WASHINGTON - Michail Aronov, age 34, was sentenced yesterday to 90 months (7 ˝ years) in prison and over $1 million in restitution for his role as one of the ringleaders in a conspiracy to force Eastern European women to work as exotic dancers in Detroit area strip clubs, Assistant Attorney General Wan J. Kim of the Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney Stephen J. Murphy of the Eastern District of Michigan announced.
Aronov was convicted for conspiring to violate the civil rights of the dancers through involuntary servitude, as well as immigration and money laundering conspiracies.
“Human trafficking is nothing short of modern-day slavery,” said Assistant Attorney General Kim. “The Justice Department will continue to vigorously prosecute and bring to justice those who victimize some of society’s most vulnerable members.”
“The defendants in this case took advantage of innocent women from Eastern Europe by enticing them to come to the United States and then holding them in bondage for commercial and sexual exploitation,” said U.S. Attorney Murphy. “In sentencing Mr. Aronov to 7 ˝ years in prison, the court underscored the gravity of this type of crime. Criminal operations involving human trafficking, such as this one, will be pursued with the greatest vigor by my office.”
According to court papers, Aronov and his business partners operated a human trafficking ring which exploited Eastern European women and used the guise of a legitimate business – Beauty Search Inc. – to cover their criminal conduct. Aronov and his partners smuggled women into the United States and compelled them through threats and coercion to work as dancers in strip clubs, holding them in a condition of involuntary servitude.
“These criminals preyed upon the hopes and dreams of women who came to the U.S. for a better life, but found only enslavement, exploitation, violence and isolation,” said Special Agent in Charge Brian M. Moskowitz of the ICE Office of Investigations in Detroit. “ICE will continue to vigorously pursue criminal organizations that disregard the health and dignity of women while reaping illegal profits from their suffering.”
“The FBI is committed to working with its law enforcement partners to investigate aggressively allegations of human trafficking,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Andrew Arena. “The fight against modern-day slavery is a critical aspect of our criminal civil rights program.”
“With promises of good money, his only intent was to make lots of bad money,” said IRS Special Agent in Charge Maurice Aouate. “IRS continues to work with the law enforcement community to financially disrupt any criminal organization and attack the fuel of their criminal conduct.”
The court decreased Aronov’s sentence because of extensive cooperation with investigators dismantling the Beauty Search operation. The court had previously ordered Aronov’s henchman, Aleksandr Maksimenko, to reimburse the women a total of $1,570,450. The court further ordered that $537,043.84 in cash seized by government agents from Maksimenko’s home and safety deposit boxes, as well as about $30,000 worth of jewelry, be used to satisfy a portion of the court’s restitution award. The court held Aronov jointly and severally responsible for $1,018,450 restitution, as well as the forfeited cash proceeds.
Aronov is the last of nine convicted defendants to be sentenced for crimes associated with this slavery and trafficking conspiracy. Aronov’s co-defendant Maksimenko received a sentence of 14 years incarceration earlier this summer. Maksimenko’s father, Venyamin Gonikman, remains a fugitive, and the investigative team continues to work with Ukrainian and European law enforcement authorities to investigate the full scope of the conspiracy.
The Attorney General has made the prosecution of human trafficking crimes a top priority. In the last six fiscal years, the Civil Rights Division, in conjunction with U.S. Attorney’s Offices, has increased by six-fold the number of human trafficking cases filed in court. The case is being investigated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the FBI, IRS Criminal Investigation, and the State Department Diplomatic Security Service. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow and Senior Litigation Counsel Luis C. de Baca of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section prosecuted the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Ziedas is handling the asset forfeiture part of the case.