiger, more commonly called the Siberian tiger, is known throughout the world as one of the largest living members of the cat family. It preys on deer and wild boar, which in turn live on acorns and walnuts that grow in one of Russia's most diverse forests.
But oak and walnut wood are highly prized for flooring and furniture, and are targets for illegal loggers.
Shmatkov says that timber can be stolen outright from the tiger's habitat, but he notes that much of it is taken by companies with valid logging permits.
T
"We found out that the vast majority of it first goes into China, which is right next door, into their manufacturing centers, and in products of any type you can imagine, as it spreads around the world," says EIA's executive director, Alexander von Bismarck.

China's Involvement
Von Bismarck says the team set up a dummy corporation and posed as buyers of wood flooring. They recorded conversations with a Mr. Yu, an executive of a large Chinese wood products company called Xingja.
"He openly described the types of illegality in the supply chain — that he cuts illegally on his own land, which is a common method that is destroying the forest there, and he talked about corruption and how he used that to stay out of trouble," von Bismarck says.
When an NPR reporter in China recently contacted Mr. Yu by telephone, Mr. Yu charged that the allegations in the EIA report were "all lies" and said he would take the matter up with his government.
The EIA report makes another allegation that involves the Chinese company's biggest American customer, Lumber Liquidators.
Von Bismarck says Lumber Liquidators bought flooring from Xingja, and that it should have known that the flooring was made from illegally logged wood.
That's a serious allegation, because a U.S. law called the Lacey Act prohibits American companies from buying illegally cut wood products from other countries.
The law puts the burden on U.S. companies to actively determine, as best they can, that the products they buy come from legal sources.
Lumber Liquidators' founder and CEO, Tom Sullivan, says the report is inaccurate and that its claims are not substantiated.
"If we had any knowledge of any mill of ours buying from an illegal source or a nonsustainable source, we immediately would not buy from them," Sullivan says. "We are extremely pro-active in making sure that all our materials are from legal and sustainable sources."
Sullivan says his company has more than 60 experts in the field who work to make sure that the products it buys comply with the law.
In September, federal agents searched Lumber Liquidators headquarters and one of its stores in Virginia, a raid that included investigators from Immigration and Customs, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Justice Department.
The search warrants in the case remain sealed, but the environmental group, EIA, says the raid was connected with the allegations of importing illegal wood products.
The company says it is cooperating fully with the investigation.
(Lumber Liquidators is an NPR underwriter whose credits are on air and on NPR's website.)
Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.