The feds busted Coney Island and Brighton Beach-based gangsters on a wide range of charges after they allegedly burned down an entire building and used violence to extort money from victims abroad, according to an unsealed indictment in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
Five of the defendants — Librado Rivera, Artiom Pocinoc, Vyacheslav Malkeyev, Leonid Gershman, and Aleksey Tsvetko — were arrested, but the sixth, Viktor Zelinger, remains on the loose, feds say.
The gangsters allegedly carried out beatings and extortions in connection with “thieves in law,” an organized crime group based in former Soviet states and Israel.
The fearless group ran a “high-stakes” poker game on Coney Island Ave. and were so determined to wipe out a rival’s poker spot at 2663 Voorhies Ave. in Sheepshead bay — a three-story residential building — that four of them broke into the place in May of last year and set it ablaze, leaving two innocent residents stranded on the third floor before the FDNY came to the rescue.
Zelinger, Malkeyev, Gershman and Tsvetkov were charged in relation to the fire, which left five firefighters injured. One of them ended up suffering burns to his face.
The indictment included 33 counts including arson, extortion, the unlawful sale of guns, and assault in aid of racketeering.
Rivera is an American citizen by birth, while Zelinger, Gershman and Malkeyev are naturalized citizens who are said to have immigrated to the country from Eastern European countries. Tsvetkov is from Ukraine, while Pocinoc hails from Moldova. While all of the defendants are facing significant time behind bars, Gershman, Tsvetkov, and Malkeyev are facing a minimum of 27 years in prison; the trio is accused of pistol-whipping a person who is suspected of stealing from their narcotics “stash” house, according to authorities.
The bust culminated what authorities say was a long-term investigation involving the DEA, NYPD, immigration enforcement, and homeland security, among others.
Read more about the indictment here.