Russian Mafia Arrests – 6.9.17
- Are the Feds Treating the White House Like a Mob House?
- US Police Arrests 33 including 15 Georgians for Various Crimes – Georgia Today on the Web
- Russian mafia in US: Razhden Shulaya to face 65-year-imprisonment, 2 killers of gang to be sentenced for life
- Дело о смерти бывшего министра печати Михаила Лесина может получить продолжение
- Russian ‘thief-in-law’ arrested in Las Vegas, faces multiple charges – Las Vegas Review-Journal
- Russian ‘thief-in-law’ arrested in Las Vegas, faces multiple charges – Las Vegas Review-Journal
- U.S. Charges 31 Members Of ‘Russian’ Gang With ‘Dizzying Array’ Of Crimes
- Members of a Russian crime syndicate arrested for stealing chocolate – Business Insider
- Russian mafia boss still at large after FBI wiretap at Trump Tower – ABC News
- Feds Indict 33 ‘Thief-in-Law’ Members of Russian Syndicate
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Russian Mafia arrests and Trump Investigation – 6.9-7.17
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- Russian Gang Hacked Slot Machines and Plotted Over Stolen Sweets, U.S. Says – The New York Times
- Feds arrest dozens of Russian mobsters whose crimes involve Atlantic City casinos – Palmer Report
- Deadly Russian Gangsters Smuggled Insane Amount of Chocolate, Feds Say – VICE
- Mar 28, 2017 – FBI arrests ten people in New York City with alleged ties to Donald Trump and Russian mafia – Palmer Report
- Why FBI Can’t Tell All on Trump, Russia – WhoWhatWhy
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- Widow of Russian whistleblower…
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Crime and Russia
Trump and Deutsche Bank – 6.9.17
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- Deutsche Bank Won’t Disclose Trump Dealings Citing Privacy – Bloomberg
- Deutsche Bank ignores U.S. Trump/Russia query: Democratic staffer | Reuters
- Deutsche Bank ignores US Trump/Russia…
- Deutsche Bank denies House Democrats’ request for info on Trump accounts: report | TheHill
6.9.17 – Comey, Trump, and Russia
- OPINION: It’s not Comey versus Trump — it’s Putin versus America | TheHill
- ‘Lordy, I Hope There Are Tapes’ – The New York Times
- Ryan, Trump, GOP Message: Bear With Us, We Don’t Know What We’re Doing | Thomas Jefferson Street | US News
- The latest Republican defense of Trump is built on a massive lie – The Washington Post
- D.C. police identify suspects charged in crash that injured two officers in Adams Morgan – The Washington Post
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- truck runs over cops in Washington DC – Google Search
- Michael Cohen Pitched Investors For A Powerful Ukrainian Oligarch’s Company
- Trump’s ‘Pit Bull’, With Biz Ties To Ukrainian Emigres, Is Back In Spotlight – Talking Points Memo
- ISIS Loses Ground In Syria And…
- U.S., Russia discuss de-escalation zone for southwest Syria: diplomats | Reuters
- (36) European Separatist Movements – YouTube
- U.S., Russia Discuss De-Escalation Zone for Southwest Syria: Diplomats | World News | US News
- US, Russia discuss de-escalation zone…
- Russia says US-led coalition colludes with ISIS in Syria – Europe – Stripes
- Donald Trump’s Best Defense: “I’m Ignorant” – Lawfare
- No evidence Russian whistleblower was poisoned, police say | UK news | The Guardian
- Pakistan, India Join China And Russia In Security Group – YouTube
- What’s the motive? – The Washington Post
- The best late-night comedy reactions…
- Trump thinks he got ‘total vindication’ from Comey. Except he didn’t. – The Washington Post
- After Comey’s Testimony, Where Does Congress Go Next?
- President Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski calls James Comey ‘the deep state in Washington’ – ABC News
- The Impeach-Trump Conspiracy – Rasmussen Reports™
- What to expect next after James Comey’s testimony on Capitol Hill – ABC News
- Alleged Russian hack reveals deeply flawed US election system | News | eagletribune.com
- Trump Sees ‘Total and Complete Vindication’ in Comey’s Testimony – The New York Times
- (38) Trump, Comey a Reminder of How White House, FBI Used to Work – YouTube
- Full text of former FBI chief James Comey’s testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee
- (38) DeSantis: Comey fueled the fire by being coy with Congress – YouTube
- Documentary “Zero Days” a Warning of Wide Scale Cyberattacks
- Judge denies bail for accused NSA leaker Reality Winner after not guilty plea – The Washington Post
- Judge denies bail for accused NSA…
- Comey: Hero, Villain and Shakespearean Character Who Lived Up to Hype – The New York Times
- The Trump-Comey contest is a titanic clash of worldviews – The Washington Post
- To know where the Russia probe is headed, pay attention to the topics Comey avoided – The Washington Post
- In James Comey’s testimony, there are no happy endings – The Washington Post
- Get your popcorn: Jeff Sessions and Jared Kushner are both about testify in Trump-Russia scandal – Palmer Report
- The Mickey Mouse GOP leadership – The Washington Post
- Michael Cohen, Trump and the Russian Connection – Talking Points Memo
- Comey Testimony Offers Nothing New on Trump-Russia Collusion – Bloomberg
- Missing From Comey’s Fireworks:…
- Is Trump politically vulnerable? He has a plan for that – The Washington Post
- Burr gives GOP a badly-needed…
- Christopher Wray’s law firm has ties to Russian energy companies
- James Comey claims his moment at hearing
- Trump in hot seat as Comey to testify at Russia hearing | Reuters
- Washington Journal 06082017 | Video | C-SPAN.org
- Comey account could fuel obstruction accusations against Trump: legal experts | Reuters
- Text: Ex-FBI Director Comey’s prepared testimony to Senate panel | Reuters
- Q&A: What we know about U.S. probes of Russian meddling in 2016 election | Reuters
- Televised Comey testimony billed as ‘Super Bowl of Washington’ | Reuters
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- Comey’s Testimony Puts the President’s Character on Trial | RealClearPolitics
- Comey accuses Trump of ‘lies, plain and simple’
- Former FBI Director Comey Say President | Video | C-SPAN.org
- Comey: Hero, Villain and Shakespearean Character Who Lived Up to Hype – The New York Times
- Comey Accuses White House of ‘Lies’ and Says Trump Tried to Derail Inquiry – The New York Times
- Mr. Comey and All the President’s Lies – The New York Times
- Comey’s Case for Obstruction of Justice – The New York Times
- slam dunk case – Google Search
- Comey Bluntly Raises Possibility of Trump Obstruction and Condemns His ‘Lies’ – The New York Times
- Theft of cargo shipments, including approximately 10,000 pounds of chocolate confections.
- Having females seduce men, incapacitate them with gas, and then rob them.
- Selling untaxed cigarettes.
- Scheming to pay bribes for law-enforcement officials.
- Operating illegal poker businesses and extorting gamblers who became indebted to them.
- Plans to defraud casinos in Atlantic City and Philadelphia by using electronics that could predict the behavior of slot machines.
Los Angeles Times
Missing From Comey’s Fireworks: Trump-Russia Collusion
James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee centered on his interactions with President Donald Trump. But, in case anyone has forgotten, the underlying issue being investigated is the alleged Russian interference in the 2016 …
Talking with Comey, Trump focused on himself, not Russian hacksLos Angeles Times
Comey Disputes New York Times Article About Russia InvestigationNew York Times
Russian Media Greets The ‘Comey Show’ With A SmirkWestern Journalism
Adweek –Fortune –Raw Story –Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
all 10,104 news articles »
Russian Intelligence services – Google News
Michael Cohen, Trump and the Russian Connection
Cohen was also the intermediary who met with mafia-linked Trump business partner, Felix Saterand a Ukraine parliamentarian, Andrii Artemenko at the Loews Regency hotel in Manhattan in the first days of the Trump presidency. They were there to discuss …
felix sater – Google News
A Commentary By Patrick J. Buchanan
Friday, June 09, 2017
Pressed by Megyn Kelly on his ties to President Trump, an exasperated Vladimir Putin blurted out, “We had no relationship at all. … I never met him. … Have you all lost your senses over there?”
Yes, Vlad, we have.
Consider the questions that have convulsed this city since the Trump triumph, and raised talk of impeachment.
Did Trump collude with Russians to hack the DNC emails and move the goods to WikiLeaks, thus revealing the state secret that DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz was putting the screws to poor Bernie Sanders?
If not Trump himself, did campaign aides collude with the KGB?
Now, given that our NSA and CIA seemingly intercept everything Russians say to Americans, why is our fabled FBI, having investigated for a year, unable to give us a definitive yes or no?
The snail’s pace of the FBI investigation explains Trump’s frustration. What explains the FBI’s torpor? If J. Edgar Hoover had moved at this pace, John Dillinger would have died of old age.
We hear daily on cable TV of the “Trump-Russia” scandal. Yet, no one has been charged with collusion, and every intelligence official, past or prevent, who has spoken out has echoed ex-acting CIA Director Mike Morrell:
“On the question of the Trump campaign conspiring with the Russians here, there is smoke, but there is no fire, at all. … There’s no little campfire, there’s no little candle, there’s no spark.”
Where are the criminals? Where is the crime?
As for the meetings between Gen. Mike Flynn, Jared Kushner, Sen. Jeff Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, it appears that Trump wanted a “back channel” to Putin so he could honor his commitment to seek better relations with Russia.
Given the Russophobia rampant here, that makes sense. And while it appears amateurish that Flynn would use Russian channels of communication, what is criminal about this?
Putin is not Stalin. Soviet divisions are not sitting on the Elbe. The Cold War is over. And many presidents have used back channels. Woodrow Wilson sent Col. Edward House to talk to the Kaiser and the Brits. FDR ran messages to Churchill through Harry Hopkins.
As for Trump asking Director James Comey to cut some slack for Flynn, it is understandable in human terms. Flynn had been a loyal aide and friend and Trump had to feel rotten about having to fire the man.
So, what is really going on here?
All the synthetic shock over what Kushner or Sessions said to Kislyak aside, this city’s hatred for President Trump, and its fanatic determination to bring him down in disgrace, predates his presidency.
For Trump ran in 2016 not simply as the Republican alternative. He presented his candidacy as a rejection, a repudiation of the failed elites, political and media, of both parties. Americans voted in 2016 not just for a change in leaders but for a revolution to overthrow a ruling regime.
Thus this city has never reconciled itself to Trump’s victory, and the president daily rubs their noses in their defeat with his tweets.
Seeking a rationale for its rejection, this city has seized upon that old standby. We didn’t lose! The election was stolen in a vast conspiracy, an “act of war” against America, an assault upon “our democracy,” criminal collusion between the Kremlin and the Trumpites.
Hence, Trump is an illegitimate president, and it is the duty of brave citizens of both parties to work to remove the usurper.
The city seized upon a similar argument in 1968, when Richard Nixon won, because it was said he had colluded to have South Vietnam’s president abort Lyndon Johnson’s new plan to bring peace to Southeast Asia in the final hours of that election.
Then, as now, the “t” word, treason, was trotted out.
Attempts to overturn elections where elites are repudiated are not uncommon in U.S. history. Both Nixon and Reagan, after 49-state landslides, were faced with attempts to overturn the election results.
With Nixon in Watergate, the elites succeeded. With Reagan in Iran-Contra, they almost succeeded in destroying that great president as he was ending the Cold War in a bloodless victory for the West.
After Lincoln’s assassination, President Andrew Johnson sought to prevent Radical Republicans from imposing a ruthless Reconstruction on a defeated and devastated South.
The Radicals enacted the Tenure of Office Act, stripping Johnson of his authority to remove any member of the Cabinet without Senate permission. Johnson defied the Radicals and fired their agent in the Cabinet, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton.
“Tennessee” Johnson was impeached, and missed conviction by one vote. John F. Kennedy, in his 1956 book, called the senator who had voted to save Johnson a “Profile in Courage.”
If Trump is brought down on the basis of what Putin correctly labels “nonsense,” this city will have executed a nonviolent coup against a constitutionally elected president. Such an act would drop us into the company of those Third World nations where such means are the customary ways that corrupt elites retain their hold on power.
Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of a new book, “Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever.” To find out more about Patrick Buchanan and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators website at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2017 CREATORS.COM
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The Hill (blog)
OPINION: It’s not Comey versus Trump — it’s Putin versus America
The Hill (blog)
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s influence in the 2016 American elections is undeniable, former FBI Director James Comey pointed out at Thursday’s hearing. Throughout Comey’s hearing, he emphasized that state-sponsored Russian cyberattacks will …and more »
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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 …
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Deutsche Bank AG said it can’t comply with a request to hand over information related to its relationship with Donald Trump and trades from the bank’s Moscow operation as political opponents seek to probe the U.S. President’s links with Russia.
The lender is required by law to maintain confidentiality of non-public customer information, Deutsche Bank lawyers said in a letter responding to a request from five Democratic Party lawmakers to hand over its findings on loans made to Trump and trades made from Moscow. Known as the “mirror trading” scandal, the trades helped move about $10 billion out of the country.
“Deutsche Bank, like other financial institutions, is not permitted to disclose details related to its customers,” lawyers Steven R. Ross and Leslie B. Kiernan of Akin Gump said in a letter published on the bank’s website Friday. “This is true even if the individual is a government official or well-known person, and even in circumstances where the individual has made some disclosure regarding their relationship with their banking institution.”
The bank’s relationship with Trump has come under heightened public scrutiny since the former real-estate tycoon was elected president in November. Several Democratic members of Congress, led by Representative Maxine Waters of California on the House Financial Services Committee, have started public attempts aimed at pressuring Deutsche Bank to reveal details on its dealings with Trump, largely citing concerns that the administration may treat the German lender’s executives more leniently.
The same group of Democrats demanded in March that Representative Jeb Hensarling, chairman of the committee, hold a hearing to explore the bank’s conduct in the Russian mirror-trading scandal, as part of an effort to ensure that the Justice Department investigation wasn’t influenced by the lender’s relationship with Trump.
“President Trump’s conflict of interest with Deutsche Bank…may undermine the independence and impartiality of the Department’s ongoing investigation and diminish the likelihood that Deutsche Bank and its senior leadership will be brought to justice,” the lawmakers wrote in March.
The mirror-trading scheme allowed some of the bank’s wealthy clients in Moscow to convert rubles into western currency through the simultaneous purchase and sale of publicly traded shares, investigators have found.
While Deutsche Bank has reached settlements on the Russia deals with several financial watchdogs, it has yet to conclude the probe that is being conducted by the DOJ. As part of those settlements, the New York Department of Financial Services fined the bank $425 million and mandated an independent monitor to review its anti-money laundering programs.
As the minority party in Congress, the Democrats don’t have the power to force Deutsche Bank to make any disclosures. But the public information requests have elicited a strong media reaction in Germany and have compelled the bank to publish its response to the lawmakers.
A deadline for the bank to respond to the Democrats’ latest request expired on June 2. A spokesman for the lender told Bloomberg Tuesday that it would be unable to comply with the lawmakers’ request to disclose information on individual clients. Instead, the bank pointed the lawmakers to documents made public after the bank settled probes into its Russia deals with the New York Department of Financial Services and the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority.
“While we seek to cooperate, we must obey the law,” Deutsche Bank’s lawyers wrote in the letter on Friday.
The bank’s shares rose 0.3 percent to 15.67 euros at 2:39 p.m. in Frankfurt.
In their May request addressed to Chief Executive Officer John Cryan, the Democratic House representatives cited Deutsche Bank’s previous compliance failures as a reason for their request. Along with the internal review of the Russian stock-trading scheme, they asked for any internal correspondence and communications related to the internal review of loans extended to Trump and his immediate family members.
Deutsche Bank’s lending to Trump before he was elected amounted to more than $300 million, including loans for the Doral golf resort in Florida, a Washington, D.C., hotel and a Chicago tower, according to a Bloomberg analysis.
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Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s “pit bull” personal attorney, is the latest associate of the President’s with ties to a former Soviet republic to emerge as a person congressional investigators want to hear from in their probes into Russian interference in the U.S. election.
The pugnacious Manhattan lawyer’s name has cropped up in various subplots involving the Trump administration and Russian interests, from a largely unverified dossier compiled by a former British spy to an effort to get a secret Ukraine “peace plan” that would end U.S. sanctions against Russia on the desk of Trump’s first national security advisor. He’s also reportedly a person of interest in the sprawling federal investigation into Russian election meddling.
Like other Trump campaign associates who’ve been asked to provide Congress with documents, Cohen has business ties to the former Soviet Union. Ukraine is a country that has figured heavily both in Cohen’s professional and personal life, as he and his brother, Bryan, are each married to Ukrainian immigrants. Cohen and his in-laws own multiple units in Trump-branded properties, and he maintains business relationships with other Ukrainian immigrants (there’s no evidence that any of his business partners are connected to efforts to interfere in the U.S. election).
Reached for comment Thursday, Cohen asked TPM to provide him with a list of written questions. Cohen did not respond to those questions by press time.
Here’s an overview of Cohen’s web of business ties and other dealings:
Conduit for secretive Ukraine “peace plan”
When the New York Times first reported in February that Cohen hand-delivered to then-national security adviser Michael Flynn a proposal to end the conflict between Russia and Ukraine and lift U.S. sanctions against the former, Cohen confirmed the story.
“Who doesn’t want to help bring about peace?” Cohen said to the newspaper, justifying his delivery of a plan drawn up by Andrii Artemenko, an eccentric member of Ukraine’s parliament.
The effort was coordinated by Cohen, Artemenko and Felix Sater, a mafia-linked Trump associate who helped the Trump Organization identify opportunities in Russia in the mid-2000s and plead guilty to his involvement in a stock manipulation scheme.
Cohen dramatically changed the account of his role in the peace plan in three subsequent interviews. First he “emphatically” denied to the Washington Post discussing the plan or “delivering any documents,” saying he simply told Artemenko that he could mail his proposal to Flynn.
In a subsequent conversation with Business Insider he denied “even knowing what the plan is,” before finally telling NBC News that even if he indeed brought the proposal to the White House, there would be nothing “wrong with that.”
The story took a bizarre twist in early March, when Artemenko announced the death of Alex Oronov, Bryan Cohen’s father-in-law, via Facebook. His rambling post blamed media pressure following the New York Times report for the death of Oronov, who he said helped broker his meeting with Cohen.
“Yes, I’m guilty …. Alex Oronov, my partner, my friend, my mentor, Alex was a family member of Michael Cohen,” Artemenko wrote. “And he organized all kinds of stuff, including an introduction and a meeting for me with Michael Cohen.”
An ethanol business that’s all in the family
An art dealer-turned-agricultural sector magnate, Oronov teamed up with the brothers Cohen on several companies tied to the ethanol industry. The trio incorporated International Ethanol of Ukraine, Ltd. in Delaware 2006, and in 2007 followed up with Ukrethanol LLC, a company that exported farm equipment from the United States to Ukraine on behalf of Oronov’s agribusiness company, Grain Alliance.
The ethanol gig brought Cohen to Ukraine in the mid-2000s as Oronov and fellow investors looked for an ideal site for an ethanol processing plant, according to the Kyiv Post.
Evgeniy Radovenyuk, current CFO of Grain Alliance who was involved in planning for the plant, told the Ukrainian newspaper that Cohen “participated in discussions” but had “no financial involvement.”
Cohen recently told Yahoo News that he went to Ukraine twice in “either 2003 or 2004” because his “brother’s father-in-law lives in Kiev.”
“That’s the extent of it,” Cohen told Yahoo. “I’ve never been to Russia. I have no Russian Kremlin connections.”
Riding with taxi magnates
Cohen has a lucrative side venture in the taxi business, teaming up separately with two Ukrainian-born New York City cab kingpins known for their run-ins with the law. His first partner, Simon Garber, has a long rap sheet that included charges for filing a false police report, trespassing and driving while intoxicated, according to the New York Observer. Garber’s company, Yellow Cab SLSJET Management Corp., was once fined $1.6 million by the New York state attorney general for illegally charging drivers “late fees.” Then there’s Evgeny “Gene” Freidman, also known as “The Taxi King,” who’s been accused of sexual harassment and owed some $13 million in taxes from his cab business, per the New York Daily News.
It’s unclear exactly how Cohen entered the taxi business and first linked up with Garber. But he’s told the Wall Street Journal that Garber was a legal client of his and that they were partners in the taxi business until the early 2000s, at which point he said he sold Garber his stake in their company, relinquishing control of the operations and fleet. After that Garber continued to manage some of the more than 15 taxi medallion companies owned by Cohen, which had playful names like Smoochie Cab Corp and Lady Laura Hacking Corp.
The arrangement devolved into a legal dispute in 2012 when Garber filed a claim with the American Arbitration Association, accusing Cohen, who’d cited neglected insurance payments from a number of accidents involving SLSJET drivers in abruptly cutting ties with the company, of breaching his contract. Cohen, along with his wife, Laura, and his mother-in-law, Ania Shusterman, went to New York State Supreme Court to try to stay the proceedings, saying the original contract they agreed to with Garber contained no arbitration agreement.
In the claim, Garber charged that Cohen “unilaterally” drafted a second contract that contained arbitration language. He further alleged that Cohen went to his home while he was “travelling on business” and “manipulated” Garber’s wife into signing that second contract. A judge ultimately ruled against the Cohens, and the claim went into private arbitration. It’s unclear how the dispute was resolved.
Cohen had been pulling in more than $1 million per year from the medallions Garber managed, arbitration documents showed.
After that messy business breakup, Freidman assumed control of those 15 medallion companies on Cohen’s behalf. In a February phone conversation with TPM, a nervous-sounding Freidman confirmed that he’d been managing medallions for Cohen for more than 16 years, including some in Chicago. While emphasizing that he didn’t want to comment on such a “hot issue,” he heaped praise on his longtime friend, saying the two “talk daily sometimes.”
“I keep up a relationship with him,” Freidman said before rushing off the phone. “I help him out as much as I can. I also have a business relationship but we’re friends, you know. We have dinner with his wife.”
Casino boat venture gone bust
In 2003, Cohen teamed up with Ukrainian partners Leonid Tatarchuk and Arkady Vaygensberg to launch Atlantic Casino, a gambling boat company based in south Florida. Cohen was a shareholder and director of two companies that controlled the casino boat, MLA Cruises and Majesty Enterprises, according to state business records.
Cohen put up $1.5 million for his 30 percent stake in the casino boat, which ran successfully for months before suddenly going bust, leaving a long trail of unpaid vendors and marina fees in its wake.
The casino boat project was ultimately subject to at least 25 Florida lawsuits, according to a thorough investigation by BuzzFeed News, although Cohen himself was not listed as a defendant in any of those suits. Those owed money received much less than they were due, while some judgments against the company went unheeded entirely, according to the investigation.
Cohen told BuzzFeed that, as a “silent partner,” he was unaware of some of the lawsuits and lamented the $1.5 million loss on a botched investment.
It’s no accident your phone lights up nearly every night with new revelations about Team Trump’s connections to Russia. So many different investigators with so many different agendas are looking into so many different parts of that nexus, it would be almost impossible for word not to leak out.
But there’s an explanation for at least some of the leaks that’s a little more cunning than the rest—one that might bring some actual resolution. Four current and former law enforcement officials believe prosecutors have been treating Trump and his associates like a criminal network, and subjecting them to an array of time-tested law enforcement tricks.
One of those tricks involves floating names of potential targets of the investigation, to try and get potential co-conspirators to turn on one another. Another, called “tickling the wire,” entails strategically leaking information to try and provoke targets under surveillance into saying something dumb, or even incriminating.
“You want people to freak out, to say, ‘are they talking about me? Is this me? What do they know?’—and you want them to do this in a way that is captured,” one former FBI official said about the Russia investigation.
“Now we wait for the cover up.”
Trump and his associates are facing an array of potential legal troubles. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, former national security adviser and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, and Trump’s son-in-law and top aide Jared Kushner all failed to mention their meetings with Russian officials on their security clearance applications; such omissions are considered felony crimes. Flynn and former campaign chair Paul Manafort declared only after the fact their lobbying work advanced the interests of foreign governments, despite regulations requiring the immediate disclosure of such lobbying work. Federal and local investigators are examining Manafort’s real-estate transactions, and a grand jury is now looking into Flynn’s influence-for-hire business. Then there’s the specter of obstruction of justice charges over Trump’s firing of FBI director Jim Comey—the man who was leading the investigation into his Russia ties. (Robert Mueller, his predecessor at the FBI, has been named as a special counsel and is now helming the case, which has expanded to encompass Flynn and Manafort’s lobbying.)
Trump’s new lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, may say his client has been “totally vindicated” by the written testimony of Comey, who noted, in as narrow language as possible, that Trump wasn’t personally under investigation. That doesn’t make Kasowitz’s statement true.
“We are only at the beginning of this. There’s too much smoke for there to be no fire. Criminal acts and cover ups usually unfold just like this. This doesn’t mean there was collusion. It means crimes were committed somewhere along the way and now people are trying to find ways to distance themselves while keeping appearances like they are all friends,” a former FBI official said.
One technique for pulling those friends apart: Leak information on who may be a target of the investigation. “It’s a way to get other rats to run in and say, ‘me first, me first,’” said Charles Clayman, a veteran New York City criminal defense attorney who began his career as a local and federal prosecutor. “There’s always a race to the courthouse, because there’s no honor among thieves. The idea is to make other co-conspirators think the race has already begun.”
Stories that don’t name names—like a recent Washington Post piece noting that a senior Trump adviser was a subject of interest in the Russia probe—can be particularly helpful in provoking targets and getting tips, according to three current and former FBI sources.
“It is not a coincidence that those stories [about the subjects of interest] hit as Air Force One was wheels up on a very long flight to Riyadh,” said a former FBI official with knowledge of aspects of the current investigation.
“That’s of course about turning up the heat. You create friction between Trump’s people while they’re stuck in a confined space for 16-plus hours.”
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By the end of the trip, Kushner had not only been identified in other press reports as that White House subject of interest but the White House then all but confirmed that he had proposed a secret backchannel to the Kremlin—using the Russians’ own communication gear.
(The FBI and Justice Department didn’t respond to requests for comment for this story.)
The prosecutorial leaks can become doubly effective when the targets are undisciplined, and under surveillance.
That’s what happened in 1989, when federal prosecutors sent subpoenas to Gambino crime boss John Gotti and his associates to testify in an incoming trial. The feds were hoping Gotti would flip out—and he did, all-but-admitting to obstructing justice while agents listened in. “Nobody is taking the stand!” Gotti screamed, according to the book Mob Star by Gene Mustain and Jerry Capeci. “You go in there and break their fuckin’ heads. Don’t worry about us. Go in and fight!”
It was a classic example of tickling the wire—pushing out information to skittish targets, and then listening to what they say next. And in Gotti’s case, it worked. The so-called Teflon Don was arrested on charges of murder, bribery, loansharking, tax evasion, and obstruction of justice in late 1990, and sentenced to life in prison in 1992.
Former federal prosecutor Edward McDonald worked on public corruption and mob cases, including the famous Lufthansa heist case. He recalled another example of tickling the wire, from back in 1986, while building a public corruption case against Bronx Congressman Mario Biaggi and Brooklyn Democratic leader Meade Esposito. “You can’t conduct electronic surveillance forever,” he explained; ordinarily, a judge only authorizes such eavesdropping for a few weeks or months at a time. On the final day of the surveillance they had the FBI go into the congressman’s office and ask about his relationship with Esposito. Panicked phone calls followed, which were captured on the wiretaps.
Such methods have continued to be used in public corruption, organized crime, and insider trading cases, McDonald said.
But he added that it’s unlikely Trump is under similar pressure at this moment.
“If you’re tickling the wire you have to have a wire,” McDonald said. In a criminal investigation, at least, a judge would have to find probable cause that people in the Trump orbit were discussing criminal acts. “I don’t know if they are that stupid.”
FBI officials, current and former, disagreed. “Absolutely they’re dumb enough to talk,” said one current FBI employee about the men and women surrounding Trump.
Even if the targets are somewhere south of genius, tickling the wire can be a risky proposition, noted David C. Gomez, a former assistant special agent in charge of the FBI’s Seattle field office. Leak the wrong information, and the target now knows that he or she is under surveillance.
“You can jeopardize an investigation that way,” he said. And Mueller, who is now leading the Justice Department’s FBI probe, has a reputation for being careful—and tight-lipped. “I don’t think Mueller would want to be that provocative until all his i’s are dotted and his t’s are crossed.”
But Trump and his team have previously made multiple claims of being monitored (or “tapped,” as the president so famously tweeted). And of course, this is no ordinary criminal probe.
Over the past year, at least a half-dozen different organizations have deployed investigators to look into the potential nexus between Team Trump and Camp Putin. There’s the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, each with its own separate probe; the corporate intelligence shops, like the one that eventually compiled the infamous “Golden Showers” dossier; the cybersecurity firms who found much of the technical evidence linking the hacking of the DNC to Russian crews; the U.S. intelligence agencies, which have uncovered previously-undisclosed contacts between Trump confidants and Russian government officials; and finally, the multi-pronged, far-flung Justice Department investigation, now under Mueller’s direction.
Any one of these outfits—or any combination of them—could contribute to any single leak about the Trump-Russia axis.
Take another recent story in The Washington Post, chronicling how the Russian ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak called his superiors in Moscow about the highly unusual proposal—a call that eavesdroppers in U.S. intelligence apparently picked up. Did that mean someone in American intelligence compromised their surveillance program? Or was Kislyak talking about Kushner, knowing an American ear was listening in? In other words, Gomez wondered, “Was Kislyak doing his own version of tickle the wire?”
Gomez isn’t the only law enforcement professional who raised that possibility, but he was the only one willing to say so on the record.
The two former law-enforcement officials said “the deluge of leaks” about Trump and Russia since Comey’s firing is about trying to shake things loose, to pressure White House staffers still in Washington, D.C., to come forward and report criminal activity.
Those leaks, sources said, played to Trump’s ego, appetite for cable news, and tendency to veer toward paranoia.
“Who is under investigation… and who is cooperating and are their conversations being monitored? Those are the questions you’d want the president to be thinking about,” said one government official, declining repeatedly to offer answers to any of those questions.
Could this all change as Mueller takes full control of the investigation? Or if Christopher Wray, Trump’s pick to run the FBI, gets installed atop the bureau? Sure it could.
For now, however, the drip-drip-drip continues. One intelligence official and one law enforcement official, both currently serving, said that government officials have openly talked about using leaks to undermine the performance of the president, and to create infighting and a distracted senior staff. Given the president’s ham-fisted responses to the—like his near-admission that he leaked sensitive Israeli intelligence to top Russian officials—it’s a tactic that appears to have worked rather well.
As one former FBI official said, “Trump just went way too far.”
Before he became President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen worked on behalf of a company controlled by another wealthy and well-connected man: Viktor Topolov, a politician whose associates are members of the Russian and Ukrainian underworld.
The leader of Ukraine’s coal ministry and a personal friend of that country’s president, he had been a board member at a state-run bank, the top executive at a construction company and the president of a professional football club. But beyond his official titles, Topolov has also been investigated twice for money laundering and embezzlement, and the FBI has said his associates are “well known” members of the Russian mafia.
Back in 2006, he co-owned an ethanol company with his long-time business partner, Alex Oronov. The two men wanted to build a factory in Ukraine, so Oronov tapped his son-in-law, Bryan Cohen, along with his brother, Michael Cohen, to pitch the deal to American investors from Morgan Stanley. Both Cohen brothers today insist they knew nothing about Topolov when they tried to raise money for his company.
The Cohens gathered the bankers in a Kiev conference room in October of that year with other consultants, analysts and engineers. None of the Americans bit. The factory was eventually funded with the help of a multi-million-dollar loan, but no ethanol was ever produced.
Topolov was a powerful ally, with access to Ukrainian banks and politicians. He also ran a conglomerate, Kyiv-Donbas, that employed three executives the FBI described as members of a violent Russian organized crime network.
One was a mob enforcer who admitted taking part in at least 20 murders and was closely associated with Semion Mogilevich, a powerful boss in Russian organized crime. The other two were twin brothers who the FBI said are well-known in Russia’s criminal underworld, and who are believed to have ordered a hit on another gangster.
A Ukrainian court document shows that Topolov was questioned as part of a money laundering scheme, and a prosecutor said that he ignored subpoenas and lied about his role in a money laundering and fraud investigation in the late 1990s.
Asked recently about employees with documented ties to organized crime, Topolov said he had no connection to their activities. “That wasn’t the kind of life I led,” he told BuzzFeed News, speaking in Russian. “People who were part of that life can talk about that. My business was doing business.”
The normally loquacious Michael Cohen initially declined to answer detailed questions, aside from a curt text message: “You are wrong almost 100%.” When later told that business documents list him as a director of an American company tied to the deal, and multiple people recall seeing him at the investors meeting with Topolov in October 2006, Cohen insisted he played only a small role in raising money for the ethanol factory.
He said that meeting was the only time he was in Topolov’s company and didn’t know how Oronov, who died earlier this year, and his partner first met. “Neither Bryan nor I know, have a relationship with or invited Viktor Topolov to the meeting in Kiev,” Cohen said. “Your attempt to concoct a scenario between this individual and me is ludicrous.”
Asked if he should have known whom he was working on behalf of, Cohen did not answer directly: “Everybody sort of brought somebody to the table. How he got there, I don’t know.”
Cohen said he and his brother were in charge of attracting American investors. One of the financial firms that sent representatives was Morgan Stanley, which declined to comment on the matter. Cohen said the representatives expressed reservations about Ukraine’s political instability and declined to invest, and that once they walked away, so did he and his brother.
Topolov’s involvement in the ethanol deal, which has not been fully reported before, sheds further light on Michael Cohen’s connections to Russian and Ukrainian business interests.
In the past, BuzzFeed News has reported that Cohen ran a casino boat with help from a lawyer close to a Meyer Lansky associate and two Ukrainians whose associate was tied to the Russian mob. In a separate incident, court documents show that Cohen could not account for $350,000 that was deposited into a trust account he managed during an episode that swept in a mysterious Russian businessman, his young girlfriend, a Moscow-born taxi baron and a professional hockey player threatened by the mafia.
Last week, Cohen became part of the investigation into possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials. After Cohen initially declined to turn over documents, Congressional investigators issued a subpoena to him and others seeking records about their interactions with people connected to the Russian government. Cohen has said he will cooperate with the investigators’ subpoena. There is no indication that the ethanol plant is part of that investigation.
ABOVE THE LAW
By the time of his meeting with the Cohens, Topolov was one of the richest men in Ukraine.
Authorities say his wealth came in part from criminal activity. Detectives investigated him in 2001 for money laundering, following his time as the leader of the CSKA Kiev football club. Law officers say there was evidence Topolov transferred phony player contracts to shell companies, and directed CSKA Kiev to pay them. He was never charged, but the detective who worked the case — Oleksiy Donsky, who now holds a top position in the Ukrainian general prosecutor’s office — said officials developed information that Topolov had lied to investigators. They tried to question him further, but by then Topolov had been elected to parliament and “would throw a subpoena in the face of my investigator.” Donsky says Topolov appeared to have been tipped off before a raid of his apartment.
“Here, the MPs are above the law,” Donsky told BuzzFeed News, speaking Ukrainian. “If they don’t want to come to an interrogation, they don’t come. Therefore, we were not able to do it.”
Topolov left CSKA Kiev and was replaced in 1999 by a close associate, Andrii Artemenko, who spent two years in custody for his alleged role in the embezzlement scheme before his case was dismissed following political pressure by top lawmakers. Artemenko attracted international attention earlier this year, when it emerged that he had personally handed Cohen a controversial peace plan for Ukraine. As a result, the country’s top prosecutor opened a treason investigation into Artemenko in February.
Reached through his American lobbyist, Dale Armstrong, Artemenko did not comment.
In the late 1990s, Topolov was also in charge of a construction company, Kyiv-Donbas. At least three of the company’s employees have documented ties to the Russian mob, including a hulking hitman named Leonid Roytman, who served as vice president of the company, and whom the FBI has linked to the gang led by Mogilevich, a Russian who is one of the most wanted men in the world.
Roytman, now living in America, cuts a menacing figure, with a large, square head, dark eyes and few smiles. When he visited BuzzFeed News for an interview, he showed the Kyiv-Donbas business card he still carries, listing him as a vice president, but he said his real job was to protect board members from rival gangs.
“I was part of a criminal organization that backed Viktor Topolov,” Roytman said, speaking through a Russian translator.
“We were personal security,” he said. “We would meet with other criminal organizations, like in shootouts.” He added, “It was a semi-legal, semi-official business.”
Topolov said he was not a party to such activities. “I can tell you there were no instances where Leonid Roytman or any other persons … were involved in anything violent or shootouts that had anything to do with me,” Topolov said. “No matter who saw me, even if they fought and argued, I was never involved in any altercations with anyone.”
Twin brothers Slava and Alex Konstantinovsky, known as the “Brothers Karamazov,” were also employees of Kyiv-Donbas and are said by the FBI to be Russian mafia lieutenants suspected of organizing an attempted hit on one of the most notorious and feared members of the Russian criminal underworld.
One of the twin brothers, Slava Konstantinovsky, told BuzzFeed News that Kyiv-Donbas was a completely legitimate business and challenged the FBI to arrest him if they had evidence of his mob ties. He dismissed claims by Roytman.
“How could he make security for me? He can’t protect anyone,” Konstantinovsky said. “He can’t even protect himself.”
But in an interview in 2012 with Forbes Ukraine, Topolov acknowledged that he kept his business off the books to protect himself.
“As Rockefeller said, ‘I can report for every million I made, except for the first one,’” Topolov told the magazine. “We’re no Rockefellers and no mafiosos, either, but we can’t discuss it quite yet. It was the early 90s. I can openly say that the only people who had any power in our country at that point were criminals.”
THE END OF THE VENTURE
With no American investors to fund the ethanol plant, Topolov went to another source: Ukreximbank, the import-export bank on whose board he served. KoronAgro, the company that he and Oronov founded, borrowed tens of millions of dollars. The plan was to open the plant by 2008, produce 100,000 tons of ethanol per year and, if it was successful, build more plants across the country.
But the operation fell apart. The facility never opened and the company, KoronAgro, ultimately filed for bankruptcy protection. A Ukrainian court ordered Topolov’s company to repay $50 million to the bank.
The plant, or what is left of it, is still standing in Zolotonosha, a small, central Ukrainian town about two hours outside Kiev. Topolov said he still hopes to complete it one day. A fence surrounds the property, and two guards watch the facility. People in the town regularly loot the plant, stealing equipment and selling it on the black market, according to those who live nearby.
After a short stint in parliament, Topolov returned to the business world, where he now builds banks and sells them off to great profit.
Michael Cohen, meanwhile, went on to a lucrative career with the Trump Organization. He has become known as one of the president’s fiercest defenders. Following the election, Cohen became a national fundraiser for the Republican National Committee and has partnered with powerhouse law firm Squire Patton Boggs, working out of the company’s offices in Manhattan.
Bryan Cohen became a chief administrative officer at Douglas Elliman Real Estate in New York City.
As for the executives with differing accounts of how Topolov’s business operated, Slava Konstantinovsky — now a member of Ukraine’s parliament — insists that Topolov’s business was legitimate and that Roytman was a “liar” and an “idiot.” There may be a reason for the invective: Roytman served seven years in a US prison for trying to have two people killed. The intended victims were the Konstantinovsky brothers, his colleagues at the company led by Topolov.
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Federal prosecutors on Wednesday announced racketeering charges against more than two dozen reputed Russian mobsters and associates, including Razhden Shulaya, the alleged leader of a Soviet mafia syndicate who is accused of running gambling, stolen goods and protection rackets in several states across the country.
Shulaya was arrested in Las Vegas Wednesday morning, and appeared in federal court for a brief hearing later in the day. U.S. Magistrate Judge George Foley ordered his transfer to New York, where the case is being prosecuted.
“I understand what they accused me of, but I just don’t understand why,” the 40-year-old Shulaya, a Russian national, said through a translator after the judge asked him if he understood the charges contained in the seven-count indictment against him and other members of the New York City-based “Shulaya Enterprise.”
Authorities describe Shulaya as a “vor v zakone,” a Russian term for “thief-in-law” that refers to an elite order of Soviet criminals. The indictment provides an image of a powerful crime boss who collected “tribute payments” from loyal subordinates and violently retaliated against lower-ranking criminals who failed to pay up.
The Shulaya Enterprise’s alleged crimes were detailed in three indictments unsealed in New York City. Among the more shocking allegations is a charge that the group used a female member to seduce men, incapacitate them with gas and rob them. The indictments also included accusations of traditional mob crimes such as illegal gambling, cigarette trafficking, bribery, extortion and credit card fraud — along with more unusual charges, such as the theft of a cargo shipment of 10,000 pounds of chocolate. A related criminal complaint, in which Shulaya was not charged, focused on a murder-for-hire conspiracy.
‘Extremely violent history’
The reputed “vor,” who was taken into federal custody after his arrest, displayed little emotion during his afternoon court hearing Wednesday. He sat at the defense table, shrugging occasionally and sliding his feet in and out of sandals while the judge addressed him. Authorities say he used his substantial criminal underworld influence to run illegal operations in several states, including Nevada, Florida, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Burns described Shulaya as a “high-level member of Russia’s organized crime mafia” with an “extremely violent history.” Russian authorities, Burns said, had a notice out for his arrest on kidnap-for-ransom charges. Shulaya, however, is expected to remain in this country for the immediate future as the United States does not have an extradition treaty with Russia.
In a statement released Wednesday, acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim, who is overseeing prosecution, accused the Shulaya Enterprise of engaging in a “panoply of crimes around the country.” Kim said the case represented “one of the first federal racketeering charges ever brought against a Russian ‘vor.’”
‘Dizzying array’ of criminal schemes
The prosecutor accused Shulaya and his associates of a “dizzying array” of criminal schemes, which included an illegal poker business the group ran in Brooklyn. Shulaya and one of the other defendants also are accused of investing in an after-hours club in New York, and then bribing local law enforcement officers so they could use the business to sell drugs to customers.
The indictment provides few details about the extent of criminal activity in Las Vegas, but it suggests that it involved the use of counterfeit credit cards and identity theft.
Those indicted Wednesday also were accused of trying to defraud casinos in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. According to the indictment, federal investigators intercepted a telephone call between Shulaya and one of his co-defendants this year in which the two men discussed the operability of devices that could predict the behavior of electronic slot machines at casinos.
Authorities say Shulaya and others charged in the case sent portions of their mob profits back to mafia members and associates in Russia, Georgia and Ukraine.
The reputed gangsters’ efforts to avoid prosecution also were detailed in the indictment, which says members of the criminal enterprise spoke in coded language and used encrypted communication to thwart law enforcement. Meanwhile, federal investigators wiretapped phone conversations and gathered information from confidential informants, who negotiated the sale of stolen jewelry and other goods from members of the conspiracy.
“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,” New York Police Department Commissioner James P. O’Neill said in a statement released Wednesday.
Thirty-three defendants were charged in the indictments, 27 of whom are said to be associated with the racketeering enterprise led by Shulaya. Twenty-three of the defendants are in federal custody.
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Two killers of the gang might face life sentence.+
On several counts 40-year-old thief in law Razhden Shulaya also known as Razhden Pitersky, Roma and Brat, can be sentenced to 65 years in the United States, the US Department of Justice said. +
In addition, for the committed crimes the thief in law will face up a fine of not less than $1.250.000. +
Other members of the criminal group, who were charged yesterday by the Prosecutor’s Office of the Southern District of New York, are threatened with various terms of imprisonment – from 25 to life imprisonment. In particular, the members of the Razhden Pitersky gang Nikoloz Dzhikia and Bakai Marat-Uulu can be sentenced to life imprisonment for contract killings. +
Earlier it became known that in the state of New York, 33 representatives of the Russian mafia, led by thief in law Razhden Shulaya were charged. 27 of them were detained, five more are still on the wanted list. +
After the names of the detainees were published, it became clear that 15 of them were Georgian citizens, including two world-famous athletes – World Boxing Champion Avtandil Khurtsidze and MMA fighter Levan Makashvili, who competed in UFC championships. +
Khurtsidze commented on his arrest on Facebook, describing what happened as a “big misunderstanding.” He noted that he arrived in New York to prepare for a fight with Billy Joe Saunders, which, is to be held only on July 8, and in London. +
Depending on the role of each, members of the OCG are accused of various crimes – from smuggling cigarettes, storing drugs, racketeering, selling stolen goods and giving bribes, to with theft of large loads, organizing illegal gambling, storing and selling weapons, robberies, drug trafficking and contract killings. +
Razhden Shulaya, 40, is a Georgian thief in law, who was thief-crowned at the age of 36 at a Cyprus meeting in May 2013. Other criminals that got their crowns that day are Dato Krasnodarsky (later discrowned), Bondo Kazakhstansky, Goga Kutaissky, Ilo Kaliningradsky and Artem Saratovsky. Those who approved the “coronation” were Antik, Koka, Matevich, Givi Tbilissky, Merab Sukhumsky, Tsripa Kutaissky, Robinson, Takhi, Osetrina and some others. According to the investigation, the criminal syndicate is involved in the organization of illegal poker clubs in the New York area where immigrants from the post-Soviet states live and in a fraud on casino slot machines using electronic hacking devices in Atlantic City (New Jersey) and Philadelphia (Pennsylvania).
According to the US law enforcement agencies, thief in law Razhden Shulaya was the person that created the criminal enterprise accused of a number of crimes. Shulaya has been living in New Jersey lately, and the other mobsters resided mainly in New York’s Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens. +
The district attorney also mentioned the extensive ties Shulaya had in the underworld that contributed to establishing strong links with the criminals of post-Soviet countries like Georgia, Ukraine and Russia. +
Most of the gang members were born in the Soviet Union, traveled regularly to its former states and contacted individuals associated with criminal activity of the gang, the US Justice Department said. +
Thirty-three suspected members of an organized Russian crime syndicate were arrested with a variety of charges, including racketeering, fraud, narcotics, firearms, and stolen property offenses.
The information was released by the United States (US) Department of Justice on Thursday.
The Justice Department reports that 27 out of the detained are associated with a nationwide racketeering enterprise led by Razhden Shulaya and Zurab Dzhanashvili and are charged in United States v. Razhden Shulaya, et al. (the “Shulaya Indictment”) and an accompanying superseding indictment.
The US Attorney’s Office of Southern District of New York says that Charged Defendants Include Alleged “Vor” or “Thief-In-Law” of a Russian and Georgian Criminal Enterprise.
“We 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,” the statement reads.
The office says that the charges include:
According to the allegations in the Indictments and complaint unsealed in Manhattan federal court, Shulaya Enterprise was an organized criminal group operating under the direction and protection of RAZHDEN SHULAYA a/k/a “Brother,” a/k/a “Roma,” a “vor v zakone” or “vor,” which are Russian phrases translated roughly as “thief-in-law” or “thief.”
“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,” the statement reads.
By Thea Morrison
09 June 2017 11:59
US Police Arrests 33 including 15 Georgians for Various Crimes
Thirty-three suspected members of an organized Russian crime syndicate were arrested with a variety of charges, including racketeering, fraud, narcotics, firearms, and stolen property offenses. The information was released by the United States (US) …
russian organized crime in us – Google News
Russian mafia in US: Razhden Shulaya to face 65-year-imprisonment, 2 killers of gang to be sentenced for life
On several counts 40-year-old thief in law Razhden Shulaya also known as Razhden Pitersky, Roma and Brat, can be sentenced to 65 years in the United States, the US Department of Justice said. +. In addition, for the committed crimes the thief in law …and more »
russia as mafia state – Google News
Here’s the latest for Friday, June 9th: Conservatives lose majority in UK vote; Justice Dept. says Sessions recused self from Russia probe because he was in Trump campaign; Accused NSA Leaker denied bond; Pickup truck hits two DC police officers.
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James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, offered a back story to his abrupt dismissal.
NYT > Opinion
Answering that falls to the Justice Department special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. Mr. Comey said he had given all of his memos about his interactions with the president to Mr. Mueller, who he believed would look into the possibility of obstruction. It was the first public suggestion that prosecutors would investigate the president.
“That’s a conclusion I’m sure the special counsel will work towards, to try and understand what the intention was there and whether that’s an offense,” Mr. Comey said.
Firing Mr. Comey ignited an unexpected political fire for the president, and Mr. Comey acknowledged helping fan the flames. He said he had encouraged a friend to give The New York Times details from one of his memos, a move he hoped would lead to the appointment of a special counsel. It did.
Before firing Mr. Comey, Mr. Trump was dogged by the F.B.I. inquiry into his campaign’s ties to Russia. But he was never personally under investigation.
Now, he faces the prospect of an obstruction investigation, inquiries by emboldened congressional officials and questions from both parties about whether he tried inappropriately to end the F.B.I. inquiry into Michael T. Flynn, his former national security adviser.
Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Marc E. Kasowitz, flatly denied any obstruction. “The president never, in form or substance, directed or suggested that Mr. Comey stop investigating anyone,” he said.
But Mr. Kasowitz’s involvement was itself a reflection of how Mr. Comey’s firing had deepened the president’s political and legal difficulties. Mr. Trump hired him recently to help contain the fallout.
The Senate hearing did not help that effort. It was the most highly anticipated and crowded congressional event in recent memory.
Over a long career, Mr. Comey has excelled at telling his story while tiptoeing around Washington’s bureaucratic minefields. He has been so at ease before Congress that some staff members have jokingly called him “Senator Comey.” But this time, he offered more frank, emotional introspection than he had before.
He set that tone from the beginning, opening with a goodbye to his former employees, to whom he was unable to personally bid farewell. And he said Mr. Trump had lied — a word that is often soft-pedaled in Washington — when he justified the firing by saying Mr. Comey had lost the confidence of an F.B.I. in disarray. “Those were lies, plain and simple,” Mr. Comey said.
He said the president had defamed him, an apparent reference to Mr. Trump’s calling him a “nut job” in a private meeting with Russian diplomats.
And when Republicans asked why he had not told the president he was out of line for asking Mr. Comey to “see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Mr. Comey said perhaps he should have.
“I don’t want to sound like I’m Captain Courageous,” he replied. “I don’t know whether, even if I had the presence of mind, I would have said to the president, ‘Sir, that’s wrong.’”
But he said he had no doubt about Mr. Trump’s intentions. “I took it as a direction,” he said. If the president had his way, Mr. Comey said, “we would have dropped an open criminal investigation.”
Mr. Comey’s testimony forced Mr. Trump’s supporters into the uncomfortable position of drawing a distinction between suggesting that the F.B.I. close an investigation into a friend and outright ordering it.
“Knowing my father for 39 years when he ‘orders or tells’ you to do something there is no ambiguity, you will know exactly what he means,” the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. wrote on Twitter during the hearing.
Mr. Mueller, the special counsel, is investigating Mr. Flynn along with the broad question of whether the Trump campaign helped Russian operatives meddle in the presidential election.
Mr. Comey placed the origins of the special counsel investigation squarely on Mr. Trump’s Twitter account, a frequent source of conflict for the president. Two days after Mr. Comey was ousted, The Times reported that Mr. Trump had asked Mr. Comey to pledge loyalty to him. The president then tweeted that Mr. Comey had “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’” of their meetings.
That tweet inspired Mr. Comey to allow a friend to read portions of his memo to The Times. A day after The Times revealed the contents of that memo, which described the conversation about Mr. Flynn, the Justice Department appointed Mr. Mueller to take over the investigation.
The White House has not commented on whether recordings exist. But Mr. Comey repeatedly baited Mr. Trump to produce them if they did. “Lordy, I hope there are tapes,” he said at the hearing. “The president surely knows if there are tapes. If there are, my feelings aren’t hurt. Release the tapes.”
Mr. Trump has offered changing reasons for firing Mr. Comey. The White House originally cited Mr. Comey’s handling of last year’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, saying Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, had recommended he be dismissed. But Mr. Trump quickly undercut that argument, telling NBC News that he had been thinking about the Russia investigation when he fired Mr. Comey.
Asked why he was fired, Mr. Comey replied: “I take the president at his word — that I was fired because of the Russia investigation. Something about the way I was conducting it, the president felt, created pressure on him that he wanted to relieve.”
Mr. Comey questioned why Mr. Sessions had been involved in the discussions about his firing, given that Mr. Sessions had recused himself from the Russia case after his undisclosed contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States were revealed. “If, as the president said, I was fired because of the Russia investigation, why was the attorney general involved in that chain?” Mr. Comey asked. “I don’t know.”
The Justice Department said Thursday that Mr. Sessions had been involved because the firing was related to concerns about Mr. Comey’s leadership and had nothing to do with any inquiry.
Mr. Comey also described his disappointment when the president asked that they be left alone after a meeting in the Oval Office with national security officials. Mr. Sessions stayed behind at first, but then left. “My sense was the attorney general knew he shouldn’t be leaving, which is why he was lingering,” Mr. Comey said. He testified that he later told Mr. Sessions to never again leave him alone with Mr. Trump.
Mr. Kasowitz said Mr. Trump had never sought a loyalty pledge, as Mr. Comey told the Senate. And he portrayed Mr. Comey as part of a stealth campaign to undermine Mr. Trump. “It is overwhelmingly clear that there have been and continue to be those in government who are actively attempting to undermine this administration with selective and illegal leaks of classified information and privileged communications,” he said. “Mr. Comey has now admitted that he is one of these leakers.”
Mr. Comey’s memo was not classified, and the White House did not assert executive privilege over his conversations with Mr. Trump.
Though Mr. Comey told Mr. Trump three times that he was not under investigation, he said others at the F.B.I. had argued against offering that assurance. Because the F.B.I. was investigating possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia, one official argued, Mr. Trump’s activity would necessarily be scrutinized. Nevertheless, Mr. Comey said, “I thought it was fair to say what was literally true: There is not a counterintelligence investigation of Mr. Trump.”
But Mr. Comey said he had distrusted Mr. Trump from the first time they met, at Trump Tower before Inauguration Day. Mr. Comey ended the day in an F.B.I. vehicle, taking detailed notes about his conversations. “I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting,” he said, “and so I thought it really important to document.”
Then, in February, when Mr. Trump cleared the Oval Office to talk about Mr. Flynn, Mr. Comey described an ominous feeling. “My impression was, something big is about to happen,” he said. “I need to remember every single word that is spoken.”
Under probing questioning, with much less senatorial filibustering than is usual, Mr. Comey began answering the many questions that Congress and the special counsel will be grappling with for some time to come. He had to explain how he could be positive the president was giving him a direction (he conceded that was his interpretation). He had to justify why he didn’t tell the president the Flynn request was wrong (he was “stunned”). At one point, Mr. Comey even forgot the exact words the president said to him about Mr. Flynn.
All of this goes to his credibility in what is, at this point, a swearing contest between Mr. Comey and President Trump, who denies having the conversation at all. We believe Mr. Comey. But it will be the job of the special counsel, and of Congress, to decide if his candor, and self-criticism, not to mention his detailed recollections backed up by contemporaneous notes, are credible, and in doing so to look for corroborating, or rebutting, evidence. That will take time.
Perhaps the most important of the outstanding questions concern President Trump’s motives. Why did the president want the Flynn case dropped? Was it simply to do a favor for a friend? Or was it because that friend had information that would be damaging to the president — such as about his potential ties to Russia? What evidence is there of such ties, including in the statements of the president and his sons, or the president’s tax returns? The uglier the motive, the stronger the obstruction case.
Then there is the daunting question of the scope of the possible obstruction: whether the president simply wanted Mr. Flynn off the hook, or whether he sought to shut down the entire F.B.I. investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election and whether any Americans colluded with Russian agents. President Trump’s expressed desire to “lift the cloud” of the Russia investigation is more ambiguous than his directive as to Mr. Flynn, and Mr. Comey seemed to concede as much under questioning.
President Trump’s obstruction of the Russia investigation, including by firing Mr. Comey, of course merits investigation, but because Mr. Comey is less definitive on this point, it is still early innings here. The same applies to the question of who, if anyone, may have conspired with the president. Ominously for Jeff Sessions, Mr. Comey seemed to hint there were reasons he could not share information with the attorney general, though he could not say what they were in open session.
The final reason this will take time is because of the agonizing legal and political decisions that will need to be made after the evidence has been collected. Having worked with and against the F.B.I. special counsel , Robert Mueller, on previous cases, we know he will wrestle as thoughtfully as the special prosecutor Leon Jaworski did, when he had to decide whether he could indict Richard Nixon if the evidence justified it. Mr. Jaworski believed he could, and we agree, but many others differ.
The alternative, a congressional decision to impeach, if justified, would require many Republicans to turn on their own president. Recall that it took the Republicans years to sour on President Nixon. Today’s Republicans may follow suit, but it will not be quick.
It is easy to imagine the president asking, right about now: Will no one rid me of this troublesome investigation? The answer, Mr. President, is no.
And yet Mr. Trump, the beneficiary of Moscow’s meddling, has never appeared even slightly concerned by this Russian attack. He told Mr. Comey to stand down and fired him when he refused. “I was fired because of the Russia investigation,” Mr. Comey testified. “That is a very big deal.” As he decried Russia’s attempt to “dirty” American democratic institutions, Mr. Comey could as well have been talking about Mr. Trump’s behavior.
With restrained fury, Mr. Comey described President Trump’s remarks last month that the bureau was a mess and that the director had lost the trust of his agents as “lies, plain and simple.”
Confronted later with the sworn testimony of a dignified and affronted lawman, the White House press office, its own credibility in tatters, was left to feebly insist, “The president is not a liar.”
Mr. Comey is a wily bureaucratic infighter, a sometimes self-righteous official who wrote his notes with care so they would remain unclassified, and therefore eligible to be released to the public. He acknowledged that he engineered some of the notes’ release, which The Times reported last month, to spur the appointment of a special counsel in the Russia investigation. After firing Mr. Comey, Mr. Trump thought he’d cow him by tweeting about the possibility that their private conversations were taped. Mr. Comey bested him with a single sentence on Thursday, telling the panel he hoped there were tapes, as “corroboration” of the abuse of power he’d witnessed.
Republicans asked Mr. Comey why he didn’t say publicly that Mr. Trump wasn’t under investigation, which is just what Mr. Trump wanted. He replied that he didn’t want to reverse himself should Mr. Trump later come under investigation. Republicans asked why he didn’t try to educate a president so ignorant of the F.B.I.’s role that he risked incriminating himself. But Mr. Comey wasn’t suggesting Mr. Trump was foolhardy or inexperienced: He portrayed him as an unscrupulous leader whose request put the nation at risk. The Russia investigation, he said, is “an effort to protect our country from a new threat that quite honestly will not go away anytime soon.”
There is an aspect to public servants like Mr. Comey that Mr. Trump and his administration seem unable to comprehend, to their peril — a dedication to their roles that places service above any president’s glory.
When Mr. Trump demanded that Mr. Comey pledge his personal “loyalty,” he refused, offering only his “honesty.” When Loretta Lynch, President Barack Obama’s attorney general, asked him last year to call the criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server “a matter,” he reluctantly complied, but he was repelled by the “political” nature of the request, he said Thursday.
The F.B.I.’s mission, Mr. Comey declared, “is to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States.” Let’s hope that the principles he articulated, and those who hold them, guide this investigation in the days ahead.
Signed in as mikenova
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Photographers clicked with impunity, descending on every twitch: a wave of the hand, a cock of the head, a woman delivering glasses of ice water to Mr. Comey’s table before he arrived.
And the headliner summoned a theatrical swagger to match the moment, assuming a role with little precedent: a dispatched federal employee — hero, villain, Shakespearean character in the 2016 election and early Trump administration — staring into the cameras and talking to the president who had fired him.
“I’ve seen the tweet about tapes,” he said in one flourish, referring to a Twitter post in which President Trump suggested that he had recorded his interactions with Mr. Comey. “Lordy, I hope there are tapes.”
So much about the Trump era has scrambled Washington’s sense of itself, as promised. In the haze, it can be difficult to tease out which baffling elements arrived with this president and which were pre-existing conditions, already endemic to an industry town with a Trumpian self-obsession long before he moved in.
Inside the room on Thursday, these dual forces seemed to hurtle into each other, fusing in real time. Echoes of scandals past — Iran-contra, Anita Hill, Monica Lewinsky — wafted overhead, visiting the memories of Senate veterans.
But something was different. The zingers ricocheted instantly across the web. Reporters kept an eye on Twitter, awaiting a presidential response that did not arrive as Mr. Comey spoke. (Mr. Trump’s son Donald Jr. did weigh in.)
A modest walk away, the proceedings were aired above the bar at the Trump International Hotel.
At the Capitol, attendees took stock of the ubiquity, and wondered. A Trump supporter, Patrick Wells, 49, who had traveled from Massachusetts to support the president, marveled that the hearing had knocked “The Price Is Right” from its broadcast perch. “They usually only do that if it’s an assassination or a terrorist attack,” he said.
Mr. Wells eyed the slithering line for public admission warily before resigning himself to an overflow room.
Even the lawmakers seemed taken by the spectacle.
“West Virginia is very interested in this hearing that we’re having today,” the state’s Democratic senator, Joe Manchin III, said dryly at one point.
West Virginia had company.
Restaurants opened early for the main event, with Russian vodka specials on offer. Taxis swore off smooth jazz and Top 40 for audio feeds from the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Off camera, wandering senators, often loath to endure full hearings for even their own committees, slipped into the room to watch their colleagues work.
For much of the morning, boldfaced names dotted the crowd, at least by Capitol standards, spawning the sort of dialogue that might translate poorly in most corners of the country.
Who was that woman snapping all the cellphone photos? (It was Greta Van Susteren of MSNBC.)
Isn’t that the congressman who resigned in disgrace a few years ago? (Yes, it was former Representative David Wu, Democrat of Oregon, who had scored a seat inside.)
Get a look at Preet Bharara, the also-axed former United States attorney for Manhattan. (He sat a few feet behind Mr. Comey, live-tweeting in support of his comrade-in-job-loss.)
Mostly, though, attention rarely strayed from the witness chair, where Mr. Comey held his audience with an uncommon skill set for a veteran law enforcement official: a novelist’s instinct for narrative and, occasionally, levity.
He likened reporters to sea gulls on the beach. He used “fuzz” as a hard-to-track metaphor and quoted England’s Henry II.
He defended his credentials as a reader of people with: “I’ve had a lot of conversations with humans over the years.”
And he appeared inclined to win support among viewers, inside the building and out, with an implicit contrast in style to Mr. Trump, reaching often for notes of humility.
“Slightly cowardly,” he said of his own behavior in one interaction with Mr. Trump.
“I don’t want to make you sound like I’m Captain Courageous,” he mustered later.
When Senator Kamala Harris, Democrat of California, thanked him for coming, Mr. Comey reminded her that his employment status had opened up his calendar. “I’m between opportunities now,” he said.
Others on hand arrived without a formal invitation.
Joe Noser, 19, had camped out overnight at the Capitol to secure a prime spot in line. He invoked the Lewinsky affair from the late 1990s, the period of his birth.
“It’s not a sex scandal but it’s still important,” he said of Thursday’s events. “It will be the coolest thing to tell your grandkids down the road: ‘I was able to see the Comey hearing.’”
Nearby, Victoria Herring, 20, who also stayed at the Capitol on Wednesday night to reach the room before dawn, waited among the congressional pilgrims.
The line stretched down hallways and around corners. Most people would never even sniff the room. Perhaps, Ms. Herring suggested, Mr. Trump would appreciate the scene.
“He loves drama,” she said.
And he loves a show with big ratings, or used to.