U.S. prosecutors on June 7 arrested and charged more than two dozen alleged members of what it called a "Russian organized crime syndicate" working out of New York City with what a statement said was a "dizzying array of criminal schemes."
The U.S. attorney's office in southern New York State said the suspects operated internationally and across the United States, trafficking in drugs and stolen goods, including cigarettes and shiploads of chocolate, while engaging in extortion, murder for hire, and credit card fraud.
Most of the 33 defendants were led by Razhden Shulaya and Zurab Dzhanashvili, were born in the former Soviet Union, and had strong ties to Ukraine, Georgia, and Russia, the federal prosecutors said.
Prosecutors called Shulaya a "vor" -- the Russian word for thief -- which they said in criminal jargon means that he belongs to an "order of elite criminals from the former Soviet Union who receive tribute from other criminals, offer protection, and use their recognized status as vor to adjudicate disputes among lower-level criminals."
They said he was one of the first such alleged criminals to be charged with racketeering in the United States.
The indictment, unsealed in a Manhattan federal court, accuses the alleged gang members of plotting to rob victims by seducing and drugging them with chloroform and using electronic devices to hack casino slot machines, among other crimes.