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 and Russia 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:
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.
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.
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 instance, Israel 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, and Belarus - many of them brought over by organized prostitution rings. Moreover, violent felonies have doubled since the Russians started coming en masse in 1989.
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 pension entitlements.
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 in Russia - 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 VyacheslavIvankov, 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 GurfinkelKagalovsky 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 thatMogilevich 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 and Ukraine. 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 1998. The intensive 15-day training series provided participants with practical skills, networking opportunities and access to US and international resources. The conference was sponsored and organized by Vermont based Project Harmony, a not-for-profit educational exchange program and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). PMC Group, LLC - a police management 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 of the 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.
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. An 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 and $20,000.
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.
Nina Karpacheva, 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 States, Israel, 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 (R-NJ) said, "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 catastrophic.
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 New Jersey 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 officials.
During the course of 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 an investigative report filmed by JoeCollum, 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 York City.
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 for 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 trafficking.
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 assault victim.
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. labor laws.
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 activities.
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 place.
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 and Uzhgorod, Ukraine to train our police counterparts in contemporary law enforcement operations. Ironically, these cities are considered the major connecting points for all trafficked women from Russia and Ukraine.
It appears our work has 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 600,000 women were transported from Ukraine and 15 percent of these were children. The Ministry of Internal Affairs has initiated 469 new criminal cases against traffickers in 2004, completed 172 investigations, and charged 338 persons with trafficking crimes. There were 98 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 15 and 25 billion dollars annually from their crimes.
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 wereFrank'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. An 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. They have have developed a police training curriculum that assists law enforcement in the identification, investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases; and work closely with media and non-government agencies to keep this issue a priority item and provide public awareness to this global problem.
Please contact us for information on trafficking, public speaking requests, or to report suspected abuses
Walter, a retired Chief of Police, County Undersheriff, and decorated police detective is recognized as an authority on Russian Organized Crime and Human Trafficking. 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 led a team of American law enforcement professionals to instruct Eastern European police agencies in modern policing practices where he has taught criminal investigation techniques and how to investigate human trafficking. 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, and Fox News. Today, Walter Zalisko serves as President and CEO of Global Investigative Group, an international multidimensional investigative and security consulting services firm that provides a full range of services inherent to the threats and risks of the 21st century. His articles appear in magazines such as Law and Order, FBI Bulletin, Law Enforcement Technology, PI Magazine, Police Magazine, and Reader's Digest, and he has presented numerous lectures and public presentations.