US Charges 31 Members Of Russian Gang With 'Dizzying Array' Of Crimes

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More than two dozen members of a Russian organized criminal group have been charged with committing several offenses, including trafficking 10,000 pounds of stolen chocolate across the country, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced Wednesday.

The U.S. attorney's office in southern NY said the suspects operated internationally and across the United States trafficking in drugs and stolen goods, including cigarettes and shiploads of chocolate, while engaging in extortion, murder for hire and credit card fraud. The other seven members are reportedly still at large.

The crims also ran underground poker games in NY seaside suburb Brighton Beach, with a side-order of extortion for those that ran up gambling debts. Some of the charges carry a maximum penalty of decades in prison.

Numerous suspects are from Brooklyn, and range in age from 22 to 59.

Authorities say the group operated under the direction and protection of two men, named Razhden Shulaya and Zurab Dzhanashvili. Numerous group members were born in the former Soviet Union, but authorities believe they regularly visited and communicated with associates in Georgia, the Ukraine and the Russian Federation.

According to court papers, the New York City-based group conducted operations in New York, New Jersey, Nevada, Florida, and Pennsylvania.

'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"'.

Among a long list of crimes, the complaint says the enterprise tried to operate an illegal poker business in Brighton Beach, defraud casinos in Atlantic City, and steal shipments from cargo ships.

Shulaya was taken into custody in Las Vegas where he was expected to appear in court.