“I made everyone follow the thievish rules in the US” 

“I made everyone follow the thievish rules in the US”
Razhden Shulaya

The criminal authority of Georgian origin has become the most influential Russian mobster in New York.

A loud trial against Russian mobster Razhden Shulaya, also known in the criminal circles under the nicknames Razhden Pitersky, Brother and Roma, is underway in the US. According to the investigation, the criminal founded a gang of immigrants from former USSR, which later became the largest and bloodiest in the US. Bandits hacked slot machines in the casinos of Atlantic City and Las Vegas, kidnapped money from credit cards, sold weapons and drugs, and performed hired murders.

St. Petersburg’s underboss

There is little known about the life of Razhden Shulaya in his homeland. He lived in St. Petersburg, studied at a university. He was prosecuted for robbery and kidnapping. According to some information, in the late 2000s, Shulaya was already acquainted with the criminal circles in Russia. He had a status of an underboss of St. Petersburg and was a close associate of the most influential thief in law, Zakhary Kalashov (Shakro the Young).

Razhden has always followed the code of thieves in law (rules of the criminals in Russia) – he led a quiet life and never worked. However, he ran a business and was a founder of several companies, which contradicts the code. He followed the steps of his father, who was a businessman as well. A picture of a grave of Shulaya Sr. can be found on the Internet; it shows a huge and expensive monument made in traditions of the authorities of the underworld, but with the signs of arson on it. Since there is no data on the connections of the deceased with the underworld, it is likely that the enemies of his son were trying to ruin the monument.


Razhden Shulaya was a citizen of two countries: Russia and Georgia (received in 2010).  Georgian media wrote that Shulaya was vary influential criminal in the country, as he had control over local prisons and underbosses even after his immigration to the US.  

The mobster is very proud of his status in the criminal circles. “Every Georgian man after hearing my name and becoming aware of my arrival to Georgia will sit quietly on his ass,” he told in a private conversation. He also enjoyed his influence in the United States: “I made everyone follow the thievish rules.”

The gangster in law

Razhden Shulaya has been crowned as a thief in law in Cyprus in 2013. In the summer of the same year, he along with another 18 criminals was detained Europe, but later released. Soon after this incident, Shulaya left for the US and founded a criminal group which included over 30 people of Russian and Georgian origin mainly. The gangsters run their criminal activity in several states: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida and Nevada.


Members of the gang have developed several sophisticated criminal schemes. They used both classical and high-tech methods: from prostitutes with clonfelin to hacking the codes of slot machines in the casinos of Atlantic City and Las Vegas.

The major part of the gang was residing in Brighton Beach, New York. They controlled business of Russian immigrants. Gangsters organized illegal poker clubs there. The players who lost the game were forced to work for them participating in the criminal schemes.

To work out the debt, players had to participate in frauds with credit cards, extortion, drug and arms trafficking, forgery of documents and theft of goods. Among the accusations against the gangsters, there were murder charges. According to the US law enforcement agencies, two members of the criminal group agreed to rob and kill a businessman to steal several wagons with smuggled cigarettes for 1 million dollars from his warehouse. The criminals were detained and arrested immediately after receiving a payment.

An ordinary American

Shulaya, being a gangster of influential criminal gang, worked very hard to create an image of an ordinary law-abiding citizen.

Like many successful New York managers, he lived in a suburb and had an office in the city. He led a quiet life in Edgewater, New Jersey, a middle-class town on the Hudson River. From time to time, he got into his black Mercedes and went to Brighton Beach (...). Always well-trimmed, wearing glasses and black clothes, Shulaya looked more like a book warm than a mafia leader," longreads.com portal wrote about him.


To clarify the relationship with his opponents, Shulaya had a loyal assistant - a native of Georgia, the world champion in boxing Avtandil Khurtsidze. The mobster called his assistant in case someone refused to pay him. In the criminal circles, Khurtsidze received a nickname Suicide for his temper. It meant, only suicides could fight Avtandil. In court, the jury showed videos where the boxer ‘explains’ the position of his leadership to partners and competitors, accompanying his monologue with blows in their faces.

These scenes were filmed by cameras installed in an underground gambling house that Shulaya ran in an apartment above a restaurant in Brighton Beach. The cameras were fixed in such a way that manager Alexander Kutsenko could monitor the gamblers on the screen of his phone. He has already served a 15-year sentence in a prison. Kutsenko came to the FBI and gave access to the video on his phone, so that agents could watch what was happening in the underground casino in real time, including the moment when Shulaya and Khurtsidze beat an owner of one of the gaming devices, accusing him of stealing.

The mysterious thieves

Police arrested Shulaya in his own house in Edgewater. Along with him, another 33 people were brought to trial, including Khurtsidze and Zurab Dzanashvili, who considered to be the mobster's right hand. Shortly before the trial, Dzanashvili pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with the investigation. During the interrogation, he described the former boss as "the most influential person of the Russian speaking community in New York."

However, defenders of Shulaya, Khurtsidze, and others denied that they belonged to the thieves' world, so the prosecution had to prove that the founder of the organized criminal group was a thief in law. It was also revealed that Shulaya had no tattoos in the form of eight-pointed stars, a sign of membership in the thieves in law community.


Thus, the prosecution presented a shirt and a smartphone case as an evidence since there was the thieves’ symbol on these items. In addition, transcripts of conversations of the authority, where he called himself a thief, testimony of witnesses and a couple of photographs with thieves' symbols were used as proofs. Despite the conspiracy of the criminals, prosecution managed to collect the required evidence.

“The Shulaya Enterprise was an organized criminal group operating under the direction and protection of RAZHDEN SHULAYA, a/k/a “Brother,” a/k/a “Roma,” a “vor v zakone” or “vor,” which are Russian phrases translated roughly as “Thief-in-Law” or “Thief,” and which refer to an order of elite criminals from the former Soviet Union who receive tribute from other criminals, offer protection, and use their recognized status as vor to adjudicate disputes among lower-level criminals,” the official statement of the Southern District of New York says. So the organization Shulaia had a significant impact on the underworld and offered assistance and protection to its members. They, like Shulaya, engaged in large-scale criminal activities, including acts of violence, extortion, illegal gambling, fraud in various casinos. " 

Shulaya was found guilty of one count of racketeering conspiracy, which carries a potential maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.



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