Skip to comments.Feds to seek death penalty in case of body dumps near Yosemite (Russian organized crime)
Posted on 09/04/2006 12:31:01 PM PDT by NormsRevenge
The demands of the kidnappers were simple: Pay the ransom and the hostages would be freed.
But prosecutors said the crew of Russian immigrants killed their hostages anyway - even after collecting $1 million from some of the victims' relatives.
More than four years after the five bodies were found in a reservoir north of Yosemite National Park, opening statements are expected this week in the federal trial of two men accused of orchestrating the crimes.
It's a rare instance in which federal prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
"Regardless of whether the ransom money defendants demanded was paid or not, each of the defendants' victims met the same fate," prosecutors said in court documents. "Defendants brutally murdered each one of them."
Iouri Mikhel, 41, and Jurijus Kadamovas, 39, have pleaded not guilty to charges that include conspiracy and hostage-taking resulting in death. A third defendant, Petro Krylov, 33, is scheduled for trial in January after denying the allegations.
Three other coconspirators have pleaded guilty to similar charges. One is the girlfriend of Kadamovas, who will likely testify during the upcoming trial.
Authorities suspect the ring had links to Russian organized crime, but it appears prosecutors won't raise that issue during trial because no racketeering charges have been filed.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys declined to comment about the case.
The indictment, however, provides a detailed look at the kidnappings that occurred over a frenzied four-month period beginning in late 2001.
The documents allege the crew demanded a total of more than $5.5 million from relatives and associates of the victims, and eventually collected about $1.2 million that was used to buy expensive cars and make mortgage payments on luxury homes.
Mikhel used $2,500 to put a down payment on two Doberman pinschers to guard his house, the documents state.
At trial, prosecutors intend to present tape recordings of ransom calls; DNA belonging to two victims collected from handcuffs; and a pair of shoes that were matched to a bloody footprint found on a bridge near the reservoir.
The scheme began when Mikhel and Kadamovas targeted George Safiev, 37, a wealthy Russian banking mogul who had recently moved to Los Angeles to start Matador Media, a film production company, the documents state.
But after several failed abduction attempts and discussions about staging a car accident, the kidnappers turned their attention to real estate developer Meyer Muscatel, according to the documents.
Mikhel is accused of posing as a possible investor and luring Muscatel to what was billed as a business meeting in October 2001. Kidnappers killed him after they were unable to get money from his bank accounts, the documents state.
His body was weighted down and dumped over a bridge along the New Melones Reservoir. It was discovered a few days later, hands bound and a plastic bag over his head.
Prosecutors wrote that Safiev's accountant, Rita Peckler, was abducted and killed two months later when she was unable to lead the crew to Safiev.
The next victim was Alexander Umansky, who owned a car accessory business that once employed Krylov. Umansky was killed after his family paid more than $230,000 for his release, documents state, adding the crew sought even more money after his death, promising he would be returned alive.
Prosecutors wrote that Safiev was finally snared in early 2002 after his business partner, Nick Kharabadze, was abducted and forced to arrange a meeting with Safiev. Another business associate transferred $960,000 to a bank account that authorities said was controlled by the kidnappers.
Still, Safiev and Kharabadze were killed and dumped into the reservoir after being told they would be left alive at a motel, the documents state.
Authorities learned the location of the bodies after arresting a coconspirator who later pleaded guilty in connection with the case. Autopsies determined all the victims were either asphyxiated or strangled.
As authorities closed in, members of the crew flew to Aspen, Colo., a playground for the rich, and planned a trip to Florida to attend a yacht show to identify other possible victims, documents show.
Before his arrest, Kadamovas told one suspected accomplice that more bodies would be dumped in the reservoir and eventually "'stacked on top of each other,'" according to the court documents.
Just hang them.
A large majority of Russian Mafia are Chechen, not Russian.
Thanks, good point.
We'll see if more details are forthcoming in the trial altho prosecutors don't appear to be out to make that specific connection....
Jeeze. Don't let Greta find out about this. It will be on Fox non-stop for 10 years.
There's only one ethnic Russian name on the list of suspects.. Eastern European Mafia would be more accurate.
[Jeeze. Don't let Greta find out about this. It will be on Fox non-stop for 10 years.]
Actually, maybe it should be on Greta. Seems these types of crimes are on the rise.
Really? All the ones in Portland are Russian. They wear big gold crosses and speak Russian are are from Russian cities or Ukraine. I haven't met any Russian/Muz here.
From what I've heard, the Russians make the Italians look like the Frenchies!
Because there are no racketeering charges against the defendants, lawyers said it's unlikely that the trials will focus much on the structure of their organization or provide insight into how the purported Russian Mafia operates in California.
Nevertheless, in court papers asking that the jurors' identities be kept secret, prosecutors state the defendants committed the horrendous crimes at issue within the structure of a violent Russian criminal organization. The papers note Kadamovas told a victim in a recorded conversation that the kidnapping had been ordered by his bosses.
The charges also portray the kidnappers as having international connections. They ordered victims to transfer money to accounts in the Middle East and Eastern Europe. An alleged Siberian cohort, accused of laundering some of the ransom money, is considered a fugitive by the FBI.
Prosecutors also alleged Mikhel and Kadamovas were involved in the abductions and killings of Russian businessmen in Cypress and Turkey, but the judge has barred prosecutors from mentioning the allegations to jurors.
According to court papers, a former law enforcement official with knowledge of how Russian organized crime groups operate said it appears the defendants were part of a large, well-funded criminal enterprise.
These are not freelancers, I guarantee you that, said the former official, who requested anonymity for safety concerns. There is too much money involved, too much cost involved in traveling around the world.
Russian organized crime groups popped up on law enforcement's radar in the early 1990s, shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union. Russian immigrants settled largely in the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn, N.Y., as well as in Hollywood and sections of the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles.
The first generation of criminals is more comfortable perpetrating crimes within its own ethnic group, the former official said. What you see is Russians harming Russians, which is exactly what happened here. This particular crime was a very, very brutal one. One of the most brutal I've ever seen.
Sure sounds like they are RUSSIANS from the RUSSIAN MOB according to this. Of course the Italian Mafia was really Sicilian in large part, so I guess we have a history of failing to differentiate ethnic organized criminals to their atomic level ethnic self identification.
I said the majority are Chechens, but that does not mean some are not Russian. I suspect you would not know the difference between the two. Chechens do not look like Arabs.
BTW, Chechens speak PERFECT Russian.
They're using "Russian" as a catch all for any immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Yuri Mikhel' is Jewish, Jurijus Kadamovas is from the Baltics, and Petro Krylov is Ukranian - Petro being a Ukrainian first name, versus Petr for Russian. The "Russian" Mafia is about as accurate as calling a Canadian mafia group "American" - it's more like an MNE.
The Russian "Mob" is hardly in control even within their own territory. The largest and most power mafia groups within Russia are Chechen, Georgian, Armenian and Azeri. The Russians got a butt-kicking in the 90s via contract killings and arrests. Since most of their wealth comes from "goods" that transit through the Kavkaz and the various Stans, it's logical the southern ethnic groups would have the most influence. Chechens control the majority of organized prostitution in Moscow - the majority of prostitutes are Ukrainian village girls - known in Moscow and St. Petersburg as the "Ukrainian Army."
Ethnic Russian (and Jewish) mafia groups have evolved into more or less "legit" shady businessmen leaving the killing fields to the groups mentioned above.
Sure sounds like they are RUSSIANS from the RUSSIAN MOB according to this. ==
No they sound as jew(Mikhel), lithvinian(Kadamovas) and ukranian(Petro Krylov) from former Soviet Union.
For some reason people equate "russian" with "soviet"*, or russian speaking.
Kind of like MiG is a russian plane, its really not by your definition. :)
D00d, their all commie marxists, what's the diff if their Lithuanian or Georgian or Russian or whatever. Who teh cares?
Not teh I.