“The lambs are docile and change all the time”. Gang of extortionists robbed orphans
The public sentiment towards children and elderly people is the main criterion of a society. There are plenty of groups requiring special care and control of the state, including orphans. In Russia, they face severe threats and risks every day.
What are the main threats for former residents of children's homes? The primary danger is the desire of criminals to lay hands on their bank accounts that sometimes store significant savings. Many people are aware of this, including former orphanage dwellers and ‘professional' bandits.
After leaving children's homes, the young men and women (especially those studying at universities) continue receiving social benefits until the age of 23 or even longer. Many orphans work – and their savings remain intact. Various villains are eager to get access to these monies; they cling to the victims, harass and terrorize them, and even incite to suicide. Young criminals from children's homes act as ‘tippers’ for their older ‘colleagues’.
There are several reasons behind the current situation. The state does not control young people graduating from orphanages. Orientation sessions held for them by support services are formal. District police departments normally neither have lists of students–orphans nor communicate with them. Orphans feel themselves lonely and helpless. In case of a threat, these young people usually don't address the police for help – not out of fear, but because they have no idea what to do and how the police may assist them.
Sometimes, rogue cops join efforts with criminals. For instance, this happened in Kursk where plenty of people had been making money on orphans.
Our source is the local press archive for 2017.
The Investigations Directorate in the Kursk Region of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR) investigates an attempted swindling case; one of its suspects is Aleksander Strelkov, a department head at the Administration of Criminal Investigation of the Administration for the Kursk Region of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of the Russian Federation. The police officer was extorting, jointly with two accomplices, money from an 18-year-old orphan whose bank card had accrued a large sum in a few years. Two accomplices of the policeman, posing as law enforcement officers, told the young man that two criminal complaints (rape of a minor and theft of monetary funds) were filed against him – and he must pay some 200 thousand rubles ($3.1 thousand) to avoid criminal prosecution. The scared man has withdrawn 24 thousand rubles ($367) from his card, gave to the fake policemen, and made an appointment to pay the rest of the money. Then the victim addressed the Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation, and all the suspects were detained during the handover of 200 thousand rubles ($3.1 thousand). The court imposed various pretrial restrictions upon the three malefactors.
Aleksander Strelkov, ex-department head at the Administration of Criminal Investigation of the MIA Administration for the Kursk Region
Fake policemen had extorted money from an orphan
The fraudsters had acted with confidence and used a tried and tested scheme that has failed by accident. If the guy had the required amount in the very beginning, it would be very difficult to prove anything afterwards.
Here is another episode:
Three former orphanage graduates used threats to extort money from a 19-year-old orphan. They were aware that at least 50 thousand rubles ($764) had accrued on his card. The victim refused to pay – so, the criminals ambushed him near the college dormitory, forcibly put in a car, and drove outside the city towards the airport. The abductors handcuffed the young man to the car, battered, and threatened him. The victim did not give up – so, they released him and threatened to continue beating if he dares to address the police. However, the guy submitted a complaint – and members of the criminal group were arrested. The investigation established that the extortionists had committed similar crimes for a long time and one of them, Nikitin, was involved in the kidnapping of an 18-year-old orphan – who was also beaten, handcuffed to a heating radiator, and ultimately paid the criminals over 500 thousand rubles ($7.6 thousand). The second abductor had ‘collaborated' with Dmitry Kukuruza; in 2017, they had withdrawn from the bank card of one of the victims over 1 million rubles ($15.3 thousand) and then kidnapped him again to extort additional 200 thousand rubles ($3.1 thousand). However, the young man managed to escape.
The two above-mentioned episodes have much in common, including the extortion of identical sums of 200 thousand rubles ($3.1 thousand). Surprisingly, these crimes had neither hit the headlines nor caused much public stir. Apparently, the local law enforcement structures were unwilling to escalate the scandal. However, a friend of one of the victims addressed The CrimeRussia, asked for a meeting, and provided some shocking details.
We became aware that the above incidents were links in a chain – police officers and ‘civilian’ extortionists knew about each others’ ‘spheres of interest’. The number of people involved in the criminal scheme was much higher. In addition to Strelkov, Luk’yanov, Nikitin, and Kukuruza, the gang also included Aleksander Slavkov, Dmitry Dorokhov, Evgeny Alinchenko, Nikolai Starosel’tsev, Sergei Arbuzov, and some A.V. Kulikov whose full name remains unknown yet.
Aleksander Strelkov, ex-department head at the Administration of Criminal Investigation of the MIA Administration for the Kursk Region, in court
Not only young men had fallen victims to the extortionists – but girls as well, including former residents of children’s homes Sh., M., and S. (The CrimeRussia possesses their names).
The respondent told us about the smoothly-running criminal scheme:
— It was terrible! Really terrible. Gang members had approached the chosen orphans and behaved very brazenly. There were at least 30 victims. The majority of them are still afraid because some bandits remain at liberty, including Strelkov (i.e. the former policemen – The CrimeRussia).
— How can he be at liberty? What charges are laid against them?
— I don’t understand much. Here are the papers; have a look. Abductions, thefts, extortion... Here are some figures.
The ‘figures' are Articles of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation: Article 330 (arbitrariness), part 3 of Article 158 (theft committed by a group of persons on a large scale), part 2 of Article 126 (abduction), robbery, fake traffic accident, extortion, and even computer fraud... The majority of these crimes are grievous – so, it is unclear how could the pretrial restrictions be limited to a written undertaking not to leave the city. Some people in our country are convicted to real prison terms for ‘likes' and reposts on social networks; some are locked up in pretrial detention facilities for stealing a sack of potatoes – so, how could persons suspected of such grave offenses remain at liberty??
The conversation continues:
— Had anybody tried to address law enforcement structures for help prior to the escalation of the problem to such a large scale?
— We tried – but without much result. The authorities either had not believed us or hushed up the incidents. An investigator at the Investigations Directorate in the Kursk Region of the ICR told us that the public disclosure of the years-long robbery of orphans may result in mass terminations of regional officials.
— This is a strong reason for them to prevent any leaks. But what about you guys? Why had nobody made the situation public? Were you scared?
— Of course, we were. These persons were very ‘convincing'. One girl wanted to address the police and was silly enough to tell this to one of the extortionists. They locked her in an apartment and raped for several days. She has nearly cracked. Of course, she still does not want to report anything. They have seized from her some 300 thousand rubles ($4.6 thousand). All these monsters, including policeman Strelkov, bandit Kukuruza, etc., were members of the same gang. At some point, Kukuruza said: "the field is good, and it is possible to fleece for a long time – the lambs are docile and change all the time".
— What else did they do?
— They could threaten to drill your eye out with a perforator and put the borer to your face. They could pee on you or promise to rape you.
— How much have they extorted? According to the press, it is about some 1.5 million rubles ($23 thousand).
— I think over 4 million ($61.1 thousand). In addition, they had forced some girls to render sexual services to them (the victims also keep silence) and guys – to perform works for free. According to the TV, the police protects me – but in reality...
The respondent shows us a July 2017 issue of Drug Dlya Druga (For Each Other) newspaper.
— Look what is written about a policeman... "A strict disciplinary action will be taken against his commander." Where is this? Nobody had even apologized. No sentence was delivered... What to do? How will other orphans feel? Most importantly, nobody has answered the question: how had the criminals obtained information about the sums kept on the cards of orphans–students? Who had disclosed this to them? Some of the victims could babble. But what about others? This is scary. The sense of fear will torment us for the rest of our lives. I don't know how to get rid of it. A harsh punishment would restore justice – at least, partially. Apparently, somebody does not want this case to be heard in court.
— Investigation is a delicate thing... Again, the circumstances...
— What circumstances? According to their own words, the extortionists had paid dues to the thieves’ pooled cash fund, while Strelkov gave 1 million rubles ($15.3 thousand) to somebody in the Prosecutor’s Office to avoid the arrest. I believe in this. And this is one of the most important ‘circumstances’.
Thefts and extortion of orphans’ benefits became a separate sphere of criminal business in Russia. A simple analysis of the information space shows that similar incidents had occurred in the recent years in Kemerovo, Novosibirsk, Kaluga, and other regions. In all such cases, the extortionists were captured and sentenced to lengthy prison terms – except for the Kursk region where the inquest is still ongoing.
What is the true reason behind this – poor work of the investigation, sabotage of the prosecution, or bribery of officials? No one can say...
The intel scandal involving Oleg Smolenkov, who had access to the Kremlin and possessed valuable information, has become a widely discussed topic. It was CNN who reported, citing sources in the CIA and Donald Trump administration, on the “informant” being evacuated from Russia in 2017. It turned out that for certain people in Russia, the spy’s disappearance was not a secret, while the Russian elite denied the fact of espionage in unison with the American one. The Smolenkov family was forced to leave their luxurious mansion in Virginia, and their current whereabouts are unknown. Smolenkov’s “patron,” Assistant to the President of the Russian Federation for the International Sector Yury Ushakov, continues to fulfill his duties. The CrimeRussia looked into the story of “exfiltration” of the top informant and the possible consequences of his work as an intelligencer.