Russian Organized Crime (ROC)
The term “Russian organized crime” (ROC) refers to criminal groups
from the 15 republics which comprised the former Soviet Union. ROC has
existed for 20 years in the United States but during the last five years law
enforcement authorities have observed a distinct increase in their criminal
activities. Criminals from the former Soviet Union have established their
networks in major cities and are also emerging in some smaller cities.
ROC groups are involved in murder, money laundering, extortion, auto theft,
weapons smuggling, narcotics trafficking, prostitution, counterfeiting
currency, and a multitude of complex fraud schemes.
ROC in the United States evolved in Brighton Beach, New York, which at
one time was a small Russian immigrant community. During the 1970s and
the early 1980s, the Soviet government liberalized its immigration policy
which allowed its citizens to immigrate and travel freely. Approximately
200,000 Soviet citizens immigrated to the United States to escape religious
persecution which they had endured during the 70 years of communist rule.
It was during this time that many Soviet criminals came to the United States
under the guise of fleeing this religious oppression. Additionally, some
United States government officials suspect that the KGB emptied their
prisons of hard-core criminals much like Cuban dictator Fidel Castro did
during the Mariel boat-lift in 1980.
After the break up of the Soviet Union in 1991, many Russian criminals
and organized crime figures fled to the United States. By 1992, Russian
authorities had alerted U.S. law enforcement officials of the arrival in New
York of Vyatcheslav Ivankov, identified as a leader of the "Thieves in Law,"
which is a traditional-style organized crime group that predated communism
in 1917. The “Thieves in Law” obeys a code of conduct much like the
traditional LCN. This group existed throughout the Soviet era and is a
formidable threat there today.
Ivankov spent approximately ten years in a Russian prison before bribing
his way out. Russian authorities speculated that Ivankov came to the United
States to organize the existing networks of Russian criminals operating
within the United States, including California. He was arrested in June 1995
in New York for attempting to extort $3.5 million from an investment firm
operated by two Russian emigres. In January 1997, Ivankov was sentenced
to over nine years in prison for conspiracy to commit extortion.
Law enforcement authorities have identified varying levels of
organization and sophistication among these criminal networks, ranging from
professional organizations with an identifiable structure to loosely aligned
criminal networks and amateur criminals who periodically assist in criminal
activities. The professional groups generally have an established allegiance
to a leader and follow a criminal code.
The loosely aligned criminal networks are in a continual state of
transformation and are highly mobile. Members are opportunistic and form
with one particular criminal scheme in mind. Once the scheme is completed,
they disperse and re-form to commit other crimes. Allegiances may change
to accommodate a current scheme or if it is of monetary advantage. These groups may have recruited
ex-KGB and military personnel who posses the skills and training necessary
to avoid detection and arrest.
Frauds are the core of these groups’ criminal activities and involve the
theft and use of stolen credit cards, insurance schemes involving staged
auto accidents and/or false billings for medical treatment, theft of excise
taxes in the fuel industry, theft of telecommunications signals (used to clone
cellular telephones), and immigration fraud.
Sources and Resources
Created by John Pike
Maintained by Steven Aftergood
Updated August 19, 2002