“Very difficult person”. Last boss of ‘old Russian mafia’ convicted in the U.S. 

“Very difficult person”. Last boss of ‘old Russian mafia’ convicted in the U.S.
Elderly Boris Nayfeld, once-‘boss of Russian mafia’ on Brighton Beach, could not even afford a lawyer Photo: The CrimeRussia

One of the last remaining bosses of ‘old Russian mafia’ who used to operate on the U.S. East Cost in the 1990s has been convicted in New York. 70-year-old Boris ‘Biba’ Nayfeld has got another prison term, this time – for extortion. He has already served several terms, and every time he managed to get the minimal punishment. This time ‘Biba’ is going to get out of jail by the end of the year.⁠

Behind the boss’s back 

The native of Gomel, Belarus (according to some information, he was a house-painter there) has immigrated to the U.S. back in the 1970s. Upon arrival to Brighton Beach, Boris Nayfeld became a member of the ‘inner circle’ of a criminal ‘authority’ admitted to the ‘thieves’ world’ – Evsei ‘Evsei Leningradsky’ Agron who lived on Brighton Beach in New York and was the founder of so-called ‘Russian mafia’ in the U.S. ‘Biba’ became his driver and later bodyguard.

The gang had committed racketeering, extortion, robberies, and murders; it terrorized not only the local people but also the law enforcement structures. Upon getting accustomed to the new life, Nayfeld understood that it is possible to make much more money in America – but Agron did not support his ideas to expand the spheres of influence. Then ‘Biba’ started plotting his own heroin trade scheme behind the back of his boss. On May 4, 1985, a person in a sports suit has shoot Agron point-blank hitting his right temple twice. This happened near the elevator of the Evsei’s home when he was going to a bathhouse. Boris Nayfeld was waiting for his boss in the car near the entrance; he was the first on the list of potential assassin's paymasters, but the police could not prove anything. This case still remains officially unsolved.

Евсей Агрон

Evsei Agron 

Marat Balagula had succeeded Agron; he was known for a major fraud in the gasoline sphere and ties with Italian mafia. Boris Nayfeld became his bodyguard. Upon gaining the support and connections of Balagula, Nayfeld started selling heroin to the Italians in wholesale amounts. A year later, during a business meeting dedicated to the collaboration in the gasoline sphere, late Vadik Reznikov, once-famous Brighton Beach killer, has entered the office of Marat Balagula.

It is still unknown what exactly had happened there. Some person has pulled an Uzi submachine gun and started gunning down the people around him. Accidentally or intentionally, but Aleks Zeltser, one of Balagula’s bodyguards, got 8 bullets to the chest and 2 bullets to the head and died on the scene. Mikhail Voks, a competitor of Balagula and manager of a fuel station of MVB Energy Company, was wounded to the chest and hand but survived. Boris Nayfeld was wounded only to the thumb of his right hand. Other persons were not injured. Interestingly, Reznikov and Voks were friends and even business partners. The bodyguards had unanimously stated that they could not fire back because were not aware who was shooting. The police failed to solve this case. According to one of the versions, Reznikov had opened fire, but a month later, Balagula hired Italians from clan Colombo to assassinate him – and Reznikov was shot dead near Odessa restaurant.

Марат Балагула

Marat Balagula

In charge of ‘Russian mafia’ 

After a while, the police have arrested Balagula for a minor fraud with credit card, and Boris Nayfeld has finally become the boss of ‘Russian mafia’. However, Italian mafia that had earlier supported ‘Biba’, stopped collaborating with him.

He started trafficking heroin from Thailand. The drug was shipped to Singapore, sealed into TV kinescopes, and then sent to Poland. Everything was done so masterfully that the European customs could not suspect anything wrong.

Борис Найфельд

Young Boris Nayfeld

Russian couriers with American passports were transporting heroin from Poland to the U.S. via New York under disguise of flour for Brooklyn bakeries. Poland was not considered a potential drug trafficking point – therefore, the cargo was not checked. Over time, the group started shipping heroin to Boston, Chicago and other cities. Much later, ‘Biba’ remembered that the main problem was the impossibility to sell heroin in wholesale amounts. They were selling the drug in batches not exceeding one kilogram to Sicilian thugs from a cheap den on Coney Island or in very small portions directly to the clients, mostly, to Spanish residents of Manhattan. These years were the peak of Boris Nayfeld’s criminal career.

He was involved into a skirmish with famous criminal ‘authority’ Efim Laskin on September 27, 1991 in Munich. Laskin was killed in that fight, but the crime was never solved. The negotiations had turned into a quarrel and, according to some information, late Belorussian ‘thief-in-law’ Aleksander Bor (Timoshenko), also known as ‘Timokha’, has stabbed Laskin with a knife. Nayfeld was suspected of that crime, but in 2003, Aleksander Bor has been sentenced in Germany to life in prison for the murder of Fima Laskin. Later the sentence was appealed and reduced to 13 years, and in 2004, the ‘crowned thief’ has been deported to Russia.

Александр Бор (Тимошенко)

Aleksander Bor (Timoshenko)    

Deadly enemy

In the early 1990s, Nayfeld has made a powerful enemy in the person of ‘authoritative thief’ Monya El’son. El’son has crossed ‘Biba’s path by establishing ties with Italian mafia to ship heroin to the Italians in wholesale amounts. Boris Nayfeld has offered $100 thousand for the assassination of El’son, thus, launching a fierce war between them. They had planted mines to each other’s car, made ambushes, several dozens of fighters from both sides were killed in that conflict. The war has ended after an urgent departure of El’son from the U.S. in 1993 due to the close attention of the special services to him.

In 1994, ‘Biba’ was arrested in the New York airport for drug smuggling. Famous criminal-whistleblower Iosif ‘Grisha Lyudoed’ (Cannibal) Roizis had exposed his drug trafficking scheme to the authorities. For the totality of the charges, Nayfeld was facing several life terms; however, resourceful ‘Biba’ decided to follow the steps of Roizis. He pled partially guilty, made a deal with the investigation, and became a prosecution witness. In May 1998, he was sentenced to 4 years and 4 months behind bars – exactly the time already spent by him in custody – and has been immediately released. It became known that by assisting the authorities, Nayfeld has turned in his deadly enemy Monya El’son who was later sentenced in the U.S. to 7 years in prison.

Моня Эльсон

Monya El’son (on the left) on Brighton Beach 

After the release, ‘Biba’ has resumed his criminal business – although in a more cautious way. Only in 2008, Boris Nayfeld was arrested again for tobacco smuggling. He was sentenced to a prison term and released on February 8, 2014.

In 2009, a series of documentaries about the banditry in America has been filmed for National Geographic channel; one of the movies was entitled Brooklyn’s Russian Gangsters. In that film, ‘Biba’ tells about his ‘exploits’. Monya El’son, who was serving a prison term at that time, has commented this as follows: “‘Biba’ claims in the film that he was the supreme boss. This is ridiculous. All the people around him were exactly like him”.

Борис Найфельд в телепрограмме

Boris Nayfeld (still from the movie) 

Final fraud of the boss of ‘Russian mafia’

During the time spent behind bars, ‘Biba’ has completely exhausted all his savings and was in distress. 67-year-old Nayfeld decided to pull off a questionable scheme involving extortion. He and 68-year-old Boris Kotlyarsky, an immigrant from Kiev virtually unknown in the criminal circles, became aware of a feud in the family of businessman Anatoly Potik, a native of Kishinev. Earlier his daughter Ronit had married Oleg Mitnik, an immigrant from the former U.S.S.R. and owner of TRT International transport company. Since 2014, they have been divorcing, dividing assets worth several dozens of millions of dollars, and seeking parental custody over their children.

Олег Митник

Oleg Mitnik 

In fall 2015, Mitnik has submitted a report to the FBI claiming that his father-in-law wants to kill him to resolve all the disputes for the benefit of his daughter. Nayfeld and Kotlyarsky have taken advantage of this: Kotlyarsky called Mitnik and told that ‘Biba’ was retained to assassinate him for $100 thousand. But if Mitnik pays $25 thousand more, the killer would abandon his plans. All the further negotiations were held under surveillance of the law enforcement structures.

It is unknown whether Anatoly Potik had indeed retained a contract killer to murder Oleg Mitnik. His defense attorney has stated that “as a result of the hard work, presented evidence, and investigation carried out by the federal authorities, they have recognized that this charge must be dropped”. In other words, the alleged contract killing was either a fantasy of Oleg Mitnik or somebody wanted to defraud him of $125 thousand.

Анатолий Потик

Ronit and Anatoly Potik 

In January, Mitnik and elderly ‘boss of Russian mafia’ had several meetings in a Brooklyn restaurant, and the businessman agreed to issue a cheque for $50 thousand as an advance payment to cancel the assassination order against him. As a guaranty, ‘Biba’ has called the ‘client’ and demanded to abandon his plans – otherwise it would be worse for him. On January 14, 2016, Nayfeld and Kotlyarsky have been arrested while exiting the restaurant. According to the law enforcement structures, during the arrest, ‘Biba’ had sworn in obscene language and torn the cheque. A week later, Anatoly Potik who was about to leave the U.S., was arrested in the airport. Later he was released on $20 million bail in real estate and soon the contract killing conspiracy charges against him have been dropped.

After the arrest, Boris Nayfeld admitted that he can’t pay for lawyer’s services and a government defense attorney was appointed for him. Then he made a plea deal again – the criminal case has been split into two, and ‘Biba’ became a witness in the case against Kotlyarsky.

Борис Найфельд

Boris Nayfeld 

Nayfeld reportedly testified that Kotlyarsky had offered him to collect a debt from some businessman, and the elaborate scheme was designed for that purpose. Kotlyarsky has been sentenced to 41 month behind bars.

On July 27, 2017, the verdict in the case against Boris Nayfeld has been pronounced in Manhattan Federal Court. The judge had a letter from the prosecutor asking to reduce the punishment to the defendant for fruitful collaboration with the investigation.

Both the defense attorney and prosecutor had emphasized that Nayfeld was almost 70 years old and noted that upon becoming aware of his collaboration with the authorities, other criminals likely won’t deal with him – i.e. he won’t be able to continue his criminal operations.

“Obviously, he is a very difficult person,” – the prosecutor said and informed the judge that Nayfeld’s wife Angela is divorcing him. According to the prosecutor, ‘Biba’ decided to commit a crime “because he did not see other way out of poverty”. The prosecutor has noted that the defendant was lacking not only money, but “spirit and hope” as well.

In his last statement, ‘Biba’ asked in Russian to forgive him for the wrongdoing and said that he “would like to die at home”.

While pronouncing the sentence, the judge said that despite his age, Nayfeld is a very dangerous person and convicted him to 23 month behind bars, including 18 months already served by him. Therefore, ‘Biba’ should get out of jail by the end of the year. Time will show what the 70-year-old last boss of ‘Russian mafia’ is going to do after the release.

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