NEW YORK -- More than two dozen members of a Russian organized criminal group have been charged with committing several offenses, including trafficking 10,000 pounds of stolen chocolate across the country, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced Wednesday.
According to federal court papers, the FBI's Joint Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force arrested 27 members of the New York City-based group -- called the Shulaya Enterprise -- on suspicion of racketeering, wire and credit card fraud, narcotics trafficking, firearms and stolen property offenses. The defendants also face charges of extortion, gambling and identity theft.
"The suspects in this case cast a wide net of criminal activity, aiming to make as much money as possible," FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney said. "The dizzying array of criminal schemes committed against this organized crime syndicate allegedly include a murder-for-hire conspiracy, a plot to rob victims by seducing and drugging them with chloroform and a fraud on casino slot machines using electronic hacking devices."
Authorities say the group operated under the direction and protection of two men, named Razhden Shulaya and Zurab Dzhanashvili. At this time, authorities are searching for additional suspects who remain at large.
The complaint states the Shulaya Enterprise operated out of New York, New Jersey, Florida, Pennsylvania, Nevada and other locations overseas. Many of the group members were born in the former Soviet Union, but authorities believe they regularly visited and communicated with associates in Georgia, the Ukraine and the Russian Federation.
If convicted as charged, each defendant could face decades in prison for some of the charges.
The suspects were expected to appear in federal court on Wednesday. It remains unclear when their next court appearance will be held.