Feds Bust Mob Scheme To Recruit Russian Strippers, Set Up Sham Marriages

Federal authorities on Wednesday arrested 20 people they say took part in a scheme to recruit women from Russia and eastern European countries to illegally work in strip clubs controlled by the Gambino and Bonanno crime families of La Cosa Nostra. Many of the defendants have also been charged with arranging for the women to enter into sham marriages with U.S. citizens.

Among the defendants are alleged mob figures with nicknames like “Old Man Willy,” “Big Alex” and “The Walker.” The strip clubs in questions — which aren’t specifically named in the charging documents — are located in Queens and Long Island in New York.Seven of the defendants are charged with extorting “protection” payments from the owners and operators of four strip clubs in Queens and Long Island. Their protection plan allegedly involved resolving disputes among strip clubs over which dancers would work at which club. Sixteen defendants are charged with helping the women fraudulently obtain summer work and travel visas by sending them false job offers for waitressing and other positions (visa rules prohibit employment in the adult entertainment industry).

Nineteen of the defendants are charged with harboring and helping the women come to the U.S. illegally. The feds say they ran advertisements in Russian newspapers and online in their quest to recruit exotic dancers. Five of the defendants are charged with marriage fraud conspiracy for allegedly setting up fake marriages to get the women legal status.

A rundown of the charges, from a Justice Department press release:

Gambino organized crime family members and associates Alphonse Trucchio; William Pazienza Sr.; Christopher Colon; and Richard Gutkowski; and Bonanno organized crime family members and associates Anthony Frascone; Paul Casella; and Lawrence Zaino are charged with racketeering and extortion crimes related to their control of several strip clubs located in Queens and Long Island, N.Y., at which the women worked. These seven defendants and 13 others – Aleksandr Kravets, Thomas Devitt III, Gerald Monfort, Yong Wang, Boris Yusupov, Vitaliy Mindyuk, Zhanna Kuznetsova, Elena Turubanova, Natalia Ivanova, Christine Gunning, Jeffrey Rinchey, Oscar Zeledon and Alexander Beleson – are also charged with several other crimes related to the scheme, including visa fraud, marriage fraud and transporting, harbouring and inducing the entry of illegal aliens

Back in January, authorities arrested an 83-year-old mobster allegedly involved in a similar strip club extortion scheme.