Federal authorities said last week that 20 individuals, some of whom are allegedly members of the notorious Gambino and Bonnano mob families, were arraigned in Manhattan federal court on charges of importing women from Russia and Eastern Europe to work at strip clubs in Queens and on Long Island.
The individuals arrested and arraigned Nov. 30 were allegedly involved in a scheme to arrange for women to enter the United States illegally, either by advertising for them to work as exotic dancers and then getting them fraudulent visas, advertising opportunities for work and then fraudulently getting them summer work or travel visas, or by having them enter into fraudulent marriages for legal status, according to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of the Southern District in Manhattan.
After the women arrived, they were then sent to work for strip clubs, the prosecutor said.
The suspected members of the Gambino and Bonnano families are also charged with extorting payment from owners of four strip clubs in Queens and on Long Island in exchange for “protection” from competing clubs and crime figures, prosecutors said.
The clubs included Gallagher’s 2000 in Sunnyside, Perfection in Woodside and Rouge in Maspeth, according to a federal immigration official.
“The defendants themselves had one thing in common — the desire to turn the women they allegedly helped enter this country illegally into their personal profit centers,” Bharara said in a statement.
Joseph Conley, chairman of Community Board 2, said that while Gallagher’s 2000 was raided, nobody from the club was charged with any wrongdoing.
Those from Queens who were arrested as part of the scheme include Alphonse Trucchio, 34, and Christopher Colon, 37, of Howard Beach, and Richard Gutowski, 40, of Ridgewood, who are allegedly part of the Gambino crime family, Bharara said.
They have been charged with racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, extortion conspiracy and conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens, Bharara said. Trucchio and Gutowski were also charged with visa fraud, Bharara said.
Yong “Jonathan” Wang, 36, of Flushing, and Natalia “Natasha” Ivanova, 43, of Kew Gardens, also face charges. Wang is charged with harboring illegal aliens and visa fraud; Ivanova is charged with harboring illegal aliens and marriage fraud, Bharara said.
The racketeering and extortion charges each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens brings a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and visa fraud and marriage fraud carry maximum penalties of five years in prison.
The investigation was conducted through U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations and the U.S. State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cn
©2011 Community News Group
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