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Why Russian Organized Crime has Flourished in the United States

Updated on April 21, 2010

There is much speculation about why Russian organized crime has flourished in the United States. Numerous reasons, such as the Russian criminal background offer explanation. “They typically have military experience, and many are college-educated: ‘Many of today’s foremost Russian mobsters have Ph.D.’s in mathematics, engineering, or physics, helping them acquire and expertise in advanced encryption and computer technology’” (Abadinsky, 2003, p.200). These reasons for the influx of Russian criminals and their success within the United States are bogus. The reasons Russian organized crime has flourished within the United States are easy immigration laws, a weak justice system, and a lack of trained Russian-speaking law enforcement agents.

Russian criminals come to the United States because immigration laws are lax and background checks on Russian immigrants were virtually nonexistent. Vyacheslav Ivankov, one of most infamous Russian criminals, flew into Kennedy Airport from Russia and easy built his empire:

"Shortly after his arrival at Kennedy Airport, Ivankov was given a suitcase with $1.5 million by Armenian vor. He established his headquarters in Brighton Beach and recruited Russian combat veterans with a $20,000-per month retainer. They were sent out to extort money from legitimate businesses worldwide and to assassinate his rivals." (Abadinsky, 2003, p.203)

Vyacheslav Ivankov, escorted by FBI agents after arrest in 1995
Vyacheslav Ivankov, escorted by FBI agents after arrest in 1995

Ivankov had a high profile criminal background in Russia as a result of his murderous campaign against Moscow’s powerful Chechen crime groups (Abadinsky, 2003). Did the United States immigration process simply overlook his background or does the United States allow known criminals free passage into the country? The United States can reduce Russian organized crime by stopping known Russian criminals from immigrating into the country.

Russian criminals think the justice system in the United States is a joke. “Many group members are professional criminals; after their experience of criminal life in the Soviet Union, where police were feared and treatment of lawbreakers harsh, they view the United States as a haven” (Abadinsky, 2003, p.200). Russian criminals simply make smart decisions where to base their criminal operations. They choose to base criminal activity in the United States, a country with a weak justice system. Harsher punishments and sentences would deter Russian organized crime within the United States.

Russian criminals take advantage of the lack of Russian-speaking law enforcement agents within the United States. “The New York police department has been handicapped in dealing with the protection rackets and loansharking activities in the community by a lack of Russian-speaking officers” (Abadinsky, 2003, p.204). This solution to this problem is simple – increase the number of Russian-speaking law enforcement officers within the United States. If the supply of Russian-speakers within the United States is low, immigration, with proper background investigations, can be used to bring in Russian-speaking law-enforcement agents.

Russian organized crime has flourished in the United States not because of the excellent training ground the former Soviet Union provided for criminals, but due to the United States’ lack of serious efforts in criminal justice. Tougher immigration laws, harsher penalties for criminals, and more Russian-speaking law enforcement officers would fix the Russian organized crime problem in the United States. The United States must take action that sends a message to the world that criminals are not desired and punishment is severe for crime in the United States.


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      ccbrookes 6 years ago

      Just stumbled across this hub. Very informative and very worrying. Can't wait to check out your other hubs.

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      Max 7 years ago

      A very small percentage is criminal who use aggression. However, most crimes committed by Russian groups in US are fraud of different nature. These frauds are usually, medical, insurance, company investments, money laundry, tax aversion, and financial crimes. These financial activities and paper work is done in Russian a lot of time, so makes it more difficult for English specking police and investigators. Sometimes force is used or a threat of force to get the job done. Most crimes are also done in the community and focused outside.

      For example- Russian man has a business in Brooklyn which is profitable; “gangsters” approach him and wish to buy it up, but below the real market value, let say for half the price. Man refuses, and criminals “talk” to his wife and kids after school, and pass on the massage to the man. The man will not go to the police, because of historical distrust and belief that they will not be able to secure him. And he is right, as there is no actual proof that criminals exhorted and threatened him or his family. NYPD will not investigate this and will sweep this all under the carpet. Eventually the man will sell his business. He will get 60-70% of the actual price or even less. Everything will look legitimate on the paper.

      Russian crime actually is more educated then most other criminal organizations, the simple fact that even the basic education in Russian H.S. gives more knowledge than Bachelors degree from US State Universities. I am not even talking about Russian technical and specialized schools or Universities, or security fields and army. Also take in consideration that most Russian males involved in organized crime in US who are older than 30 have served in armed forces back home. So they have good military preparation and organization.

      They managed to survive repressions and brutality by Russian police and US is really a heaven for them.

      Solution is not that difficult. First, the Russian, Ukrainian, and Polish police force in NY needs to be greatly increased and majority of it concentrated in Brooklyn. Russian police needs to have a good number of investigators proficient in financial and insurance crimes. This police have to build up great community relations and let the trust grow. When community will feel safe they will cooperate, they will even report corruption and fraud to police with out being asked for it. As the people in community know very well who is corrupt, and who is criminal. They are just afraid!

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      maklovoxa 7 years ago

      Ivankova killed or he died?

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      gocha 7 years ago

      My friend was in Moscow and said that there are a lot of bandits, and Ivankov very credible gangster

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      kea 7 years ago

      @Hello, hello - thx for the comment!

      @Salam - no, not all Russian's are bandits...

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      Salam 7 years ago

      Really all russian such bandit?

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      Hello, hello, 8 years ago from London, UK

      excellent hub and very good points. Thank you for a great read.