Alleged New York crime ring burns down rival poker room

  • Six members of an alleged crime syndicate have been charged with arson
  • Accused reported torched a rival poker room operating in New York

Six members of an alleged crime syndicate have been charged with arson after reportedly torching a rival poker room in New York.

The incident, which reads more like something out of a movie script, was described in a 33-count indictment which was unsealed on Wednesday in the Eastern District of New York.

Rival high-stakes poker

Other charges that are levied in the indictment against the defendants, who are alleged in reports to have Eastern European connections, include racketeering.

The charges stem from an incident which occurred in May of 2016 when Viktor Zelinger, Vyacheslav Malkeyev, Leonid Gershman and Aleksey Tsvetkov are alleged to have set fire to a building in Brooklyn around 1am on May 2nd last year. The motivation for the fire-raising attack was reportedly due to a high-stakes poker game that a rival syndicate were illegally running.

Because the game was being held in a residential building, the outbreak affected the entire block, with two third-floor residents trapped in the inferno.

The building was gutted, and while there were no fatalities, a firefighter was treated for first degree burns and several residents had to be rescued from the upper floors. Amateur footage of the fire shows a New York firefighter battling thick smoke to rescue two teenagers who were trapped in the blaze.

Prison if guilty

According to federal officers, the defendants were part of a Mafia-esque group known as Vory V Zakone which roughly translates as ‘thieves in law’.

If the defendants are found guilty, they could face 17 years over the arson charges alone, and will also have to contend with charges of loansharking and extortion relating to their own illegal poker game which reportedly operated on Coney Island.

There are also charges pertaining to dealing drugs from a safe house the gang controlled. While five of the accused are in custody, one, Victor Zelinger, is still at large.

The DEA’s New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force who handled the extensive investigation culminating in the arrests are as formidable as their name suggests. They’ve scored a number of major successes in recent years against crime syndicates which once reigned supreme in New York.

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