I've been writing a lot this month about how the big immigration trend in Los Angeles these days is whites from the ex-Soviet Union and Middle East. The LA Times today has a story on the quintuple kidnapping-murder trial of two Russian immigrant "businessmen" (whom the Times incorrectly headlines "emigres," presumably to avoid offending immigrants) that sounds like a scenario the Coen Bros. and Quentin Tarantino would come up with while on a bender:
Emigres' murder case goes to jury
Organized crime and money laundering are linked to a kidnapping scheme that left five dead, prosecutors say.
By Jill Leovy,
He was a glasnost entrepreneur trying to forge a new future out of the ruins of post-Soviet Russia. Now, the Russian immigrant to the San Fernando Valley is trying to convince a federal jury that his resourceful style of communist-busting capitalism did not turn into a kidnap-for-ransom murder scheme that ended with five bodies in a Sierra lake.
The jury is expected to begin deliberating today whether Iouri Mikhel and co-defendant Jurijus Kadamovas were responsible for the deaths of the five victims, who were strangled with flexible ties or smothered with plastic bags, their heads bound with duct tape, their bodies tossed into a remote Northern California reservoir in the dead of night. Mikhel, 42, and Kadamovas, 40, face possible death sentences for their alleged roles in what prosecutors say was a grisly conspiracy carried out partly in a posh Tudor home in a hillside neighborhood of Encino.
The alleged plot links international money launderers and local muscle-for-hire, Russian organized crime and Valley real estate barons, a phony front man named "Raul" and a temptress dubbed "Natalya from Moscow." For ill-gotten gains that included mink coats, a Mercedes-Benz and a pair of purebred Dobermans, prosecutors say, Mikhel and Kadamovas planned an elaborate set of crimes carried out against members of the Valley's close-knit Russian emigre community. After they were arrested, they allegedly hatched an equally elaborate plot to escape from the federal jail in downtown Los Angeles, going so far as to pull a hydraulic pump up to their cells on a string.
Unfortunately, the article doesn't explain how, precisely, these enterprising gents were going to use the hydraulic pump to escape from jail. It does make their first kidnapping sound like the botched crime in the Coen's "Blood Simple:"
Their first victim was Meyer Muscatel, a Valley real estate developer whom the pair targeted because of his financial success.
"Meyer Muscatel?" C'mon ... The Coens wouldn't even use that.
Using cellphones obtained under false names, they lured Muscatel to Mikhel's hillside Encino home by suggesting that they wanted to talk to him about a real estate deal. Then they stopped at Home Depot and bought what prosecutors called a "kidnapping kit": red duct tape, two kinds of gloves, plastic ties and gauzy boot covers, purchased with Mikhel's credit card.
When Muscatel walked in the front door, the kidnappers jumped on him. They kept him in a room and tried to take money out of his bank accounts. But the plan was foiled when the bank demanded an in-person visit. So they tackled Muscatel on the floor of the garage, wrapping duct tape around his head and sitting on him. Then, according to the testimony of Altmanis, Mikhel twisted a bag around his head until he suffocated.
Afterward, the plotters gathered in the kitchen to scrutinize a map of the state. They spotted a remote Northern California reservoir, the New Melones Reservoir near Sonora, north of Yosemite. A long drive, which prosecutors chronicled by means of traced cellphone calls, took them to a high narrow bridge across the remote reservoir. The body of Muscatel, whose blood was found on the bridge, was thrown in and later floated to the surface, to be discovered by a local boater.
Since that went so well, they decided to try it again:
Similar strategies were used with their next four victims: a financial consultant named Rita Pekler, whom they hoped to use to lure a wealthy client into their clutches. But it didn't work. So they killed her, prosecutors said, and made another trip to the reservoir. [More]
Finland has a 1340 mile-long border with Russia, but I bet it doesn't have to put up with these kind of folks. Why not? Because the government of Finland won't let them in.