Prosecutors in New York accused 27 men of being involved in a Russian organized crime syndicate in two criminal complaints filed in Manhattan on June 14. The men are accused of committing crimes in various parts of the United States on behalf of a 40-year-old New Jersey man who prosecutors say is a leading underworld figure. Most of the men, who range from 22 to 59 years of age, reside in Brooklyn according to reports.
Prosecutors allege that the men worked in small teams. Each of these teams, which are said to have been based in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Nevada, Florida and overseas, specialized in a specific form of crime according to the two complaints. The men are charged with a raft of felony counts including extortion, identity theft, trafficking stolen goods across state lines, credit card fraud and operating an illegal gambling operation.
Schemes the men are alleged to have been involved with include distributing 10,000 pounds of stolen chocolate, using women to seduce, incapacitate and rob rich men, hacking casino equipment, operating illegal poker games and smuggling cigarettes. The complaint suggests that law enforcement caught some of the men on audio tape in a New Jersey warehouse planning the launch of a murder-for-hire operation.
Prosecutors sometimes file criminal complaints of this type when their cases are strong but not strong enough to convince a jury beyond reasonable doubt. When large groups are charged, individual suspects can never be sure that their alleged accomplices are not entering into plea agreements. This uncertainty can be used by prosecutors to encourage cooperation and break through roadblocks in their cases, and experienced criminal defense attorneys in these situations may encourage their clients to listen to whatever plea offers are on the table before making any decisions.