Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Russian Criminals active in Buffalo, NY

Buffalo and Western New York are seeing an increase in organized Russian crime. The Buffalo News reports:

Robert Stein
Robert Stein

The arrest of Robert Stein in an auto accident fraud scheme signals a growing infiltration of Russian crime groups into the Buffalo Niagara region, the FBI says

"Whether it's actual organized crime members, or just individual Russians are involved in criminal activity, they're beginning to establish a toehold here," said Peter Ahearn, special agent in charge of the Buffalo FBI office...

Russian gangsters first appeared on the local radar screen in 1994, when a Russian was accused of trying to extort $150,000 from Alexander Mogilny, at the time a star winger on the Buffalo Sabres, FBI officials said. Mogilny said Serguei Fomitchev threatened to shoot him in the legs if he didn't pay the money. Fomitchev was deported after pleading guilty to a reduced charge.

"The Russian mob has tried to extort money from other pro hockey players, and it's something we're always watching for here in Buffalo," Ahearn said.

But Ahearn said a bigger moneymaker for Russian crime figures in America is the staged accident scam, which usually involves intentional low-speed car crashes, the faking of neck and back injuries, and medical clinics that process bogus insurance claims.

"We're seeing the first signs of it in the Buffalo area," Ahearn said.

Stein is not the only native of Russia under FBI scrutiny here. In May, agents charged in court papers that Maxim Levin, 26, of the Town of Tonawanda, sold cocaine and medical prescriptions. They charged him as well with operating an Amherst "medical mill" that cheated insurance companies by staging "questionable automobile accidents."

Levin, a prelaw student, also ran a company selling neck braces, knee braces and other equipment for people with injuries.

Levin and 21 other people, including several Russians living in the Buffalo area, were arrested on drug conspiracy charges last May. Levin also was accused of selling cocaine. A judge denied bail for Levin after learning that Levin told a cellmate that he planned to escape to Moscow and "finish off" a person who provided information about him.

Stein is represented by Buffalo attorney Paul J. Cambria.

Russian crime groups infiltrating western NY [AP, Dec. 1, 2004, scroll down]
Russian criminals active locally [, Nov. 22, 2004]

Largest No-Fault Insurance Fraud Scheme in New York State [NY State Insurance Dept]

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