Member of Eastern European organized crime syndicate sentenced to 198 months’ imprisonment for racketeering and other violent crimes
Defendant’s crimes included arson, extortion and illegal gambling in Brooklyn
BROOKLYN, NY – Earlier today, in federal court in Brooklyn, Leonid Gershman, aka “Lenny,” a leading member of a violent, Brooklyn-based Eastern European organized crime syndicate that operated primarily in the Sheepshead Bay, Brighton Beach and Coney Island neighborhoods, was sentenced to 198 months’ imprisonment following his conviction for racketeering – including predicate acts of illegal gambling, loansharking, extortion, arson and marijuana distribution – and conspiring to traffick firearms. The amount of restitution will be determined by the Court at a later date. Gershman and co-defendant Aleksey Tsvetkov were convicted following a three-week jury trial in August 2018. Tsvekov is awaiting sentencing. Today’s proceeding was held before United States District Judge Brian M. Cogan.
United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Richard P. Donoghue, Drug Enforcement Administration New York Division Ray Donovan, and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, New York Special Agent in Charge Jonathan D. Larsen, announced the sentence.
“Gershman is a violent racketeer deservedly punished today for the harm he has inflicted through beatings, extortions, loansharking and, most seriously, an arson that displaced families from their homes and endangered the lives of children and New York City firefighters,” said United States Attorney Donoghue. “Together with our law enforcement partners, this Office will continue to work tirelessly to rid our communities of violent organized crime groups.”
Mr. Donoghue expressed his grateful appreciation to the members of DEA’s New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force for their roles in the investigation, and thanked the New York City Fire Department for its investigation of the arson and its heroic efforts in rescuing the residents who were trapped in the building during the fire.
“Today’s sentencing sends a message about tolerance. DEA, together with its law enforcement partners and EDNY, will absolutely not tolerate criminality - most especially in the form of violent, organized crime. Hopefully today will mark the beginning of a sense of closure to the families that Gershman and his co-conspirators afflicted for so many years. DEA will always put the community first, and we will always strive to hold accountable those who torment and endanger the innocent,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Donovan.
“IRS-CI proudly lends our financial expertise in the dismantling of international criminal networks that use violence and intimidation to enrich themselves,” said IRS-CI Special Agent-in-Charge Larsen. “Let today’s sentence be an unmistakable statement to criminal enterprises that cause such serious harm for personal gain.”
Between 2011 and May 2017, Gershman and his co-conspirators, born in states of the former Soviet Union, including Russia, Ukraine and Moldova, operated as a racketeering syndicate. The syndicate members were linked to high-level members of Russian organized crime, known as “thieves in law,” or “thieves,” who authorized syndicate members to use violence to protect their criminal activities.
Beginning in 2016, Gershman partnered in an illegal high-stakes poker game on Coney Island Avenue that generated substantial profits for the syndicate. Gershman’s syndicate was responsible for the complete destruction by arson of a mixed-use building that housed a rival poker game in the spring of 2016. Gershman and other syndicate members enlisted two co-conspirators to set fire to the building on Voorhies Avenue, where the rival game took place on the ground floor. Two residents of the building, including a young boy, were trapped in their apartment by the resulting fire, and had to be rescued by firefighters. Both residents and firefighters suffered smoke inhalation, and one firefighter’s injuries required surgeries. The families living in the building were displaced from their homes due to the damage from the fire.
Gershman’s syndicate also preyed upon extortion victims. For example, Gershman enlisted the help of “thieves” in Russia to locate the father of an extortion victim in Moscow to locate his son, who owed the syndicate more than $40,000. After locating the victim, Gershman was recorded on a wiretap stating, the “Thieves have found him . . . in Israel,” and “they were at [his] place today.”
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Organized Crime and Gangs Section. Assistant United States Attorneys Andrey Spektor and Sarah Evans are in charge of the prosecution.
LEONID GERSHMAN (also known as “Lenny”)
Brooklyn, New York
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 16-CR-553 (S-4) (BMC)