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08 Thursday

UN: Ex-Diplomat Guilty In Bribe Case

Vladimir Kuznetsov, a former Russian diplomat who once headed the United Nations budget oversight committee, was convicted by a federal jury in Manhattan of having conspired with a United Nations purchasing officer to obtain $300,000 in illicit payments from foreign companies seeking contracts. He was found guilty of setting up an offshore company and opening up a bank account in Antigua to launder money received from the officer, Alexander Yakovlev, who has admitted receiving nearly $1 million in bribes from United Nations contractors. He testified against Mr. Kuznetsov. WARREN HOGE
13 Thursday

Killings Are Linked to Russian Mob

Two young men were killed in Brooklyn in 1992. The cases were never solved. There, the obvious similarities end.

Boris Roitman, 21, thought to be an informant for the police, was found beside a tennis court in Gravesend, shot in the neck and chest. Thien Diep, 24, a high-stakes pool player who had his own cue, was robbed, his body incinerated in a vacant lot in Canarsie. Fourteen years passed.

Now prosecutors say both killings were tied to Eastern European organized crime. In State Supreme Court in Brooklyn yesterday, they unsealed murder charges against two men described as ambitious young immigrants intent on impressing Boris Nayfeld, the legendary Brighton Beach heroin smuggler.

The men, Vitaly Ivanitsky, 32, and Marat Krivoi, 36, pleaded not guilty.

"Witnesses are willing to come forward where, 1992, no one was coming forward," said Christopher Blank, an executive assistant district attorney. "We have a combination of cooperating witnesses and civilian witnesses."

In the decade or so since the decline of the Italian crime syndicate La Cosa Nostra, prosecutors have confronted criminal enterprises established by immigrants from former Soviet bloc nations. Last month, for example, in federal court in Brooklyn, prosecutors charged two Russian organized crime figures with plotting to kill Ukrainian businessmen, twins known as the Brothers Karamazov.

One of the men charged in that plot, Monya Elson, is a longstanding rival of Mr. Nayfeld's from the early days of Russian organized crime in New York. He was once charged in connection with an unexploded bomb found under Mr. Nayfeld's car. In recent years, both Mr. Elson and Mr. Nayfeld started cooperating with investigators to avoid prosecution.

Russian organized crime began with the bootleg gasoline business and has since expanded to a range of criminal business lines, law enforcement officials say. A 1995 report by the Tri-State Joint Soviet-Émigré Organized Crime Project, a consortium of law enforcement agencies in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, documented involvement in "confidence schemes, financial crimes including money laundering, counterfeiting and securities fraud, narcotics trafficking and an assortment of vice crimes."

The report also documented more than 70 murders.

For Mr. Ivanitsky and Mr. Krivoi, Mr. Blank said in an interview outside the courtroom yesterday, violent crime provided a way to rise in the ranks. At the time of the killings, court records show, Mr. Krivoi was married to Mr. Nayfeld's daughter, Alyssa, and he led a small faction of young men working loosely for his father-in-law.

"They were trying to garner the attention of the higher-ups," Mr. Blank said. "Marat told them they had to get noticed; crimes of violence and murder will get you noticed."

In August 1992, Mr. Krivoi was free on bail awaiting trial in a shooting in a parking lot on Long Island. Prosecutors said he ordered the killing of Mr. Roitman, a member of his crew, because he suspected him of being a police informant. The prosecutors said Mr. Ivanitsky was present, but court documents mention an "unnamed accomplice" who shot Mr. Roitman.

A month later, the prosecutors said, Mr. Ivanitsky and Mr. Krivoi abducted Mr. Diep from the Playboy pool hall on Coney Island Avenue near Avenue N. At gunpoint, they took his money and his pool cue and drove him in his car to a vacant lot, the prosecutors said. Medical examiners later determined that he had been shot and his body had been burned inside the car. Firefighters did not notice the body in the car, and it was found three days later by children on bicycles.

Mr. Krivoi was convicted of the shooting on Long Island and is serving a prison sentence. Mr. Ivanitsky, a Ukrainian immigrant, now operates used-car businesses.

Mr. Ivanitsky was arrested in February on Ocean Avenue, according to F.B.I. and police records filed in court. Accused of being in the car when Mr. Diep was shot, investigators wrote, Mr. Ivanitsky "nodded his head in agreement, but would not answer verbally."

After the hearing yesterday, both men were ordered held. A lawyer for Mr. Ivanitsky, Barry Gene Rhodes, said his client was not a criminal.

"Didn't it sound like if he was a participant at all, he was a witness?" Mr. Rhodes said. "He may be guilty of bad taste with his friends."

08 Thursday

Fatal Crash;Driver Likely to Be Charged

A 25-year-old man who the police said was drunk lost control of his speeding car on the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn early yesterday and crashed, resulting in the deaths of two passengers, including a 20-year-old woman he had begun dating.

The driver, Aleksandr Yudovin, who was recovering from his injuries at Kings County Hospital Center yesterday, faces charges including manslaughter, reckless endangerment and driving while intoxicated, the police said.

The woman, Svetlana Kaushanskaya, and another passenger, a man in his 20's whom the police did not identify, were killed, the police said. Another passenger, a woman in her 20's, was in critical condition at Kings County Hospital, according to the police.

Mr. Yudovin had been driving a black Nissan east on the Belt Parkway at more than 100 miles an hour when he lost control of the car, sending it hurtling into the parkway's westbound lanes, investigators said.

Ms. Kaushanskaya had been in the front passenger seat, the police said. Emergency workers who reached the car just after 5 a.m. needed extraction tools to remove the victims from the mangled wreckage.

Mr. Yudovin and his passengers had been summer friends, spending time at one another's homes, including at Mr. Yudovin's house on Nostrand Avenue in Sheepshead Bay, and at a house nearby on Batchelder Street where Ms. Kaushanskaya lived with her family, according to her sister, Inna Kaushanskaya, 18.

On Tuesday night, Inna said, her sister, who had trained as a medical assistant, stopped by their home to get money from their father for gas. At 1:30 a.m., she sent Inna a text message, asking her sister to wake her for an afternoon doctor's appointment.

In the morning, after she had heard that her sister had been killed, Inna visited Mr. Yudovin in the hospital, she said. "He was asking: 'How's your sister? How's your sister?' " she said. "I asked, 'Did you guys have anything to drink?' He said, 'A little bit.' "

Investigators said that Mr. Yudovin had submitted to field tests, including blood analysis, which showed that he was intoxicated at the time of the accident.

16 Wednesday

Arms Network Is Broken Up

Law enforcement authorities have broken up a network of international arms smugglers who sold black-market assault rifles in the United States and were plotting to import military weapons - including anti-aircraft missiles and antitank guns - from Eastern Europe, federal and New York City officials announced yesterday.

The arms dealers sold the weapons to a confidential informer working with the F.B.I. who told them he was buying the arms for Al Qaeda, said David N. Kelley, the United States attorney in Manhattan, at a news conference. Mr. Kelley said the dealers were not associated with any terrorist organization but were selling the weapons to make money.

The officials charged that the arms ring was led by Artur Solomonyan, an Armenian, and Christiaan Dewet Spies, a South African, who have been living illegally in New York. In cellphone conversations secretly recorded by the F.B.I., the men said they intended to buy the more sophisticated weapons primarily from the Russian military but also from sellers linked to the armed forces in Ukraine and Georgia, Mr. Kelley said.

Although no terrorists were directly involved, the officials said the case represented a sobering warning that there were dealers in the illegal international arms market capable of importing battlefield weapons to the United States and ready to sell them to terrorists.

"These defendants may not have been terrorists themselves, but they've shown a transparent willingness to do anything with anybody so long as it generates income for their organization," said Andrew Arena, a special agent in charge of the Criminal Division of the F.B.I. in New York.

Mr. Kelley unsealed a federal criminal complaint for weapons trafficking yesterday against 18 people he said participated in the arms network. The two accused ringleaders and 15 other defendants were arrested by the F.B.I. and the local police Monday night and yesterday morning in roundups in New York City, Los Angeles and Miami, the officials said. The remaining defendant, identified as Armand Abramian, 27, was being sought in California.

Mr. Solomonyan, 26, protested that he was not guilty as he was escorted yesterday into Federal District Court in Manhattan. "I was trapped in this thing," he said. "I don't know what's going on." Also named in the complaint was his brother, Levon, 24.

The arrests came after a yearlong investigation in which the confidential informer secretly recorded hours of conversations with the defendants, and the F.B.I. taped more than 15,000 calls on seven telephones, officials said. During the year, they said, the arms ring sold the informer eight illegal weapons, mostly military assault rifles, including two AK-47's and an Israeli-made Uzi. The dealers delivered three of the guns in New York City, three in Los Angeles and two in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in transactions that were monitored by the F.B.I.

In recent weeks, the defendants made a $2.2 million deal to sell the informer more powerful, mainly Russian-made weapons, Mr. Kelley said. They gave the informer photographs of the weapons, which they said they were holding somewhere in Eastern Europe and were ready to import by ship to the United States.

The photos, which officials displayed yesterday, included images of two SA-7b Strella surface-to-air heat-seeking anti-aircraft missiles and a Russian AT-4 Spigot antitank guided missile and launcher.

Early in their discussions, Artur Solomonyan told the informer he could obtain enriched uranium that could be "used in the subway," Mr. Kelley said. But he said the subject was "never followed up," and there was no evidence that the arms ring ever trafficked in nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction. "It never happened," Mr. Kelley said.

Mr. Spies, 33, told the informer that he had ties to the Russian mafia, the complaint says. But none of the defendants are Russian; they include people from Georgia, Italy and France, as well as several Americans. Mr. Kelley said that officials suspected they were buying arms from "rogue folks within Eastern European military circles" but that it was still not clear whether they were members of the military or black marketeers.

According to the complaint, the F.B.I. informer began meeting a year ago with Mr. Spies, whom he had known for several years, and Mr. Solomonyan. The informer, who does not speak Russian, had provided information to American authorities in a separate case three years ago, the officials said.

The first meeting between the informer and the two accused of leading the weapons ring took place in the sauna and then the hot tub at a day spa in Brooklyn, the complaint says.

Mr. Solomonyan told the informer that his contacts were former officials of the K.G.B., the Soviet intelligence service, the complaint says; he said he hoped to acquire weapons from military operations in Chechnya, where Russian forces have been fighting a separatist insurgency.

In one secretly recorded cellular phone conversation, Mr. Solomonyan said he had never made an arms deal before and worried that the informer, who he thought was an arms broker, would think he was too young, according to the complaint.

The arrests began Monday night, when Mr. Solomonyan and Mr. Spies went to a meeting with the informer in Manhattan, where they had been told he would give them false immigration green cards so they could leave the United States to pick up the promised weapons. Instead, they were met by F.B.I. and New York police agents.

Mr. Arena, the F.B.I. official, said the case showed that it was shortsighted to contend that that agency should focus exclusively on combating terrorism and turn its attention away from international organized crime.

The defendants' "knowledge of smuggling routes, their access to weapons and their facility with financial trickery are the things terrorists need to turn a deadly dream into deadly reality," he said.

16 Friday

15 Arrested in NJ In Child Porno Inquiry

The operators of a global Internet child pornography service that stretched from Eastern Europe to Mount Laurel, N.J., were indicted on Thursday, and federal and state authorities arrested 15 people in New Jersey who subscribed to the service.

Law enforcement agencies in New Jersey, as well as immigration and postal service officials, collaborated for more than a year on an investigation that focused on a Belarus-based company, Regpay Ltd. The authorities said Regpay operated about 50 child pornography Web sites. The company billed subscribers more than $3 million, according to the federal indictment unsealed Thursday.

Investigators traced the billings to 15 people in New Jersey who were charged with possession and receipt of child pornography. They include a retired Presbyterian priest, a campus chaplain, a family physician and three convicted sex offenders.

The operators of a Fort Lauderdale Internet billing service, Connections USA, were also indicted and charged with money-laundering. The company wired proceeds from credit card transactions on the Web sites to a bank in Riga, Latvia, where Regpay officials maintained accounts, the authorities said.

''The Internet has a global reach, but so do we,'' said Christopher J. Christie, the United States attorney for New Jersey. ''That should concern the peddlers of child pornography here and abroad, as well as the users who make companies like these flourish.''

Yahor Zalatarou, 25, of Minsk, Belarus, who was the president of Regpay and who was arrested last summer in Paris, was indicted on charges of conspiracy to distribute child pornography, distribution of child pornography, and money laundering, as was the company's marketing director, Alexei Buchnev, 26. Both are in Paris awaiting extradition. The company's technical administrator, Aliaksandr Boika, 29, who was charged with conspiracy to advertise and transport child pornography by computer, was arrested last summer in Madrid and is awaiting extradition to the United States. Tatsiana Sienko, 25, the company's administrative and financial assistant, was also indicted and is being sought in Belarus.

While undercover investigators received details about the operation from some of the Regpay officials in Paris, other details came from the chief executive of Connections USA, Eugene Valentine, 38, of Hollywood, Fla., and another official, Keith Czarnecki, of Oakland Park, Fla. In exchange for cooperating, they were allowed to plead guilty to less serious charges, the authorities said.

Mr. Christie, who called Regpay a ''major player'' in the child pornography business, said that in the past, being overseas somewhat insulated such companies from prosecution by United States authorities. But he added that the recent focus on terrorism ''has us reaching overseas more so, and as a result, investigating terrorism is helping us in investigating other things.''