Thirty-three defendants associated with a Russian “thief-in-law” syndicate were arrested for a host of crimes. The arrests for alleged racketeering, extortion, murder-for-hire, robbery, fraud, conspiracy, narcotics, and firearms spanned from Brighton Beach to Las Vegas, NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill said.
The acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Joon H. Kim, and officials with the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the New York City Police Department (NYPD), announced three indictments and one complaint charging the 33 defendants.
Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon Kim said in a statement:
[W]e have charged 33 members and associates of a Russian organized crime syndicate allegedly engaging a panoply of crimes around the country. The indictments include charges against the alleged head of this national criminal enterprise, one of the first federal racketeering charges ever brought against a Russian ‘vor.’ The dizzying array of criminal schemes committed by this organized crime syndicate allegedly include a murder-for-hire conspiracy, a plot to rob victims by seducing and drugging them with chloroform, the theft of cargo shipments containing over 10,000 pounds of chocolate, and a fraud on casino slot machines using electronic hacking devices.
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said, “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. But that protection didn’t include escaping justice and being arrested by the agents and detectives on the FBI New York Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force.”
Court documents obtained allege members of the “Shulaya Enterprise” operated a complicated conspiracy dealing in stolen cigarettes, murder-for-hire, the illegal sale of firearms to known felons, gambling activities, illegal debt collection, extortion, and other violent activities.
“Most members and associates of the Shulaya Enterprise were born in the former Soviet Union and many maintained substantial ties to Georgia, the Ukraine, and the Russian Federation, including regular travel to those countries, communication with associates in those countries, and the transfer of criminal proceeds to individuals in those countries,” prosecutors stated in a 33-page indictment. “The Shulaya Enterprise was led principally by two individuals, Razhden Shulaya, a/k/a “Brother,” a/k/a “Roma,” and Zurab Dzhanashvili, a/k/a “Zura,” the defendants, who each coordinated and directed lower-level members and associates of the Shulaya Enterprise.”
Many of the counts in the indictment unsealed earlier this week dealt with trafficking stolen cigarettes and the operation of illegal gambling houses. In one count, suspects Shulaya, Dzhanashvili, and Akaki Ubilava (a/k/a “Ako”) met in one of the establishments to divide about $70,000 in proceeds from a poker game.
Other counts dealt with members of the syndicate dealing in stolen credit cards and bank account information.
In an unusual case, defendant Dzhanashvili allegedly arranged for the transportation and sale of approximately 10,000 pounds of stolen chocolate confections to a confidential informant working with law enforcement officials.
The informant in this case also allegedly negotiated the purchase of multiple firearms from the defendants despite their knowledge he is a convicted felon, ineligible to legally purchase a pistol.
Another count in the indictment alleges the suspects’ involvement in the trafficking of cocaine and heroin.
Acting CBP New York Director Leon Hayward said, “U.S. Customs and Border Protection is extremely proud to have assisted our federal partners in this operation. It is through our interagency partnerships, and collaborative approaches like the one leading to today’s arrests, that law enforcement successfully combats modern criminal organizations.”
Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York stated, “he dizzying array of criminal schemes committed by this organized crime syndicate allegedly include a murder-for-hire conspiracy, a plot to rob victims by seducing and drugging them with chloroform, the theft of cargo shipments containing over 10,000 pounds of chocolate, and a fraud on casino slot machines using electronic hacking devices. Thanks to the remarkable interagency partnership of FBI, CBP, and NYPD, we have charged and arrested 33 defendants allegedly involved in this criminal enterprise.”
The Shulaya Enterprise operated what is referred to as a “vor v zakonei” or “vor.” These are Russian phrases which translate to “thief-in-law” or “thief.”
New York Police Department Commissioner James O’Neil referenced the translated Russian phrase, stating on Wednesday, “The Thief-in-Law allegedly established an extensive cross country criminal enterprise from Brighton Beach to Las Vegas that engaged in bribes, gambling, and murder for hire. Thanks to all whose work resulted in the arrest and indictment of 33 today.”
U.S. v. Shulaya Et Al Indictment on Scribd
Us v. Jikia and Marat-uulu Complaint on Scribd