A gang of alleged Russian mobsters was charged this week for participating in a massive racketeering scam, with alleged crimes including murder-for-hire conspiracy, hacking into casino slot machines, plotting robberies, running illegal gambling parlors, selling narcotics and, somehow, stealing and smuggling 10,000 pounds of chocolate treats.
Along with being labeled as the ringleader of the sweet thieves, Shulaya, whom the complaint lists as the "vor"-or thief-in-law of the organization-reportedly assisted and offered protection to several members of the group who carried out various crimes".
Law enforcement officials confirmed 25 members of the group, including its two leaders Razhdan Shulaya and Zurab Dzhanashvili, were arrested by the FBI's Joint Eurasian Organized Task Force in New York City. Numerous group members were based in New York City, but others were located in Florida, New Jersey, Nevada, Pennsylvania and overseas, according to the indictment.
Vor refers 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", according the Justice Department.
The crims also ran underground poker games in NY seaside suburb Brighton Beach, with a side-order of extortion for those that ran up gambling debts. Numerous group members were born in the former Soviet Union, but authorities believe they regularly visited and communicated with associates in Georgia, the Ukraine and the Russian Federation.
This isn't the first time chocolate crime has been in the news.
Acting Manhattan US Attorney Joon H. Kim said, "Today, we have charged 33 members and associates of a Russian organized crime syndicate allegedly engaging a panoply of crimes around the country".
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Another scheme involved using a female member of the syndicate to "seduce men, incapacitate them with gas, and then rob them", according the Justice Department. "Yes, there are tattooed thugs around".
The suspects arrested Wednesday are expected to appear in federal court later in the day.
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