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ODESSA by the Sea:

 Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, as center of
Russian Mafia activities
While there is real doubt that a true "Russian
Mafia" exists in America, popular belief is that the
Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn is the capital of
the most important "other Mafia" now functioning
in the United States. There is no doubt that the area
is the center of much violence and brutality, at times
said to rival the worst activities of the Mafia in
Brighton Beach and Coney Island in its earlier days.
It has been estimated that many thousands of illegal
immigrants have entered the United States in recent
years from the former Soviet Union under a grant of
refugee status as politically oppressed people. Many
Brighton Beach inhabitants have come from Odessa
and surrounding areas. The Black Sea port of
Odessa has a long history of criminality, dating
back to the days of the early czars and the pirates
who ravaged the waters. Thus Odessa was long a
thriving black market and developed a centuries-old
criminal subculture. Although most residents of
Brighton Beach are clearly law-abiding, they have
been tarred as the Odessukuya, or Odessa Thieves,
often described in the motherland as the worst of all
Russian criminals. According to federal authorities,
many of these illegals have come out of Soviet pris-
ons, obtained identifications of dead or imprisoned
Soviet Jews and used them to reach the United
States, often muddying their trails by first immigrat-
ing to Israel. This "shuttle plan" is similar to one
used by Italian mafiosi early in the 20th century,
who traveled first to North Africa and then on to
the American land of opportunity, their criminal
backgrounds lost in the shuffle.
Local residents walk along the boardwalk in the Brighton
Beach section of Brooklyn, New York. Populated by over
60,000 Russian immigrants, "Little Odessa" hosts
numerous nightclubs and restaurants, some of which
serve as headquarters for the newly established mobsters
of the Russian mafia in New York.