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.
Gotta link for that one? I've heard about it, but never saw it. Spasibo in advance.
Correct assumption and thanks for the link!
You're welcome. Looking through those videos you gotta feel bad for the conscripts. Those kids are barely 18 and most likely have minimal training.