A mob-run ring that lured women from Russia and other Eastern European countries with the promise of waitressing jobs — only to send them to dance at New York strip clubs — was shut down Wednesday after 20 people were charged, including seven purported members of organized crime families, authorities said.
Prosecutors said members of the Gambino and Bonnano organized crime families were swept up in arrests aimed at closing an operation that recruited the women and then arranged for many of them to enter into sham marriages with U.S. citizens so they could stay in the country and continue to work as exotic dancers at adult entertainment clubs.
Authorities say the four strip clubs in Queens and Long Island were controlled by the mob families, and their owners were forced to make payments in exchange for protection, which included the resolution of disputes among strip clubs over which dancers work where and over ownership interests in certain clubs.
Homeland Security Investigations special-agent-in-charge James Hayes said the arrests "bring to an end a long-standing criminal enterprise operated by colluding organized crime entities that profited wildly through a combination of extortion and fraud."
He said the defendants used intimidation and threats of physical and economic harm to control their businesses and protect their turf.
"Today, that business model has been extinguished," Hayes said.
Charges in the case included racketeering, extortion, visa fraud, marriage fraud and transporting, harboring and inducing the entry of illegal aliens.