Да, на самом деле есть мафия оказывается в Чикаго.
Lev “Dollar” Stratievsky survived the Holocaust as a boy, came to Chicago and became a millionaire, going from driving a cab to driving a Mercedes.
Flush with success, he would hold court at a table in one of the restaurants he owned and, like any proud father, brag about his son.
“In his youth, Borya was very daring,” Stratievsky once said. “He had attempted murders and s—.”
The son, Boris “Borya” Stratievsky, also dubbed “Half Dollar,” wasn’t picky about the method, his father said.
“It’s the same for Boris, whether to stab someone with a knife or shoot them,” Lev Stratievsky explained.
His son had brains, too.
Boris Stratievsky was “a professor” of money-laundering, washing millions of dollars for shadowy Moscow clients, his father said, according to one tran****** of many conversations secretly recorded by the FBI.
The father-and-son team were allegedly part of a growing threat in the Chicago area – crooks coming from Russia, Poland, the Balkans and other parts of Eastern Europe, eager to make a buck any way they can: stealing luxury cars and heavy construction equipment and shipping them overseas, peddling drugs and guns to Chicago street gangs, committing mortgage fraud and health care fraud, and trafficking in fake IDs and young women.
“They’re entrepreneurs,” said FBI Supervisory Special Agent Kristi K. Johnson, an expert on the groups in Chicago.
“That’s what it’s all about – the almighty dollar,” said FBI Special Agent Michael D. Rollins, who leads a group of 14 agents targeting these new Chicago mobsters.
They aren’t the Mafia. They’re the new Mafiya.
While the FBI can’t say exactly how many of them there are in Chicago, the problem of Russian and Eastern European organized-crime groups here “is continuing to increase, and I don’t think that’s going to change,” said James Wagner, head of the Chicago Crime Commission and a former FBI supervisor who battled traditional organized crime in Chicago for decades.
Unlike the Chicago Outfit, in the new Mafiya, there’s no single leader who calls the shots over the different factions, according to law enforcement experts. There’s no burning of a holy card in the hand, no pricking of the finger, no loyalty oath. No “made” members.
But just because there’s less of a formal structure doesn’t make the groups any less sophisticated or dangerous, law enforcement officials said.
The criminal groups scoff at U.S. law enforcement officials, who often don’t speak their language – and don’t beat them up, like the cops back home would.
Target their own people
These groups keep their circles of criminal associates tight, sticking to family members or people coming from the same city overseas.
And when they get arrested, they often just make bail and flee back home.
What’s more, their threats and violence have an added dimension. The criminal groups often prey on their own people, not only menacing them with violence but also threatening to have their families hurt back home.
When one thug wanted to scare a woman he’d brought over from Latvia to be a stripper in Chicago, he ripped a charm from the woman’s neck that had a picture of her mother inside. The thug, Alex Mishulovich, threatened to have his Chechen mob friends murder the woman’s mother, according to testimony in a 1999 trial.
In another federal trial in Chicago, in 2006, this one involving a Russian enforcer named Israil Vengerin, a Russian businesswoman testified that two thugs with baseball bats savagely beat her, putting her in the hospital, after she refused to pay Vengerin a “street tax.”
In a 2001 case, a man named Jacek Polszakiewicz, who sold fake immigration documents in Chicago to illegal aliens – some of whom he believed to be Russian mobsters – plotted the killing of a man he thought had ripped him off.
And Lev Stratievsky himself was caught on tape by federal authorities talking about how to kill a witness in a case involving one of his colleagues. Of course, if that colleague were to decide to cooperate with the FBI, Lev Stratievsky mused, he, too, would have to be killed, records show.
In neither of those two cases did the talk of murder ever become reality.
The recordings the FBI secretly made of Lev Stratievsky holding court and, to a lesser degree, of his son from 1999 to 2001, provide an unusual window into a world of two men authorities have called associates of Russian organized crime here.
Often sitting near Lev Stratievsky was a man with a reputation as a brutal loan collector. Lev Stratievsky sent the man out to collect his debts. But the man’s true purpose was to collect Lev Stratievsky’s words – a torrent of talk swept up by a secret recording device the man wore for the FBI, court records show.
Lev Stratievsky was a Ukrainian who survived the Holocaust as a little boy, according to court filings. He came to this country in 1978, would be arrested in 2005 and died the following year in prison at the age of 67, his son’s attorneys calling him a drunk who made up stories.
The son, Boris, 46, wound up facing charges, too, and has sat in jail awaiting trial since 2005, far from his $5 million Highland Park mansion with its indoor pool and a private walkway to the Lake Michigan shoreline.
Boris Stratievsky’s attorney, Ed Genson – who also represents R&B singer R. Kelly among other notable, affluent clients – defends Stratievsky, calling him “a legitimate businessman.”
However Boris Stratievsky made his money, he was successful. He co-owned a Boeing 707 and leased it to an airline. He and his father owned more than $15 million in real estate throughout the Chicago area. He spent hundreds of thousands of dollars decorating his home.
‘That’s 20 years in prison’
He had a secret room in his Skokie office, behind a bookcase, where he entertained out-of-town guests. And he had another secret room in his mansion, next to the wine room, where he kept his guns, court records show.
His taste for intrigue descended into paranoia.
He once had an employee check every roof tile at his office for a listening device. Unfortunately for Boris Stratievsky, the employee was snitching on him to the feds, court records show.
Boris Stratievsky warned his father about keeping incriminating records around, according to one FBI tran******. But the father confided to his muscle man – the FBI undercover informant – that he didn’t listen.
"We have a closet, I have checks are lying [there]. … If Boris finds out, he’ll kill me. … I have my illegal books, what I deal in. Get my little suitcase, that’s 20 years in prison. I hope to God no one come to me tomorrow and asks me, ‘Show me your books. How do you operate?’ " Lev Stratievsky was caught on tape saying.
Lev Stratievsky worried that even a modest investigation of him could upend his world.
“If they investigate me . . . for the baby toe on my foot, the s— will run out of me, damn it,” he said on one tape.
Boris Stratievsky even warned his father’s muscle man – in reality, the undercover FBI informant – that he had two cops on his payroll who could beat the man up and plant drugs on him.
The tough talk didn’t deter the informant from helping the FBI build a case against Boris Stratievsky. The FBI’s undercover man first tried to get Boris Stratievsky to wash $10,000 in illegal proceeds. In reality, it was money from the FBI.
Boris Stratievsky refused, saying the amount was too little and not worth the risk. So the amounts increased, with the informant washing about $200,000 through Boris Stratievsky, according to the indictment against him. In addition to money-laundering charges, Boris Stratievsky also is charged with having fake passports.
Boris Stratievsky’s cut was 20 percent, federal authorities allege.
He had quite a money-laundering network, according to court records, with a Swiss banking contact and mail drops throughout Europe.
Authorities say they think Boris Stratievsky had some high-profile clients, including one who was a member of the Russian Duma, the equivalent of a congressman in Russia, according to court testimony.
Investigators say they think Boris Stratievsky plunged some of the money he laundered for his Russian clients into real estate, court records show.
Hauled into court by city
A Sun-Times review of real estate, court and corporate records found more than 30 companies were associated with one or both of the Stratievskys, who had more than $15 million in property.
Bankrolling many of their mortgages was Broadway Bank, owned by the family of Illinois state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias. From 2001 to 2005, before the men were charged, the bank lent more than $10 million to companies tied to Lev and Boris Stratievsky, records show. A spokesman for the treasurer had no comment on the loans.
In many instances with their properties, Lev and Boris Stratievsky were not model owners, records show. The City of Chicago hauled companies tied to the men into court at least half a dozen times on different properties for multiple code violations. Despite the Stratievskys’ continuing problems with the city, the 5th Ward alderman at the time, Barbara Holt, sent a letter to the city corporation counsel’s office, vouching for Boris Stratievsky. The letter reads in part: “This property has been acquired by a developer that has done excellent work in the 5th Ward – Interpacifica, Inc. I have been assured by Boris Stratievsky . . . that the property is boarded and secured.”
Holt, who lost in the 1999 election, did not respond to a request for comment.
Diane Cosby lived in a roach-infested building in the 4500 block of North Magnolia that the Stratievskys owned through one of their companies, Interpacifica.
Cosby, 61, remembers three Russian tough guys pressuring tenants to move out in the mid-1990s to clear the way for a renovation of the apartment building into condos.
“They pulled the roof off the back part of the building, and it rained all over the people who lived there,” Cosby recalled.
“They were the worst landlords I ever had,” she said. “We always called them Russian mobsters. … We did not know they were mobsters, but they sure looked like them.”
‘‘It’s the same for Boris, whether to stab someone with a knife or shoot them.’’ – Lev Stratievsky, Boris’ father