Russian mob gaining U.S. foothold
with Italian help, senators told


May 16, 1996
Web posted at: 12:30 a.m. EDT

From Correspondent Mark Feldstein

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. senators on the Governmental Affairs Committee heard some eye-opening testimony Wednesday from a man who says he worked with members of the Russian mob. He claims the Russian mob is going international with the help of the Italian Mafia, and is using the United States as a base of operations.

"It was not unusual for me to receive nine million dollars in cash per week in paper bags from the Russians," ex-Mafia capo Michael Franzese told senators. He said the Russian mob came up with a scheme to cheat on gasoline taxes, and made a deal for Mafia help.

Casso testifying behind a screen

"I would provide them with protection from the other mob families, and the muscle to collect all the money due them."

A former Mafia underboss, testifying behind a screen, confessed he ordered the murder of a Russian competitor outside Brooklyn's Odessa night club to protect their racket.

"We couldn't let somebody try to put the squeeze on our family's biggest money maker," Anthony "Gas Pipe" Casso testified.

Officials from the Drug Enforcement Agency told a Senate hearing on Russian crime Wednesday the two mobs are now moving into drug deals together, with Russian gangsters smuggling heroin into the United States for Italian mobsters.

A Russian criminal whose identity was kept secret said that drugs are also moving in the other direction -- cocaine is going to Russia from the United States.


"These men have beautiful offices in Rockefeller Center and Beverly Hills, and look like legitimate businessmen," the Russian told the Senate. He also said that Soviet-born hockey stars in the National Hockey League, including Alexander Mogilny, have been targets of unsuccessful shakedown attempts by Russian gangsters. He said Mogilny went to the police, who caught the man threatening him, Sergei Fomichev.

Vladimir Malakhov of the Montreal Canadiens was also threatened, he said, when he was with the New York Islanders. When he went to Montreal "the problem" went away, the witness said.

Also among those who refused to pay: defenseman Alexei Zhitnik, then with the Los Angeles Kings. Zhitnik did not go to the police, the crook said. Instead, he went to a more powerful criminal group who took care of the shakedown for him.

United States law enforcement officials say the Russian mob is still largely disorganized, but this may be changing, as the mob grows more powerful and ambitious. Sources say the Russians are now trying to carve deals with Colombia's top cocaine cartel, as well as the Italian Mafia, for a global partnership in drugs and crime.

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