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20 charged with importing women as strippers


Federal agents accused the 20 men and women of importing women to dance at Cheetah's Gentlemen's Club in Times Square and Rouge Gentlemen's Club in Queens.

Federal authorities arrested 20 people Wednesday — seven of whom they said had direct links to the Gambino and Bonnano crime families — on charges that they illegally brought women from Russia and other Eastern European countries to New York to work as dancers at mob-run strip clubs.

Several of the defendants also arranged for many of the women to enter into sham marriages with U.S. citizens, according to the indictment, which was unsealed Wednesday in Manhattan. 

Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for Manhattan, said the scheme "ran the gamut of criminal activity — from racketeering and extortion to immigration and marriage fraud."

"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.

The indictment alleges that the operations recruited Russian and other Eastern European women with false job offers and helped them obtain false summer work and travel visas. Once in the country, the women worked as exotic dancers at the strip clubs, in violation of visa regulations that prohibit employment in the adult entertainment industry.

The establishments were identified as Cheetah's Gentlemen's Club in Times Square, famous for its Body Sushi promotion — in which patrons eat sushi off the bodies of naked women — and Rouge Gentlemen's Club in Queens.

Five of the suspects were charged with arranging marriages for many of the women with U.S. citizens to obtain legal status in the U.S.

The investigation involved not only Bharara's office, but also homeland security investigators from Immigration and Customs Enforcement and agents of the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service.

Robert Goodrich, special agent in charge of the diplomatic service's New York field office, said the State Department took part because passport and visa fraud "oftentimes leads to other criminal activities."

The suspects — who face charges of racketeering, extortion, visa fraud, marriage fraud, transporting and harboring illegal aliens, and conspiracy — were scheduled for initial court hearings Wednesday afternoon. They were identified as:

  • Alphonse Trucchio, 34, of Howard Beach, N.Y.
  • William Pazienza Sr., 64, of Bronxville, N.Y.
  • Christopher Colon, 37, of Howard Beach, N.Y.
  • Richard Gutkowski, 40, of Ridgewood, N.Y.
  • Anthony Frascone, 62, of East Meadow, N.Y.
  • Paul Casella, 45, of Franklin Square, N.Y.
  • Lawrence Zaino, 44, of Westbury, N.Y.
  • Aleksandr Kravets, 42, of Brooklyn, N.Y.
  • Thomas Devitt III, 43, of East Meadow, N.Y.
  • Gerald Monfort, 54, of West Babylon, N.Y.
  • Yong Wang, 36 of Flushing, N.Y.
  • Boris Yusupov, 36, of Brooklyn, N.Y.
  • Vitaliy Mindyuk, 43, of Brooklyn, N.Y.
  • Zhanna Kuznetsova, 24, of Brooklyn, N.Y.
  • Elena Turubanova, 24, of Dix Hills, N.Y.
  • Natalia Ivanova, 43, of Kew Gardens, N.Y.
  • Christine Gunning, 46, of Windsor, N.Y.
  • Jeffrey Rinchey, 38, of Kew Gardens, N.Y.
  • Oscar Zeledon, 39. of East Hampton, N.Y.
  • Alexander Beleson, 53, of Manalapan, N.J.