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Moscow News

Moscow August 18, 2004

Russian in U.S. Court for Extortion

A NATIVE of the Russian city of Voronezh, Lev Trakhtenberg, (right) has been brought before court in Manhattan for criminal conspiracy with the purpose of extortion, the BBC reported Wednesday.

This is a new case against Trakhtenberg. He, his former wife Viktoria Ilyina and another Voronezh native, Sergei Malchikov, were detained in Brooklyn in August 2002. They were charged with visa fraud and extortion.

According to New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey, quoted by New York Daily News in June 2004, the three had "forced" more than 30 Russian women "to dance nude and perform other abhorrent acts" in strip-clubs of the state. Trakhtenberg and his accomplices reportedly made visas for those strippers fraudulently and later took away most of their money threatening their relatives in Russia. Prosecutors say the couple lied on the women's visas, claiming they would work in popular Russian show groups or study at the University of Illinois, the paper wrote. The women's passports were confiscated to restrict their movement, and those who tried to leave or refused to pay back their $5,000 smuggling fee were threatened.

All three initially pleaded not guilty. Trakhtenberg who produces theatrical shows for Brighton Beach's Russian community, and his wife are currently under house arrest. Malchikov, a former professional boxer who is still in custody, pleaded guilty in August and agreed to cooperate with the prosecution.

Trakhtenberg, who arrived in the United States in 1992 with a master's degree in Russian literature, denied that the women were taken there against their will. He said that he and his family had been forced to take part in the smuggling by unnamed criminal elements. He alleged his name was forged on the women's visa documents and that they lied in the hope of winning residency.

One expert has testified that as many as 8,000 women are smuggled into the region each year to work in strip clubs, massage parlors or as domestic servants, the paper wrote.



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