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Prosecutors: Mob families arrested for recruiting immigrants for strip clubs

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AP/iStockphoto
AP/iStockphoto

(CBS/AP) NEW YORK - Authorities shut down a mob-run ring Wednesday that allegedly lured women from Russia and other Eastern European countries to work at New York strip clubs.

The New York Post reported 20 people were charged, including seven supposed members of the organized crime families Gambino and Bonnano, said U.S. District Attorney Preet Bharara.

Prosecutors said these family members were taken in during arrests aimed at closing a human smuggling operation. Officials say the women were lured in with the promise of waitress jobs. Many of them of them were then forced to enter sham marriages with U.S. citizens so they could stay in the county; all this so they could continue to work as exotic dancers at adult establishments.

Four strip clubs in Queens and Long Island were controlled by the crime families and their owners were forced to make payments for protection. The defendants used intimidation and threats of physical harm to control their businesses.

Homeland Security Investigations special-agent-in-charge James Hayes said the arrests "bring to an end long-standing criminal enterprise operated by colluding organized crime entities that profited wildly through a combination of extortion and fraud."

The mob family members were charged with racketeering, extortion, visa fraud, marriage fraud and transporting, harboring and inducing the entry of illegal aliens.

The defendants were picked up and made their initial appearances in court Wednesday.