Defendant’s crimes included arson, extortion and illegal gambling in Brooklyn
Date: February 20, 2020
Aleksey Tsvetkov, a leader of a violent, Brooklyn-based Eastern European organized crime syndicate that operated primarily in the Sheepshead Bay, Brighton Beach and Coney Island neighborhoods, was sentenced today in federal court in Brooklyn to 198 months' imprisonment and ordered to pay $1,145,339.90 in restitution following his conviction for racketeering – including predicate acts of illegal gambling, extortion, arson and marijuana distribution – and wire fraud and pistol-whipping. Tsvetkov and co-defendant Leonid Gershman were convicted following a three-week jury trial in August 2018. Today's proceeding was held before United States District Judge Brian M. Cogan.
Jonathan D. Larsen, Special Agent-in-Charge, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, New York (IRS-CI), announced the sentence.
"Organized criminal organizations like the one led by Tsvetkov negatively impact the standard of living for the citizens living in those areas where they operate, causing harm and fear in their neighborhoods," stated IRS-CI Special Agent-in-Charge Larsen. "IRS Criminal Investigation and our law enforcement partners will continue to be relentless in our resolve to dismantle organized criminal groups and bring the criminals who run them to justice."
"Last summer, Aleksey Tsvetkov and his co-defendant Leonid Gershman were convicted for a litany of violent crimes and racketeering that reached from Brooklyn to abroad," stated DEA Special Agent-in-Charge Donovan. "This sentence exemplifies law enforcement's commitment to saving lives by arresting and prosecuting members of criminal organizations who place neighborhoods in peril through violence, drug trafficking and criminal threats."
"Today's sentence appropriately punishes Tsvetkov, whose crime syndicate inflicted violence on three Brooklyn communities, including an arson that destroyed an occupied building and endangered its residents and New York City firefighters," stated United States Attorney Donoghue. "This Office, together with our law enforcement partners, will continue to deploy all resources necessary to rid our neighborhoods of violent organized crime groups."
Between 2011 and May 2017, Tsvetkov and his co-conspirators, born in states of the former Soviet Union, including Russia, Ukraine and Moldova, operated as a racketeering syndicate. The syndicate members were linked to high-level members of Russian organized crime, known as "thieves in law," or "thieves," who authorized syndicate members to use violence in the United States and abroad to protect their criminal activities.
As established at trial, in 2016, Tsvetkov partnered in an illegal high-stakes poker game on Coney Island Avenue that generated substantial profits for the syndicate. In the spring of 2016, Tsvetkov and other syndicate members enlisted two co-conspirators to set fire to a mixed-use a building on Voorhies Avenue that housed a rival poker game on the ground floor. Two residents of the building, including a young boy, were trapped inside by the resulting fire, and had to be rescued by firefighters. Both residents and firefighters suffered smoke inhalation, and one firefighter's injuries required multiple surgeries. The families living in the building were displaced due to fire damage.
The syndicate also preyed upon extortion victims. For example, to find an extortion victim who owed the syndicate more than $40,000, a co-conspirator enlisted the help of "thieves" in Russia to track down the victim's father in Moscow. Subsequently, after locating the victim, a co-conspirator was recorded on a wiretap stating, the "Thieves have found him . . . in Israel," and "they were at [his] place today." The co-conspirators regularly reported to Tsvetkov as debt payments were collected from the victim.
In connection with a separate extortion, the government recovered Tsvetkov's cell phone and found a video of Tsvetkov beating the extortion victim into near unconsciousness. Tsvetkov kept the video as a souvenir.
In July 2012, Tsvetkov, Gershman and a co-conspirator beat a member of a rival criminal organization, known as the "Kafkaz Crew," whom they suspected of stealing marijuana and thousands of dollars from the syndicate's stash house on Ocean Avenue. Tsvetkov grabbed a handgun from the co-conspirator and jammed it in the victim's mouth, knocking out several of his teeth. On December 3, 2019, Gershman was sentenced to 198 months' imprisonment for racketeering.
This investigation was conducted by Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, DEA; New York City Police Department; New York State Police; Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Homeland Security Investigations; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; U.S. Secret Service; U.S. Marshals Service; New York National Guard; Clarkstown Police Department; U.S. Coast Guard; Port Washington Police Department; and New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.
The government's case is being handled by the Office's Organized Crime and Gangs Section. Assistant United States Attorneys Andrey Spektor and Sarah Evans are in charge of the prosecution.