Two Russian organized crime figures, MONYA ELSON and LEONID ROYTMAN, were arrested this morning for their participation in a plot to murder two Kiev-based businessmen. The arrests are the result of a joint investigation by United States and Ukrainian law enforcement, and were announced today by ROSLYNN R. MAUSKOPF, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, MARK J. MERSHON, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office, and RAYMOND W. KELLY, Commissioner, New York City Police Department. The defendants’ arraignments are scheduled for this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Marilyn D. Go at the U.S. Courthouse, 225 Cadman Plaza, Brooklyn, New York.
As alleged in the complaint,1 ELSON is a well known Russian organized crime figure who was previously convicted of racketeering in federal court in Manhattan. ROYTMAN is alleged to have ties to the Solntsevskaya Brigade, one of Russia’s most powerful criminal organizations.
The complaint charges that beginning in late 2004, ELSON and ROYTMAN sought to hire hitmen in the Ukraine to kill two Kiev-based businessmen, Slava and Alex Konstantinovsky, twin brothers popularly known as the “Brothers Karamazov.” As part of this plot, in early 2005, ELSON dispatched ROYTMAN to Kiev to meet with the hitmen, one of whom ELSON knew because that hitman had previously worked as security guard for Russian businessman and reputed organized crime figure Semyon Mogilevich. Over the course of several meetings in 2005, ROYTMAN explained that he and ELSON wanted the brothers killed so that they could take over the brothers’ lucrative businesses in Ukraine. ROYTMAN offered the hitmen a total of $100,000 to do the job, plus a percentage of the brothers’ businesses once the murders had been carried out.
ROYTMAN, who had previously worked as one of the heads of security for the brothers in Kiev, showed the hitmen where the brothers lived and spent their free time, and explained how their security could be penetrated. During these meetings, ROYTMAN and the hitmen also discussed various ways of killing the brothers, including shooting them with a high powered rifle and blowing them up with car bombs or bombs placed in their homes. Unbeknownst to ROYTMAN and ELSON, the hitmen secretly recorded several of these conversations on their own, believing that they might need the tapes if ROYTMAN and ELSON tried to blackmail or kill them.
In February 2005, a representative of ELSON and ROYTMAN paid one of the hitmen $50,000 in a cafe in Kiev as an “advance” so that they could purchase weapons and prepare the murders. However, the hitmen used the money to cover personal expenses and failed to complete the job as promised. Over the next several months, ELSON became increasingly agitated and repeatedly called the hitmen, demanding that the job be done. Eventually, the hitmen, fearing retribution from ELSON for having taken his money without carrying out the contract, decided to cooperate with Ukrainian law enforcement and turned over the tapes they had made of their meetings with ROYTMAN.
In early March 2006, ELSON, unaware of the hitmen’s cooperation with law enforcement, gave them a deadline of March 15 to kill one of the brothers. At the direction of Ukrainian law enforcement, on March 14, one of the hitmen told ELSON in a recorded telephone conversation that Slava Konstantinovsky had been killed as promised. Simultaneously, Ukrainian law enforcement took steps to create the appearance that this brother had, in fact, been killed, by secretly moving him to an undisclosed location and having Alex Konstantinovsky file a missing person’s report. ELSON then called the hitman, said that he was prepared to make an installment payment of $30,000 for the job, and asked to whom the money should be delivered. Working together, Ukrainian law enforcement, the FBI and the NYPD arranged for ELSON to make the payment to an NYPD undercover officer on March 22, 2006. ELSON met the undercover at Caesar’s Bay shopping center in Brooklyn and delivered the $30,000. ELSON told the undercover officer that he would pay the remaining $20,000 in two weeks.
“The cooperation between Ukrainian and American law enforcement in this case was truly extraordinary and a model of how such investigations should be handled,” stated United States Attorney MAUSKOPF. “With the assistance of our partners in the law enforcement community, we are determined to eliminate emerging international criminal organizations.” Ms. MAUSKOPF said that the investigation is continuing.
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge MERSHON stated, “This is a case of two Russian mobsters who personify ruthlessness and cold-blooded greed. More importantly, it’s also a case of solid teamwork between law enforcement agencies on opposite sides of the globe, joining forces to bring these men to justice.”
Police Commissioner KELLY stated, “This is still another example how convincing role-playing by an undercover New York City police officer helped save a life and bring suspects to justice.”
The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Thomas Firestone.
If convicted, the defendants face a maximum of ten years incarceration and a $250,000 fine on each of the two murder-for-hire charges.