Drugs. Guns. Bribery. Robbery. Sex. Shakedowns. Gambling. Murder plots. Identity theft.
Now add chocolate trafficking to the list of criminal enterprises allegedly carried out by suspected mobsters.
On Wednesday, federal authorities charged 33 people with a wide variety of offenses, including, yes, the theft and trafficking of “a shipment containing approximately 10,000 pounds of chocolate confections,” according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. More than two dozen were arrested – most in the New York City area, though others were held in Nevada and Florida – with the remainder still at large.
The suspects are alleged members of the Shulaya Enterprise, an association law enforcement describes as having links to criminal organizations in nations of the former Soviet Union, including Russia, Ukraine and Georgia. The group is named after its alleged leader, 40-year-old Razhden Shulaya, of Edgewater, N.J., who was one of those arrested early Wednesday. Many of those nabbed by authorities lived in Brooklyn, which has a large community of people born in the former U.S.S.R.
“The dizzying array of criminal schemes committed by this organized crime syndicate,” said a statement from Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim, “allegedly include a murder-for-hire conspiracy, a plot to rob victims by seducing and drugging them with chloroform, the theft of cargo shipments containing over 10,000 pounds of chocolate, and a fraud on casino slot machines using electronic hacking devices. Thanks to the remarkable interagency partnership of FBI, CBP, and NYPD, we have charged and arrested 33 defendants allegedly involved in this criminal enterprise.”
Meanwhile, FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said in a statement: “The suspects in this case cast a wide net of criminal activity, aiming to make as much money as possible, all allegedly organized and run by a man who promised to protect them.”
According to U.S. Attorney’s statement, many members of the Shulaya Enterprise regularly traveled to the former Soviet Union countries, communicated with associates there and also transferred criminal proceeds to associates in those countries.