News and Press Releases

Twenty-one Members of an East European Organized Crime Ring Indicted by a Federal Grand Jury in Brooklyn

March 08, 2006

Cooperating Witness Purchased Nine Stolen Vehicles from Defendants Valued at Approximately One-Half Million Dollars

Twenty-one members and associates of an East European criminal organization based in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, New York have been charged in a 29-count indictment with racketeering, extortion, armed robbery conspiracy, credit card fraud conspiracy, and illegal trafficking of narcotics, firearms, stolen luxury cars, fraudulent identification documents, and other stolen property, including a purported 18th Century Stradivarius violin stolen in Europe.1 The indictment alleges that the “Greenpoint Crew” carried out its criminal activity in New York City, other sections of the United States, and in Poland, between 2005 and 2006. The crew consisted of immigrants from Poland and other countries once part of the former Soviet Bloc, including Ukraine, Georgia, and Hungary, and frequently relied on contacts in Eastern Europe in order to obtain and sell contraband.

The charges were announced today by ROSLYNN R. MAUSKOPF, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, MARK J. MERSHON, Assistant Director-in-Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office, and RAYMOND W. KELLY,Commissioner of the New York City Police Department.

The defendants arrested in New York on March 7 and 8, 2006, are scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Viktor V. Pohorelsky at the U.S. Courthouse, 225 Cadman Plaza, Brooklyn, New York.

The charges are the result of a multi-year investigation by the FBI/NYPD Eurasian Organized Crime Joint Task Force, which previously resulted in charges being brought against more than a dozen members of other East European criminal organizations operating in Greenpoint.2 A significant development in the investigation leading to today’s announcement began in January 2005, with the arrest of an associate of the Greenpoint Crew who agreed to cooperate with the government. As part of the investigation, the cooperating witness recorded dozens of conversations with several of the defendants, and, under the supervision of law enforcement, made controlled purchases of a firearm, ammunition, stolen cars, and fraudulent identification documents, and negotiated the purchase of narcotics. The investigation also included thousands of hours of electronic surveillance of cellular telephones used by crew leaders OSTAP KAPELIOUJNYJ and KRZYSZTOF SPRYSAK.

“We will use all available resources to investigate, prosecute, and eliminate emerging organized crime groups,” stated United States Attorney MAUSKOPF. “The corrupting influence of this crew was pervasive. Crew members conspired to traffic illegally in weapons and drugs, provided fraudulent identification documents to other criminals, and threatened and extorted residents of our district. No effort will be spared to ensure that criminal groups like the Greenpoint Crew do not gain a foothold in our communities.”

As set forth in the indictment and the government’s detention letter which was also filed today, the Greenpoint Crew operated as a virtual superstore of contraband, offering a wide range of stolen merchandise.During the course of the investigation, the cooperating witness purchased six stolen Cadillac Escalades, a stolen Hummer sport utility vehicle, a stolen Jeep Grand Cherokee, a stolen BMW 330i, a .38 caliber handgun with ammunition, three fraudulent Polish passports, a stolen Social Security card, and a stolen New York driver’s license. Crew members also offered to sell him ecstasy, additional firearms, and stolen checks. At one point crew members invited the cooperating witness to participate with them in armed robberies and a sophisticated “bust-out” scheme.

When customers or associates failed to make good on their debts, crew members at times resorted to threats of violence. In one instance, KAPELIOUJNYJ was captured on tape discussing that he had threatened to kill a person in the electronics business with a golf club, boasting that he had already taken from him two computers, a camera, and an iPOD, and adding “it is not enough.” In another intercepted conversation, KAPELIOUJNYJ complained about the owner of a Brooklyn business who owed him money and told the cooperating witness that they should burn down her business in order to punish her for what she had done.

As further alleged in the indictment and detention letter, the crew attempted to conceal its activity by laundering the proceeds of its crimes through Poland and using false identities, and claimed to have corrupt contacts in law enforcement enabling them to defeat surveillance and avoid detection. For example, when SPRYSAK and ZALEWSKI suspected that they had been followed to a meeting with the cooperating witness, ZALEWSKI copied the license plate numbers of the cars that he believed had followed him and said he had a contact in law enforcement who could “run” the license plates in order to identify the drivers. In another intercepted conversation, SPRYSAK asked an associate to obtain information from a law enforcement official.

The intercepted conversations also reveal that the defendants were ready to resort to obstruction and witness intimidation to protect their criminal enterprise. After learning that an acquaintance had been called in to meet with law enforcement regarding a scheme to defraud immigrants seeking legal status in the United States, SPRYSAK and ZALEWSKI were overheard discussing the need to contact the witness to make sure she “knows what to say.”

In announcing the indictment and arrests, FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge MERSHON stated, “From stolen luxury automobiles, to illegal handguns and drugs, to fraudulent identification documents, to perhaps a stolen 18th Century Stradivarius violin, the Greenpoint Crew provided supermarket shopping on the black market. They were not above using violence and intimidation in conducting their business. This enterprise, composed primarily of Polish and other Eastern European nationals, concentrated its criminal activities in the New York area, but its reach extended overseas, in order to launder illegal proceeds and facilitate some of the illicit schemes. This joint law enforcement effort effectively put the Greenpoint Crew out of business.”

Police Commissioner KELLY stated, “This case was a virtuoso performance played by New York City Police Officers, FBI agents, and federal prosecutors.”

The charges in the indictment carry the following maximum sentences: racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, extortion, extortion conspiracy, robbery conspiracy, and narcotics conspiracy -- 20 years’ imprisonment; fraudulent identification document conspiracy -- 15 years’ imprisonment; possession and sale of stolen motor vehicles and stolen property, passport fraud, trafficking in motor vehicles with altered vehicle identification numbers, and alien in possession of a firearm -- ten years’ imprisonment; stolen motor vehicle trafficking conspiracy, credit card fraud conspiracy, illegal firearms trafficking, firearms trafficking conspiracy, and altering vehicle identification numbers -- five years’ imprisonment; and steroid distribution conspiracy -- four years’ imprisonment. In addition, each defendant faces a maximum fine of up to $250,000 on each count of conviction, or, in the case of the racketeering counts, twice the gross profits of the enterprise.

The case has been assigned to United States District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis.

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Thomas Firestone and Caren Myers.

The Defendants:

Name: Ostap Kapelioujnyj
DOB: 11/28/72

Name: Krzysztof Sprysak
DOB: 5/5/74

Name: Lajos Abe Berger
DOB: 3/18/54

Name: Merab Merabishvili
DOB: 9/22/55

Name: Tomek Wojtasczyk
DOB: 3/30/77

Name: Rafal Zajac
DOB: 9/17/75

Name: Lukasz Zalewski
DOB: 12/19/75

Name: Krzysztof Czyz

Name: Pawel Drozdal
DOB: 10/24/75

Name: Teresa Grzybek
DOB: 7/31/56

Name: Pawel Guzal

Name: Shalva Kartvelishvili
DOB: 3/28/75

Name: Krzysztof Kielan
DOB: 12/30/59

Name: Sebastian Kulon

Name: Karol Liszewski
DOB: 2/19/75

Name: Andrzej Madej
DOB: 2/14/71

Name: Adam Potocki
DOB: 12/24/75

Name: Maciej LNU

Name: Tomasz LNU

Name: Rafal LNU



1 The charges announced today are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

2 Earlier today, as part of this FBI/NYPD joint initiative, five additional individuals were charged in complaints with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and traffic in stolen motor vehicles, and a sixth individual was charged in a separate complaint with conspiracy to traffic in narcotics.

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