Zurab Dzhanashvili Managed Coast-to-Coast Network of Russian and Georgian Criminals that Ran Illicit Gambling Parlor, Stole Approximately Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars of Cargo, and Plotted to Rob Victims by Seducing and Drugging them with Chloroform
Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that ZURAB DZHANASHVILI, of Brooklyn, New York, pled guilty today before U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest to the charge of conspiring to commit racketeering offenses in furtherance of the illicit activities of the Shulaya Enterprise, a violent and prolific criminal organization dismantled in June 2017 upon the arrests of DZHANASHVILI, Razhden Shulaya, and over 25 other members and associates of the Enterprise.
As part of his guilty plea, DZHANASHVILI acknowledged his leadership role within the Shulaya Enterprise and his participation in numerous criminal acts undertaken in furtherance of the Enterprise, including: a plot to seduce, subdue, and extort individuals lured by a female co-conspirator acting at DZHANASHVILI’s direction; a scheme to operate a profitable underground gambling business that recovered debts through extortion and physical violence; a scheme to steal cargo from victim trucking companies, including the theft of approximately 10,000 pounds of chocolate peanut butter confections; and a nationwide scheme to defraud businesses and banks through the use of false identification documents and forged checks.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said: “Zurab Dzhanashvili today admitted to leading a criminal enterprise engaged in schemes that could easily be mistaken for a Hollywood thriller. Among other crimes, the enterprise engaged in bribery of local law enforcement, use of a female member to seduce, drug, and extort their victims, and theft of over 10,000 pounds of chocolate. This script ends with Dzhanashvili pleading guilty to his crimes and facing serious time in prison.”
According to the charging documents filed in the case, as well as statements made during the plea proceedings and earlier court appearances:
The Shulaya Enterprise was an organized criminal group operating under the direction and protection of Razhden Shulaya, a/k/a “Brother,” a/k/a “Roma,” a “vor v zakonei” or “vor,” which are Russian phrases translated roughly as “Thief-in-Law” or “Thief,” and which refer to an order of elite criminals from the former Soviet Union who receive tribute from other criminals, offer protection, and use their recognized status as vor to adjudicate disputes among lower-level criminals. As a vor, Shulaya had substantial influence in the criminal underworld and offered assistance to and protection of the members and associates of the Shulaya Enterprise. Those members and associates, and Shulaya himself, engaged in widespread criminal activities, including acts of violence, extortion, the operation of illegal gambling businesses, fraud on various casinos, identity theft, credit card frauds, and trafficking in large quantities of stolen goods.
The Shulaya Enterprise operated through groups of individuals, often with overlapping members or associates, dedicated to particular criminal tasks. While many of these crews were based in New York City, the Shulaya Enterprise had operations in various locations throughout the United States (including in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Nevada) and abroad. Most members and associates of the Shulaya Enterprise were born in the former Soviet Union and many maintained substantial ties to Georgia, Ukraine, and the Russian Federation, including regular travel to those countries, communication with associates in those countries, and the transfer of criminal proceeds to individuals in those countries.
The Shulaya Enterprise was led principally by Shulaya and DZHANASHVILI, the principal lieutenant within the Enterprise. The Enterprise’s nefarious activities included:
· The operation of illicit poker businesses in Brighton Beach;
· The extortion of gamblers who became indebted to the Shulaya Enterprise;
· Attempts to extort local business owners;
· Efforts to defraud casinos in Atlantic City and Philadelphia by using electronic devices and computer servers to predict and exploit the behavior of electronic slot machines;
· The theft of cargo shipments, including a shipment containing approximately hundreds of thousands of dollars of electronic equipment, lighting equipment, agricultural products, and approximately 10,000 pounds of chocolate confections;
· DZHANASHVILI’s use of a female member of the Shulaya Enterprise to seduce men, incapacitate them with chloroform, and then rob or blackmail them;
· Attempts to create an after-hours nightclub that would host, among other things, the sale of narcotics;
· The transportation and sale of numerous cases of untaxed cigarettes;
· Plans to pay bribes to local law enforcement;
· Assaults of debtors, offending underlings, rivals, and even innocent civilians whom Shulaya perceived as having insulted or undermined his authority; and
· Creation and use of forged identification documents, checks, and invoices.
DZHANASHVILI’s guilty plea does not fully resolve the case against the Shulaya Enterprise. Shulaya himself, along with key enforcer and former middleweight boxing titleholder Avtandil Khurtsidze, are scheduled for trial before Judge Forrest beginning June 4, 2018.
DZHANASHVILI faces a maximum term of 20 years in prison. The statutory maximum penalty is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge. DZHANASHVILI is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Forrest on November 30, 2018.
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Mr. Berman praised the outstanding work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, including the New York Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force and the Atlantic City, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Miami offices; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; and the New York City Police Department for their investigative efforts and ongoing support and assistance with the case.
The prosecution of this case is being overseen by the Office’s Violent and Organized Crime Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrew C. Adams, Andrew Thomas, and Andrew Chan are in charge of the case.