Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Feds: New York Mafia and Russian mob joined to lure women as strippers
The Mafia teamed up with the Russian mob to lure Eastern European beauties to work as strippers in New York — and even arranged sham marriages for them, the feds say.
Twenty suspects, including seven reputed Gambino and Bonanno mobsters, were slated to appear in Manhattan Federal Court on Wednesday to face charges of extortion, visa fraud, marriage fraud and racketeering.
The schemers allegedly recruited women in Russia and neighboring countries through Facebook and newspaper ads to work at flesh palaces like Cheetah’s in Manhattan and Perfection in Queens.
Visa rules would have barred them from adult entertainment, though, so the suspects arranged bogus offers for summer waitressing jobs and then had the women apply for seasonal visas, prosecutors said.
“Some members of the organization, recruiters for the organization, would actually solicit women as they got off the plane at JFK airport with their visas in hand, ready to go off to work at summer camps or as nannies for a couple months," said Immigration aNnd Customs Enforcement Special Agent-in-Charge James Hayes.
In the most audacious part of the scheme, the mobsters sent female emissaries to upstate New York to find single men willing to marry strippers in exchange $5,000.
The sham nuptials gave some dancers legal status to stay in the U.S. and work in the clubs.
Although some of the women didn’t realize they would be giving lap dances for a living when they signed up for the visas, they were not forced to work in the clubs, officials said.
However, they did give the suspects money for housing, transportation to and from work, and an employment fee, authorities said.
“The defendants themselves had one thing in common: the desire to turn the women they allegedly helped enter this country illegally into their personal profit centers,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.
The indictment identifie seven of the suspects as made members or associates of the mob — including reputed Gambino captain Alphonse Trucchio and alleged Bonanno captain Anthony (Perry Como) Frascone.
Prosecutors say they controlled strip clubs in Manhattan, Queens and Long Island with iron fists, shaking down protection money from the club owners and overseeing disputes about how the women were parceled out to the clubs.