Fort Myers, FL 33906
Russian Organized Crime and Trafficking in Women
By Chief Walter Zalisko
RUSSIAN ORGANIZED CRIME -
THE FOUNDATION FOR TRAFFICKING
White slavery rings have thrived
on the exploitation of women and children from developing countries for
years. Young Asian women have been a commodity for decades. However, rising
unemployment, poverty and a weakened social structure have caused the Newly
Independent Countries - Ukraine
in particular - to become the latest targets for the recruitment of women and
children into sexual slavery and as indentured servants. Trafficking in women
and children is a form of modern day slavery. When a woman or child is
trafficked or sexually exploited, they are denied the most basic human
rights, and in the worst case, they are denied their right to life. Law enforcement
sources report a dramatic increase in this problem over the last two years in
the New Jersey and New York area. These women are recruited,
managed and transported by Russian Organized Crime (ROC) syndicates into the United States,
and other countries, and used primarily as sex slaves, go-go dancers, and
indentured household workers.
Why are Russian Organized Crime
syndicates involved in the trafficking of women and children? Because
prostitution and the trafficking in human beings has become a six-billion
dollar a year business of choice for Russian organized crime. Why that
business flourishes in the United
States deserves closer scrutiny.
The tri-state region of New York, New Jersey
and Pennsylvania has long been one of the
top areas in the United
States for the relocation of Russian
émigrés. Along with bringing hard working and upright
émigrés, this relocation brought the ROC syndicate and other
small time criminals to the area as well. In the former Soviet
Union, personal wealth, privilege, dachas, and diamonds rested
on control of goods and services illegally diverted from the State and
exchanged for other illegally diverted goods and services in vast and complex
patterns of bribery, corruption and blackmail. The ROC came here well
schooled in bureaucratic circumvention and with the ability to adapt
governmental services for private gain. Common criminal activities committed
by ROC include burglary, credit card forgery, theft, auto theft, insurance
and medical fraud, fuel tax fraud, arson, prostitution and narcotics
trafficking. The ROC syndicates conduct the most sophisticated criminal
operations ever seen in the United
States, based on their access to expertise
in computer technology, encryption techniques and money-laundering facilities
that process hundreds of millions of dollars. It obtains money and power
through criminal conduct, and then infiltrates our legitimate society. Police
find that ROC members tend to be highly educated, and therefore, are very
resourceful and sophisticated in their methods of operation.
It is reported that organized
crime syndicates from Russia,
Asia and Africa are forming alliances with
traditional Italian and Latin American organizations, creating a formidable threat
to international peace and stability. A great number of ROC gang members are
former KGB agents or operatives who are skillfully trained in assassination
techniques. To make use of this "talent", other crime syndicates
now hire ROC gang members to conduct their contract killings. While ROC
continues to grow in Russia,
their operations outside Russia
could be categorized into three main classes:
1. Hard penetration. In some countries, such as Poland, Austria,
Israel, United States and Canada, it has moved in with a
clear goal of establishing itself as a dominant criminal force. In these
cases, it has joined forces with local organized crime.
2. Soft penetration. Here they have adopted a more
delicate technique. Mostly, because of the threat posed by local law
enforcement agencies, or because there is some reason or opportunity to mount
a major push.
3. Service penetration. Here they provide key criminal
services to other gangs, whether money-laundering or assassination.
Organized crime is not just a
serious problem for the United
States, but for every country. Since the
fall of communism, Russia
now plays an important role in organized crime all over the world. For
is currently one of the top locations for ROC and Russian
émigré relocation. Israeli police are worried about serious
crime among such immigrants, who now represent about 1 in every 4 residents
in the city of Netanya.
It is reported by Israeli police that 90 percent of the prostitutes in Israel are here from Russia, Ukraine,
- many of them brought over by organized prostitution rings. Moreover,
violent felonies have doubled since the Russians started coming en masse in
In Russia, a country already
suffering from political and economic disaster, it is reported that an
estimated 80 percent of the private enterprises and commercial banks are
forced to pay a tribute of 10 to 25 percent of their profits to organized
crime. They use the banks to launder money and avoid paying taxes desperately
needed by the government to pay salaries and debts. All too often we hear of
government and military personnel in Russia not being paid for months.
To further cripple the economy, these crime groups dominate economic sectors,
such as petroleum distribution, pharmaceuticals and consumer products
distribution. According to Interior Minister Anatoly Kulikov,
ROC controls 40% of Russia's
gross national product. As long as money is not being paid into the
government, money will not be paid out to workers in the form of salary and
Prior to the mid-1980's,
few law enforcement agencies had taken notice of the growing problem of
Russian crime. As Russian crime increased, law enforcement agencies across
the nation realized they had a problem and needed to address it. Law
enforcement agencies throughout the United States are now taking the
activities of ROC seriously. ROC is spreading rapidly to states like California, Colorado, Illinois, and Florida.
One of the reasons for this rapid spread is because ROC in the New York / New
Jersey area is forced to pay a "tax" to
the La Cosa Nostra (LCN) crime syndicate on the
profits they make on illegal activities, such as the fuel tax scams. It is
believed that in other states the LCN is not exacting a "tribute or
tax" on such scams.
There are over 12,000 crime groups
- triple what it was in 1992 - with no sign of slowing down. These groups are
getting stronger and stronger and using Russia as the base for their
global activities. Currently, there are about 30 ROC syndicates operating in
the United States.
Many of these ROC groups in the United States
continue to have strong ties to organized crime groups in Russia and Ukraine. Each one has its leader,
and they often fight amongst each other to gain control over the lucrative
business. While there was no formal "godfather", there was an
individual who was sent from Russia
"to control all Russian organized crime in the United States and Canada." He was Vyacheslav Ivankov, who served
a 9-year federal prison sentence in New
York for extorting $3.5 million from two Russian
businessmen. Although not part of his extortion plot, it was reported that he
wired $400,000 to a Denver bank for the purchase of a house and a new
Mercedes Benz for his ex-wife and
sons. Ivankov was eventually assassinated by fellow
Mafia members in Moscow
on July 28, 2009.
To further illustrate the
magnitude of the ROC problem, just recently, billions of dollars have been
channeled through the Bank of New York in the last year. This is believed to
be the largest money laundering operation ever uncovered in the United States.
As a result of a federal investigation the bank suspended two Russian
employees, Natasha Gurfinkel Kagalovsky
and Lucy Edwards, whose names had surfaced in the investigation. Both of
these employees are senior officers in the Banks European division and are
both married to Russian businessmen. One of these individuals is believed to
have controlled one of the accounts. As one government official stated, " We have a penetration of a major U.S. organization by Russian organized crime,
and we are concerned about the possibility the organized crime syndicates
from Russia and other
countries could infiltrate financial markets and institutions in Europe and United States."
These bank accounts have been linked to a major ROC figure identified as Semyon Yukovich Mogilevich. He is involved in a wide range of criminal
activities from arms trafficking and extortion to prostitution. British law
enforcement authorities report in one classified report that Mogilevich is "one of the world's top criminals, who
has a personal wealth of $100 million." He is part of a new trend of
Russian mobsters masquerading as crack capitalists. There is no doubt that he
controls much of the Russian economy, government and police.
The law enforcement community
around the world, in its fight against organized crime, is hampered in its efforts
by the corruption of police in Russia
ROC has for decades been successful in controlling and being able to corrupt
police officers and government officials. But then again, an officer who
earns an average of $135 a month in a newly independent country will find the
temptation hard to resist. During one of my visits to Ukraine to train police officers,
I noticed that the commander of the local police Organized Crime Bureau had a
large quantity of U.S. one hundred dollar bills in his possession. I
estimated it to be approximately $5,000. When I asked how he got the money,
all he said was, " Do you think that on our
salary you can support a family?" The currency exchange rate in Ukraine
was 4:1 at that time. So, he had approximately twenty thousand Ukrainian
dollars. The source of his pocket money remains a mystery.
TRAFFICKING - THE PROBLEM
The fastest growing international
trafficking business is the trade in women, whereby women seeking a better
life, a good marriage, or a lucrative job abroad, unexpectedly find
themselves in situations of forced prostitution, sweatshop labor,
exploitative domestic servitude, or battering and extreme cruelty.
The trafficking in women and
children is recognized as a serious world-wide problem as evidenced by the
first United States and
Ukraine Trafficking in Women Conference
held in New Jersey
in July 1997. The intensive 15-day training series provided participants with
practical skills, networking opportunities and access to US and international
resources. The conference was sponsored by United States Agency for
International Development (USAID). PMCI Group, LLC - a police management and
investigative consulting firm - founder Walter
Zalisko and co-founder Patricia Kotyk-Zalisko, Esq.
coordinated and instructed at the conference. Patricia, a former New Jersey
State Deputy Attorney General and
Assistant County Prosecutor/Director, an expert in her field, discussed
topical areas such as Sexual Abuse, Child Abuse, Domestic Violence, Need for
Legislative Reform, Women's Rights and Violence Against Women. She served as
a member on the New Jersey Governor's Task Force on Child Abuse and Neglect.
The event brought together a
delegation of twenty Ukrainians comprised of leading government officials,
including representatives from police, justice, social services, the medical
profession, and American law enforcement and public officials. The group also
met with government officials in Washington,
DC. The goal was to discuss new
approaches and techniques in anti-trafficking work. This was the first ever
trafficking conference that highlighted the problem in the United States
and it ultimately set the gears in motion for future anti-trafficking
Trafficking, according to U.S.
Senate Resolution 82 on Trafficking, involves one or more forms of
kidnapping, false imprisonment, rape, battering, forced labor, or
slavery-like practices which violate fundamental human rights". The
Resolution, which was introduced in 1998, states: "Trafficking consists
of all acts involved in the recruitment or transportation of persons within
or across borders, involving deception, coercion or force, abuse of
authority, debt bondage or fraud, for the purpose of placing persons in
situations of abuse or exploitation such as forced prostitution, battering
and extreme cruelty, sweatshop labor or exploitative domestic
servitude." The United Nations has estimated that 4 million people, both
men and women, are trafficked annually.
Women in Ukraine and Russia face major unemployment,
in light of the fact that they are more highly educated and ready to work.
Roughly 80 percent of the total number of unemployed
citizens are women. Naturally, this situation forces women to look
abroad for employment, and therefore allows criminals to exploit them.
The road of a Russian, Ukrainian,
or Belarussian woman into the sex industry is
fairly typical. It begins with an ad in the newspaper, or an
unexpected meeting on the street with a proposition to work abroad as maid,
secretary, showgirl, nanny or waitress. A add that appears in a Ukrainian
newspaper usually reads, " Seek pretty woman,
under age 40, slender, educated, to work in modern office setting;
$600/month; documents and transportation provided." The women are
frequently lured with promises of high paying jobs and marriage. Although the concept of trafficking is rather straightforward,
the methods employed by traffickers are varied and reflect ingenuity in
attempting to thwart detection by law enforcement.
The women are often provided with
fraudulent visas and passports and taken to another country. Upon their
arrival they are informed that the job no longer exists, but they are still
indebted to the agent for the trip, which usually costs them between $5,000
Since many countries have imposed
stricter border controls and entry requirements the possibilities for legal
migration have decreased. Therefore, many women eager to escape poverty or
political and social insecurity, and who are not aware of the dangers of
illegal migration, find it worth paying this hefty fee to try their luck,
only find themselves exploited by traffickers.
Because of the government's stricter entry controls or requirements the
traffickers exploit the potential for profit in illegal migration. They can
supply the victims with services such as fraudulent travel documents,
transportation, guided border crossings, accommodation and job brokering.
deputy head of the Ukrainian Parliament's Commission on Human Rights, states
that up to 85% of Ukrainian women involved in prostitution abroad are forced
into this business against their will. She said that thousands of Ukrainian
women have been turned into "white slaves" in many countries, in
particularly Greece, Turkey, United
Germany and Netherlands.
Trafficking in women and children
is a phenomenon that is growing and constantly changing either in form or in
its level of complexity. More often than not, these women are forced into
prostitution. Many of these women are beaten or murdered if they refuse to
cooperate. The full scale of the problem remains unknown, because few women
are able or prepared to report what has happened to them to the police.
Trafficking in women continues to be a considerably under-reported offense
throughout Europe and the United
States. One reason for that may be the
lack of experience in dealing with this issue. It should be noted that not
all women are trafficked for sexual exploitation. Many are traded for
marriage, as domestic help and construction workers.
Even in today's society, many
countries have weak, unenforced laws or no laws against trafficking in human
beings. Individuals can be sold and resold many times and forced to prostitute
themselves and work under slavery-like conditions. Penalties for trafficking
and selling humans are often relatively minor compared with those for other
criminal activities. That is why trafficking in people is often more
profitable and less risky to criminals than trafficking in drugs and guns.
Addressing the lack of legislation
in his country, President Leonid Kuchma of Ukraine
signed a law on April 13, 1998 establishing criminal responsibility for trade
in human beings and for forcing women into prostitution. The law provides for
prison terms up to 15 years for those guilty of sexually exploiting women.
However, with corruption running rampant within government, examining how
traffickers are apprehended and prosecuted merits attention.
On June 28, 1999 the Commission on
Security and Cooperation in Europe examined
this escalating human rights problem. Commission Chairman Rep. Chris Smith
"When a woman or child is trafficked or sexually exploited by force,
fraud or coercion for commercial gain, she is denied the most basic human
rights - namely, her rights to liberty and security of person, her right not
to be held in slavery or servitude, and her right to be free from cruel or
inhumane treatment." Because sex trafficking is now a recognized
criminal problem in the United States a bill was recently introduced which is
the United State's first step towards dealing directly with the victims of traffickers
as well as providing government-level support.
Although law enforcement agencies
throughout the United States have been investigating these criminal acts over
the last few years, one of the difficulties they encounter in investigating
and prosecuting these type of cases is that informant development and
investigation of crimes within any immigrant community is extremely
difficult. Having lived in a society ruled by an oppressive government,
Russian and Ukrainian émigrés tend to be inherently distrustful
of government and are more generally reluctant than most other
émigré groups to speak with or seek assistance from law
enforcement. The voluntary cooperation from these émigré
communities is frequently minimal. Another problem that is often encountered
is when law enforcement officials have made an arrest and have the
cooperation of a victim, the case will usually takes 6 months, if not longer,
to go to trial. By this time, the victim has either been deported or cannot
be located. Therefore, the traffickers go free.
The physical abuses of the
trafficked victims range from threats and beatings to drugging, starvation
and murder. The ones who survive are often left crippled and emotionally
scarred for life. One victim who refused to have sex with potential customers
was taken into a country field, and while other women were forced to watch,
had her throat cut. The message was clear and strong to the other women. The
devastating psychological effects on trafficked women, even if eventually
released, are immeasurable. Suicides are not uncommon, sexually transmitted
diseases are being spread at a faster rate, and the death toll due to
HIV/AIDS is rising dramatically. In Ukraine alone, there has been a
440% increase in reported cases of HIV/AIDS in the last two years. In a
country where modern medical care is virtually unknown, this death problem is
The New York Times reported
that the "selling of naive and desperate young women into sexual bondage
has become one of the fastest-growing criminal enterprises in the robust
global economy." In a November 1997 address in Lviv, Ukraine,
First Lady Hillary Clinton denounced trafficking in women as a fundamental
"violation of human rights...nothing less than modern slavery."
Mrs. Clinton added that, "the U.S. Government has now identified ROC and
this problem as a priority issue." But isn't that what the Ukrainian
community has been telling them for years?
An example of this global problem
is the recent arrest of "Peter G., a German citizen, on 36 charges of
trafficking in human beings, promoting prostitution and bribery. He had at
least 30 Slavic women working for him in brothels he owned, and police
suspect he was responsible for trafficking up to 600 women and young girls
under false pretenses. One of Peter G.'s victims
was a 15-year old girl, who answered an ad for a baby-sitter in
America", and stated that two men confiscated her passport, raped and
beat her, and forced her to have sex with as many as twenty clients a day.
Another example is the case of a
young woman in Monmouth County (NJ) who was hired as a homemaker. The young
woman was not allowed to leave the house, telephone family in Ukraine,
or go shopping unescorted. She was sexually assaulted by the homeowner when
his wife was not home, and threatened if she were to expose these assaults.
She was told that the police would not believe her,
and that if she did happen to contact the police they would imprison her and
subsequently deport her.
Not all trafficked women wind up
as go-go dancers or prostitutes. Many find themselves in jobs we might
believe are perfectly legitimate. The job itself may be legitimate, but the
conditions under which the women work are not. In most cases the woman's
passport is taken away, she is not permitted contact with the outside world,
wages are typically below minimum wage, no medical benefits are provided, and
most often she is required to work at least 18 hours a day. The very same
people whom they have come to trust often victimize them in the home. This form
of enslavement is no less insidious than one in which the woman is forced
into sexual slavery and all her personal freedoms and choices are denied.
We have recently identified many
young Russian and Ukrainian women working at resort amusement parks along the
shore. Many are brought here on work visas, while others are trafficked.
Their working at these amusements parks is considered seasonal employment.
When the summer vacation season ends many of these women will be forced to
continue working as go-go girls or prostitutes for the ROC in New York and Philadelphia. I have
found some of these women to be as young as fourteen.
Some women may even end up as
victims of exploitation through officially legal routes. For example, under U.S.
law, foreign diplomats and employees of international agencies, such as the
United Nations, are permitted to bring in domestic workers under special A-3
and G-5 visa categories. There are several thousand women workers imported
each year under these programs. They are supposed to be paid minimum wage and
be protected by U.S.
labor laws. But because there is very little or non-existent oversight of
these laws, many of these women are forced to work long
hours for little or no pay. On occasion, women would be used for
"entertainment" purposes with visiting dignitaries or other
In our investigations, we have
located a number of go-go bars, massage parlors and escort services that
"employ" Russian, Ukrainian and Belarussian
women. We also found that New Jersey
has the most go-go bars and "juice bars" than any other state. Many
of these bars actually engage in promoting prostitution on premises. It is
not uncommon for go-go bar owners to offer the services of a girl, or two, to
politicians or city officials in exchange for future considerations. It is
estimated that there are over thirty five hundred women working in the sex
slave trade or as indentured servants in the metropolitan area. Having
interviewed as many as 300 women, almost three quarters claim they came here
to work other jobs, but were forced to become go-go dancers and prostitutes.
Many left entire families back home, including small children. Many were even
told by their husbands to go "make money" in America.
Asked how they were able to get visas,
half indicated that they were here on student visas, and the other half claim
they used false identifications obtained by organized crime. Most of these
women stated they were attending college in New York City and studying the English
language. This response sounded as though it was scripted for them, because
they all had the same answer, regardless of what bar we went to.
The problem of trafficking has
attracted the attention of the media as demonstrated by a
investigative report filmed by Joe
Collum of UPN Channel 9 News, in Secaucus, NJ.
While we filmed in various go-go bars in Newark, NJ,
we happened to come upon one in the Ironbound section that was hosting a
go-go rama, with as many as 75 girls dancing in the
small club. Nearly three quarters of these women were from either Russia or Ukraine. I started talking with
one young girl named Irina, who said she was 18 years old. She told me that
she came to New York City two weeks ago on a
trip arranged by an agent in Ukraine.
She was promised a job in the art business, but 2 days after her arrival the
agent's New York
representative told her that she had to dance at a club. She told me she was
scared and wanted to go back home. Not to reveal our investigative purpose I
advised her to seek assistance from either the Embassy or Consulate in New
On August 5, 1999 we followed up
on one of our investigations of a go-go bar in Newark, New Jersey.
There were eighteen Slavic women dancing there that night. I spoke with one
of the regular dancers who introduced me to a young woman named Tania. Tania
informed me that she was from Lviv, Ukraine, was a University professor and had
been in the United States
for six months. She worked as a twenty-four hour housekeeper for a family in Tennessee. She indicated
they paid her $150.00 a month and worked under cruel conditions. She
ultimately escaped that family in Tennessee.
However, with no place to go a "friend" promised her
a job in New York City
working for another family. When she arrived in New York City the only job waiting for her
was dancing in a go-go bar.
The trafficking in women and
children is a problem of corruption, organized crime and law enforcement.
Because trafficking in women brings huge profits but carries little risk for
those who organize it, the rewards are great. This encourages criminal groups
to expand their business. Their sophistication has posed grave challenges to
legislative and law enforcement authorities, and their violent nature has
rendered their victims extremely vulnerable.
Trafficking in women and children
is a global human rights issue that requires a comprehensive response from
government and non-government organizations around the world. These
organizations have to work on a parallel level to develop anti-trafficking
programs. As one of the leading law enforcement consulting groups, our goal
is to assist law enforcement, victims, and organizations in fighting
In order for our efforts to be
successful law enforcement officers should become familiar with this type of
victimization, and investigate suspected abuses. If they are unsure of what
steps to follow, they should contact the nearest Immigration and
Naturalization Service Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or a
state investigative body dealing in Organized Crime. If an arrest is made of
a suspected prostitute, they should interview her to determine if she is a
victim of trafficking. In cases where there are sexual encounters, these
women should be treated as rape victims. Any forced intercourse, whether by
using physical or mental threats, is a criminal act. Consequently,
the victim should be transported to a hospital and treated as a sexual
We find problems with current U.S.
policy in dealing with trafficked women and children. The U.S. and other governments have
failed to document instances of trafficking to ensure victims' safety, and
instead have summarily deported them without investigation into the abusive
situations. Although, there have been modest steps taken to combat
trafficking, more needs to be done to protect the victims, prosecute the
traffickers, and enforce U.S.
Any U.S. policy should emphasize the
following components: increase public awareness; increase economic
opportunities for women at risk; emphasize national civil rights laws and
international human rights treaties in anti-trafficking enforcement
If arrested or detained these
women should be interviewed by local authorities and given viable
alternatives to deportation in exchange for evidence against the traffickers.
At present they are often just fed back into the system by being returned to
their country of origin. What needs to be done is to remove the women from
the sphere of influence of the crime group, which will ultimately create a
severe financial loss to the group, and continue to do so until you make
trafficking unprofitable and increase the risk of prosecution.
What types of programs are needed
to combat trafficking? We need programs from non-government organizations (NGO's) and governmental organizations around the world.
Not just the target countries. The role of NGO's
and government in combating trafficking is diverse and should include
programs that: educate the public about the risks of trafficking, use media
and public outreach campaigns to lobby for legislative reform to ensure human
rights, provide psychological, medical and legal assistance to female victims
of violence, teach law enforcement how to deal with and recognize the
problem, and work to improve the economic and social status of women living
in transitional economies. Another effective response to trafficking would be
to provide a victim with a stay of deportation for at least the period during
which the investigation and subsequent trial against the trafficker takes
These trafficked victims, when
caught in an INS or police raid, are held in INS detention centers or local
jails. What police and prosecutors should remember is that they are victims
and not criminals. Mixing them with accused and convicted criminals is highly
inappropriate and only causes them to be further subjected to physical
mistreatment and inadequate conditions of confinement. Rather than being
jailed they should be placed in a temporary shelter, similar to the ones we
use for victims of domestic violence.
Government's role should be to
implement effective anti-trafficking laws, dedicate law enforcement resources
to combat trafficking and organized crime, and prosecute traffickers and individuals
who abuse and or detain women and children. It remains apparent that the
investigation of Russian Organized Crime and Trafficking in Women be a
critical component of a law enforcement strategy. Any law enforcement
response must include civil sanctions, which allows prosecutors to seize and
forfeit illegal proceeds generated or assets used by an enterprise in their
criminal activity, and criminal punishment.
As the lead representative, I,
along with ten other law enforcement specialists from the United States traveled to the cities of Budapest, Hungary
train our police counterparts in contemporary law enforcement operations.
Ironically, these cities are considered the major connecting points for all
trafficked women from Russia
It appears our work has finally
attracted the interest of the United
States government and other agencies in
recognizing this human rights issue. On June 21-22, 2000 in a concerted
effort to provide more effective cooperation and information sharing among
law enforcement officials the United States Department of State and Ukraine
hosted an international conference. Attendees from twelve countries and
various European organizations participated in the conference. Representative
came from countries where many of the victims are forced to work, such as Israel, Germany,
Turkey, Italy, Greece
and the United States.
The goal of the conference was to further develop international programs
initiated by the United Nations and the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe. One of the major
issues discussed was the development of proper witness protection programs
for those who have escaped. They also discussed one of the most important and
easiest ways to combat trafficking, and that is to educate women on how to
avoid falling into the traps of Russian Organized Crime. That includes
providing widespread information and educational campaigns, and providing
social and economic initiatives to support women in poverty.
Despite a standard of living that
is slowly improving in Ukraine, human trafficking remains among the
nation’s top crimes, following arms and narcotics trade. In 2005, 510
victims of human trafficking and labor exploitation were returned to Ukraine.
Recent studies indicate an increase in internal trafficking for all forms of
exploitation and a growing problem involving trafficking in minors. Recently,
traffickers were captured illegally transporting girls between the ages of 12
and 16 to Moscow,
where they were sold for $1,000 each to pimps. Authorities arrested five of
the traffickers, each of whom had clearly defined roles, such as: searching
for and recruiting victims, organizing the transportation and falsifying
documents. Two of the arrested traffickers were police officers.
Ukrainian authorities indicate
that since 1991 more than 500,000 women were transported from Ukraine
and 5 percent of these were children. The Ministry of Internal Affairs has
initiated 269 new criminal cases against traffickers in 2004, completed 72
investigations, and charged 138 persons with trafficking crimes. There were
68 trafficking prosecutions resulting in 76 convictions. The main reason that
human trafficking continues to flourish in Ukraine and Russian is the
financial incentive. Ukrainian traffickers earned between 10 and 15 billion
dollars annually from their crimes.
In 2003 New Jersey law enforcement officials
reported the arrest of three Russians called enslavers of women. It was
reported that for the past four years, a human trafficking ring based in
Brooklyn, New York, has been smuggling young Russian women into the United
States under the guise of performing with dance, music and theater groups,
then forcing them to work as strip club dancers and prostitutes in New
Jersey. Among the locations where the women were forced to perform were Frank's Chicken House in Manville, Delilah's Den
in Perth Amboy and in Dover Township.
The three suspects - Lev Trakhtenberg, his wife Victorya I'Lina and Sergey Malchikov - could face up to 20 years if convicted on
charges of trafficking in forced labor, conspiracy and extortion.
In an effort to combat organized
crime activities in New Jersey,
the New Jersey Commission of Investigation conducted hearings on organized
crime. During these hearings, testimony was presented on various organized
crime groups and their activities in the New Jersey and the metropolitan area. New
Jersey State Police Lieutenant Keith Holton and Chief Zalisko presented
evidence on Russian organized crime. As a result, the Commission issued a
comprehensive report on strategies to fight organized crime.
Recently, a fugitive charged with
forcing eastern European women to become exotic dancers was set to travel
from New York to Michigan to face charges. Prosecutors said
Vaniamin Gonikman agreed
to the transfer on February 4 during a brief court appearance in New York. A 2005
indictment accuses Mr. Gonikman, 55, a U.S. citizen, of using a Detroit business called Beauty Search Inc.
as a front to lure woman into servitude. He is charged with trafficking in
persons, forced labor, smuggling aliens, money laundering, extortion,
conspiracy and other offenses. Federal authorities say he used threats to
force the women to turn over more than $1 million in earnings. He faces up to
20 years in prison if convicted.
Global Investigative Group
continues to investigate and work on initiatives to assist victims of
trafficking. Global Investigative Group has developed a police training
curriculum that assists law enforcement in the identification, investigation
and prosecution of trafficking cases. We work closely with media and
non-government agencies to keep this issue a priority item and provide public
awareness to this global problem.
Walter, a decorated retired Chief of
Police and County Undersheriff, is recognized as an authority on Russian
Organized Crime. He has investigated Russian Crime Syndicates domestically
and internationally. As the lead representative for a US Department of State sponsored overseas
police training mission, he lead a team of law enforcement professionals to
instruct Eastern European police agencies in modern policing practices. He presented evidence to the Congress of the United States on Russian
Organized Crime and the Trafficking of Women. He appears on investigative television
programs such as: MSNBC, Dateline, CNN, Fox News, and UPN Investigative
Reports. His articles appear in magazines such as Law and Order, Law
Enforcement Technology, Police Magazine, FBI Bulletin, PI Magazine, and
Reader's Digest, and he has presented numerous lectures and public
information on trafficking, public speaking requests, or to report suspected
abuses, please contact us at: