Theft of 10000 pounds of chocolate helps bring down 33 Russian mobsters

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The FBI has arrested 33 members of an alleged Russian crime syndicate who are being accused of mob-related offenses including hiring hit men to kill rivals and illegally selling tens of thousands of pounds of stolen chocolate, it was reported on Wednesday.

There are also the film noir standbys of getting women to seduce men, chloroform them, and rob them; bribery; bootleg cigarette trade; and setting up nightclubs to sell narcotics. Hacking casino slot machines with smuggled electronics is more exotic; and shipping around 4.5 metric tonnes (10,000 pounds) of chocolate is a genuine surprise.

Law enforcement officials confirmed 25 members of the group, including its two leaders Razhdan Shulaya and Zurab Dzhanashvili, were arrested by the FBI's Joint Eurasian Organized Task Force in New York City.

Shulaya's thugs operated across the US, including New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida and Nevada as well as overseas, prosecutors claim. More than two dozen were arrested - most in the New York City area, though others were held in Nevada and Florida - with the remainder still at large. The indictments include charges against the alleged head of the national criminal enterprise, marking one of the first federal racketeering charges ever brought against a Russian "vor", said Kim.

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According to the statement issued by the Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Razhden Shulaya was dubbed a "vor v zakonei" or "vor", which means in Russian "thief-in-law" and refers to "an order of elite criminals from the former Soviet Union" who receive tribute from other criminals. "As a vor, Shulaya had substantial influence in the criminal underworld and offered assistance to and protection of the members and associates of the Shulaya Enterprise".

When people hear about Russian organized crime, they picture a stereotypical Russian thug, said Galeotti, the Russian crime expert. "But actually the kind of Russian gangster one sees in America is more likely to be a fraudster, a hacker or semi-criminal businessman".

The suspects were expected to appear in federal court on Wednesday.