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06 Thursday

Two Brooklyn men ripped off $5M from ATMs around globe, feds charge

The feds have linked two Brooklyn men to the theft of $5 million from ATMs worldwide, according to court documents.

One suspect, Ivan Biltse, 30, of Bensonhurst, was ordered held without bail yesterday in Brooklyn Federal Court for allegedly stealing $9,624 in 12 withdrawals from a Washington Mutual Bank ATM in Bay Ridge on Oct. 1.

He was captured early Wednesday after escaping the feds' clutches Tuesday night at the Golden Gate motel in Sheepshead Bay.

During the lucrative five-minute binge in Bay Ridge, Biltse was allegedly accompanied by his cousin, Yuriy Rakushchynets, 31, of Kensington, who was arrested last week on charges of skimming $750,000 from ATMs at 7-Eleven convenience stores throughout New York City.

Rakushchynets managed to hack into a Citibank server that processes ATM withdrawals at the stores, according to FBI agent Albert Murray.

The criminal complaint also connects Biltse and Rakushchynets to the theft of $5 million siphoned from ATMs by hacking into iWire Inc. payroll debit card accounts at First Bank in St. Louis.

Although the complaint does not specify the Ukrainian immigrants' alleged role in the global scheme, sources said they are suspected of being behind the multimillion-dollar ripoff.

Rakushchynets' wife told federal agents that she had seen her husband and Biltse leave the couple's home together "carrying large stacks of credit cards in rubber bands," according to the complaint.

When they returned, Rakushchynets stashed bundles of cash in the attic and bedroom closet, his wife said.

14 Tuesday

Rasputin rascals go on trial

The former owners of a glitzy Brooklyn supper club popular with Russian immigrants went on trial yesterday for threatening a patron who owed them a $50,000 gambling debt.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Warren told a Federal Court jury that Michael Mitselmakher, 40, and brother Alex, 33, who ran the Rasputin Club in Brighton Beach, planned an "escalating reign of terror in an effort to get the deadbeat customer to pay."

The customer owed the money after a booze-and marijuana-filled night last October playing an illegal high-stakes poker game of Texas Hold 'Em.


Scott Shifrel

24 Wednesday

NY minute

Poker loser threatened The former owners of a glitzy supper club in Brooklyn were charged yesterday with threatening a man who owed them $70,000 from a high-stakes poker game, authorities said. The victim had accused suspect Michael Mitselmakher, 40, of cheating during the two-day game of Texas Hold 'Em at Rasputin in Brighton Beach last year. When the victim refused to pay up, Mitselmakher and his brother Alex, 33, threatened to kill him, according to court papers. John Marzulli 6 nabbed in pot scheme They looked like ordinary row houses, but drug dealers had converted them into "grow houses." Six members of a marijuana trafficking ring, including a Brooklyn court officer, were arrested yesterday on charges they bought five houses in Brooklyn and used them exclusively for cultivating hydroponic pot. Criminal Court officer Brian Hagen was busted as he left one grow house on Shore Parkway in Sheepshead Bay. An informant had tipped off an NYPD cop to the large-scale operation. About 1,000 pounds of marijuana, $330,000 in cash and seven luxury vehicles were seized. Oren Yaniv and John Marzulli Mentors sought for kids More than 400 city foster kids are waiting for mentors, Administration for Children's Services officials said yesterday as they urged New Yorkers to step up and volunteer. "This is needed so much," former New York State First Lady Matilda Cuomo, who founded the group Mentoring USA, said as ACS kicked off its first Foster Care Mentoring Institute. For more information on mentoring foster children, go to the ACS Web site at Lisa L. Colangelo Veteran narc sentenced A former New York City narcotics cop who ripped off a drug courier for $169,000 was sentenced to 1 1/2 to 4 1/2 years in jail as part of a plea deal in Queens Supreme Court yesterday. Thomas Rachko, 48, of the Bronx, a 20-year veteran cop, and his partner, Detective Julio Vasquez, were caught on Nov. 26, 2003, robbing a courier wearing a black shoulder bag stuffed with cash as he was delivering the money to an undercover detective as part of a money-laundering sting in Jackson Heights. Rachko's sentence will be concurrent with the seven-year federal sentence he is already serving in the case. Vasquez also pleaded guilty. Scott Shifrel
05 Friday

Guilty plea in UN. Oil-for-food probe nets 1st arrest

THE OIL-FOR-FOOD CORRUPTION probe netted its first criminal charges yesterday as a midlevel United Nations official pleaded guilty to receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks. The arrest of Alexander Yakovlev and his lightning-fast guilty plea came hours after a report by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker accused Yakovlev of accepting $1 million in bribes. The Volcker report also accused the former head of the UN oil-for-food program, Benon Sevan, with receiving nearly $150,000 in kickbacks. Sevan, 67, resigned from the world body Sunday. More charges could come soon. Volcker said another report would be issued early next month dealing with allegations against businessman Kojo Annan, the son of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Yesterday, Yakovlev, a dapper Russian who lives in Yonkers and was a longtime senior UN procurement agent, admitted faxing secret documents to help three foreign companies win UN contracts from 1993 and 2005. The report said Yakovlev was still brazenly accepting bribes even as Volcker and several congressional committees were investigating his activities. "We decided that it's in the best interest of the client to enter such a plea," Yakovlev's lawyer, Arkady Bukh, said. "In term of sentencing we expect much better deal if we enter a guilty plea." Federal sources hinted a deal was in place where Yakovlev would turn state's evidence in return for a lighter sentence. "It could go higher, but no one knows for sure," said one federal law enforcement source. The indictment in Manhattan District Court says Yakovlev received payments via a dummy corporation, Moxyco Ltd., and conspired with others, "known and unknown." He was released on a $400,000 bond after pleading guilty to charges of wire fraud, conspiracy and money laundering. Among other things, Yakovlev and French businessman Yves Pintore allegedly solicited a bribe from Société Générale de Surveillance, a French firm seeking to win an oil-for-food inspection contract. The firm did not win the contract and the report did not say whether the company paid the bribe. But other companies apparently did pay, with Yakovlev allegedly receiving about $1 million in bribes, Volcker's report says. U.S. Attorney David Kelley asked Annan to waive diplomatic immunity yesterday for Yakovlev and Sevan, and the UN chief complied. "The UN can't make any arrests. . . . We don't have a police force," a UN official said. Volcker alleges Sevan received $147,184 in kickbacks from 1998 to 2003 at a time when his finances were precarious. Investigators linked the mysterious cash deposits to a small trading company, the African Middle East Petroleum Co. Ltd. AMEP is owned by relatives of former UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. "Once the oil stopped flowing for AMEP, the cash soon stopped flowing into the Sevans' accounts," the report says. In his letter of resignation Sunday, Sevan denied any wrongdoing and ripped Annan for bowing to political pressure. GRAPHIC. SADDAM-UN OIL SCAM UNRAVELS. 1. Oil for food was a $64 billion UN program that allowed Saddam Hussein to sell his embargoed oil only if the money was used to supply Iraqis with food and medicine. 2. Saddam skimmed billions by bribing key officials, letting them secretly buy Iraqi oil dirt-cheap and resell it at a profit. Program inspectors often looked the other way. 3. Former UN procurement officer Alexander Yakovlev, accused of taking $1 million in bribes, pleaded guilty to criminal charges. Officials hint at a deal to help investigators. 4. That's bad news for program chief Benon Sevan, who allegedly got more than $150,000 in kickbacks by funneling oil deals to a politically connected firm. 5. Other possible targets include UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's son Kojo, who helped a company win an inspection contract, and Kofi Annan himself, who may have known more than he has admitted.
16 Thursday

Russian con artist bilks Bush pal

A Russian con artist posing as presidential pal Charles J. Wyly Jr. ordered a new checkbook from the Texas billionaire's bank account and wrote a $7 million check for a pile of gold, U.S. authorities said Thursday.

Igor Klopov orchestrated the identify theft scheme from his home in Moscow, where he used his computer to mine Web sites for financial data about Wyly and other wealthy Americans, Manhattan prosecutors said. Klopov and four accomplices were charged with stealing $1.5 million and attempting to rip off another $10.7 million in a case prosecutors said demonstrates the risks of easy access to personal information on the Internet.

Klopov, snared in a sting operation in May, and the four other defendants, arrested Thursday in Michigan, Florida, Texas and Kentucky, were charged with grand larceny, money laundering and other crimes. If convicted, they each could face up to 25 years in prison.

Defense attorney Bukh Arkady said Klopov, 24, is "willing to cooperate with the government," adding, "His family in Russia is very concerned."

An attorney for Wyly did not immediately respond to a telephone message seeking comment.

Wyly, 73, and his brother, Sam, headed the world's largest arts and crafts chain, Michaels Stores Inc., before the Irving, Texas-based company was sold last year for $6 billion. The brothers also are known as stalwart Republican Party benefactors and close patrons of President Bush.

An indictment alleges that Klopov picked his victims from the Forbes 400 list, then tapped into online databases to collect information "about the value of property, size of outstanding mortgages and existing lines of credit," prosecutor James Kindler said at a news conference.

Klopov then hired his co-conspirators to help forge documents and raid bank accounts, an operation financed with stolen credit cards, prosecutors said.

In December 2005, prosecutors said, Klopov was able to order the sale of $1 million of stock held by a couple in California, then persuade the brokerage to wire the proceeds to his bank account by having an accomplice hand-deliver a forged authorization letter. In other cases, they said, the co-conspirators were turned away from banks after seeking to withdraw hundreds of thousands of dollars from victims' accounts using fake identifications and doctored documents.

The scheme began to unravel last November, when a Westchester County gold dealer contacted Wyly's bank about the $7 million check. Wyly denied writing it.

Undercover investigators posing as accomplices contacted Klopov and convinced him the transaction had gone through. Authorities "even arranged to have a picture of (an undercover) taken with the gold bars, which was e-mailed to Klopov as proof of purchase," Kindler said.

In May, Klopov agreed to come to the United States to retrieve the gold, prosecutors said.

The undercover officers met him in the Dominican Republic and flew with him by private jet to New York, where he was arrested.