Twenty men have been charged with trafficking women from Russia and other Eastern European countries, and forcing them to work in New York strip clubs, reports the New York Daily News. Seven of the defendants are suspected to be mobsters in some of New York's biggest crime families. According to the allegations, the mafia has a very hefty stake in the Queens and Long Island strip club scenes.
Women are not allowed to enter the U.S. on a visa in order to work in strip clubs, and so the defendants allegedly forced them to say on their applications that they intended to work as summer waitresses.
Once in the U.S., the defendants allegedly doled the women out to various strip clubs controlled by the Gambino and Bonanno crime families, threatening their owners into coughing up protection money.
The men provided the women with housing and transportation, according to court documents, but also extorted part of their wages from them.
"The defendants themselves had one thing in common," said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, "the desire to turn the women they allegedly helped enter this country illegally into their personal profit centers."
Some of the women were also allegedly forced into sham marriages with American men in order to guarantee their legal status in the U.S.
One of the men charged is Alphonse Trucchio, reputed captain of the Gambino crime family, who was indicted in 2003 for running a $30 million-a-year sports betting ring with his imprisoned-for-life father, "One Armed Ronnie."
Trucchio was also arrested in January of this year, along with over 100 other alleged members and associates of New York and New England's mafia families. The sweep was a demonstration of the FBI's newly aggressive approach to the region's storied organized crime scene.
Trucchio himself was charged with narcotics trafficking, extortion, assault, illegal brandishing of firearms, loansharking, and running illegal gambling operations.
Along with another extortion charge, a new set can be added to the already lengthy list -- including visa fraud, marriage fraud and racketeering.
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