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Russian Organized Crime

by Richard Gallia

The cry is the same except this time the villain is really here. Russian Organized Crime (R.O.C.) is real and can affect even the smallest communities. The collapse of the former Soviet Union has brought thousands of Russian immigrants to the United States.

Along with the law-abiding immigrants came an element not so law abiding, according to the Attorney General in California’s 1996 report on R.O.C. groups operating throughout the United States. The report documents several incidences involving R.O.C. in everything from narcotics trafficking to fraud. In his analysis the Attorney General Lungren warns that “These criminal organizations have the potential to become part of large international networks.”

Russian gang notoriety has had a lot of play in the media recently with the speculations that Ennis Cosby’s accused killer may be an R.O.C. associate. There have been numerous other incidents throughout the U.S. involving the R.O.C.. In 1993 a northern California R.O.C. group was involved in an auto theft ring that spanned northern California, Oregon, and Washington. This group is now branching out into other areas of crime including extortion, narcotics, and prostitution. Group members have been known to be armed and very violent. This particular group does not appear to have “any clear cut, well-defined structure.” According to the Attorney General Office, in 1994 several members of an Armenian crime group were convicted of attempted murder, kidnapping and extortion. Most of the crimes committed by this group were against other Armenians.

A 1993 FBI report advised that there were fifteen organized crime groups in the United States with former Soviet ethnic origins. The largest being based in New York followed by Los Angeles. There are approximately 600-800 major Russian crime figures in the Los Angeles area alone.

So what does this mean to your city and how can these crooks affect you. Taking into account the history of Russian law enforcement and their relationship with criminals it is not hard to see why the Russian criminal element does not respect or trust U.S. law enforcement.

In the former Soviet Union punishments for crimes were swift and harsh. The criminal element had no love lost for the authorities. That same attitude appears to have crossed the oceans along with R.O.C. members and associates.

The R.O.C. is growing and branching out into more cities. These crime groups often follow their own ethnic population as they spread across the United States. If your community or a community near you has a growing Russian population, you can bet that the R.O.C. or its associates will be right behind. One way to find out if your community has much in the way of a Russian population is to see if there is a Russian Orthodox Church nearby. If you find that you have R.O.C. members or associates near your community be wise to contact departments that have some intelligence on these groups.

New York City PD., Los Angeles PD., and Sacramento PD have all had contact with R.O.C. groups. Learning about the types of scams and criminal activities of the R.O.C. may help you to prevent a similar incident in your area.

These groups are considered by many to be one of the biggest threats to law enforcement in the next five years. The FBI now has three agents assigned to Moscow to gather information to help combat R.O.C.. California has a combined group of federal, state, and local law enforcement dedicated to investigating R.O.C.. If you or anyone in your agency has information on the R.O.C. that can be released, please send it in.

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