Baron is the last one. Leader of illegal realtors’ gang faces trial after 8 years
It took St. Petersburg law enforcement almost 9 years to find and prosecute Boris Bogdanov, a gipsy baron and the former leader of an illegal realtors’ gang. The St. Petersburg City Court has gathered a jury for this case that is expected to be a tough one. "Mr Bogdanov is a famous artist. He fooled investigators 8 years ago and is going to pretend to be dying again," the court employees said.
Moving to suburbs
The Court has all the reasons to believe that; Boris Bogdanov fooled investigators and gave them the slip from under their noses 8 years ago, on March 8, 2008, when court brought charges against him, sentencing to pre-trial detention. This allegedly caused him heart problems, so he was hospitalized; he later fled hospital. Mr Bogdanov managed to remain at large while his accomplices were serving their terms after having been convicted. Law enforcement managed to arrest him again only in February 2016.
Boris Bogdanov formed his gang and began operating in 2005, according to the investigators. The gang consisted of his relatives exclusively; that is a gipsy tradition. It had about 14 members, was split into several divisions and specialized in finding alcoholics, lone, emotionally unstable, and socially vulnerable people; they hunted after their apartments. The criminals operated in different St. Petersburg districts; victims never saw or even learned about Mr Bogdanov’s existence. However, it was him who found suitable clients and figured out how to approach them, devising fake background for his subordinates and providing for smoothness of paperwork. He was responsible for distributing money, too. Zhanna Orlova, his relative, helped him.
They used a standard apartment theft scheme. The criminals walked around yards and houses of the most marginal citizens offering to have a drink and asking whether alcoholics owned real estate and had relatives, who they lived with. They would then offer their new acquaintances "a job in the Leningrad Region", or moving to "village with fresh air", promising extra money and settling their utility bill debts. Criminals would take their victims to the Novgorod Region if they agreed. Once there, the only thing left was to make them sign a real estate contract. The victims usually did not even understand they became homeless, since criminals would continue drinking with them. If someone refused to sign the convicts would threaten their victims and use violence.
Bogdanov’s gang committed at least 10 apartment thefts between 2005 and 2007. 14 people were charged with regard to the case.
Law enforcement was led to believe there were several gangs due to Bogdanov having several groups. They started suspecting it was the work of one gang after discovering tumble-down houses in the Novgorod Region where the victims lived out their days. It is worth mentioning that the gang never killed anyone despite kidnapping and swindling; they fed their victims and bought them vodka while processing paperwork. The gypsy baron followed the unspoken rules of the criminal world and never killed anyone. This made it much easier for police to investigate his case; the victims testified in court.
Criminal housing and utility service desk
The gang intensified its activities after Zhanna Orlova entered a job in the Petrogradsky District Housing and Utility Service Desk No. 2; the old St. Petersburg district is full of communal apartments. The swindler would make legal arrangements for ownership transfer if a flat was not privately owned.
It is worth mentioning that the victims still had somewhere to live; they received the tumbledown houses in half-abandoned villages after the paperwork was done. However, they did not receive the promised extra money; the criminals told them they had spent it all on their alimentation, paperwork, etc. Sometimes gang women even lived with potential victims so they could transfer the right of ownership to themselves. Alternatively, the gang could move such people to special apartments in St. Petersburg or the Volodarsky village for conditioning.
However, some of the victims had some persistent relatives and watchful neighbors, who reported nefarious activities concerning housing. Only 4 out of 14 criminals were arrested in the beginning. The first suspects were detained in June 2008. The investigators had to travel back and forth between the Leningrad and Novgorod Regions in order to sort out the situation; these are the places where they found the numerous victims. They referred 11 cases from different districts concerning Bogdanov’s gang to the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation the same year; they were merged into one.
Boris Bogdanov found himself under only travels restriction thanks to his age and the fact he has children. However, the investigators’ graciousness ended up costing them dear. They decided to take Mr Bogdanov into custody upon learning more about the crimes and discovering he is the gang leader. That is when he showed how good of an actor he is, pretending to feel sick during a court sitting; an ambulance took him to hospital. The investigators did not want to postpone hearings and decided to hold an offsite sitting in hospital. However, law enforcement did not find the supposedly sick criminal there the next day; they put him on the wanted list but failed to catch him.
In the meantime, police arrested other gang members; litigation began. Members were accused of different crimes depending of which one they participated in. Irina Telyatnikova, a St. Petersburg City judge, sentenced some of them in 2011. Anna Sadofieva sentenced Zhanna Orlova in 2012. All the accused were Bogdanov’s relatives: Nikolay, Aleksey, Mikhail, Aleksandr and Fedor, as well Orlova, Fedor’s wife.
The crimes Zhanna Orlova’s group was accused of were committed between 2004 and 2010: 10 swindlings and attempted swindlings resulted in 13 million rubles damage to their victims.
Orlova’s group members were found guilty of swindling, kidnapping, and participation in a criminal community in 2012. Court sentenced them to 5.5-7 years in prison depending on their crimes. Court opened a separate criminal case against Bogdanov due to the high number of his crimes and sentenced him to pre-trial detention in absentia.
It is worth mentioning that Boris Bogdanov did not sit idle while on the run; he tried to find a way to get away with his crimes and avoid prison. The period of limitation for his crimes is 10 years. However, it only applies given a suspect is not on the wanted list. Bogdanov hired a lawyer in order to avoid further problems; he has recently claimed his client…did not flee from prosecution for all these years, lived at his home and was not sought after by law enforcement. He also submitted lots of medical assessment reports from a private clinic.
This time, court launched prosecution properly; the gipsy baron ended up in pre-trial detention facility in February 2016. He even did not complain about his health. He is accused of violating the following articles of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation: 210, part 1-2 of Art.126, item (a), part 3 of Art. 159, part 4 of Art. 30, part 3 of Art. 159, part 4 (Creation of a Criminal Community and Participation Therein, Kidnapping, Swindling, Attempted Swindling). Bogdanov did not give any testimony. He requested his case is heard in jury court after it was transferred to the St. Petersburg City Court. The investigators had to be patient once again; they managed to gather 12 principal and 12 substitute jurors only on the third try in the autumn of this year. They start working today. Court sessions are to be held once a week. Olga Nechaeva is the judge for the case. However, the investigators are confident jury will find Bogdanov guilty of 11 crimes he is accused of. At the same time, they are ready for Bogdanov trying to fool court again.
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