New York, NY – Joon H. Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, William F. Sweeney Jr., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), Leon Hayward, Acting Director of the New York Field Office of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and James P. O’Neill, the Commissioner of the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”), announced the arrests of GODEL SEZANAYEV a/k/a “Gary,” MARK MULLAKANDOV, ALBERT FOOZAILOV, IMANIL MURATOV a/k/a “Eddy,” MANASHE SEZANAYEV a/k/a “Michael,” NATHAN ITZCHAKI, ARKADIY ISRAILOV, ALI JAVIDNEZHAD, MARK NATANZON, SHOLOM MURATOV, MENACHEM ABRAMOV, and NIZAMUDEN AKBARI for their role in fraudulently obtaining millions of dollars in virtually untraceable diamonds from victim wholesalers.
Ten of the defendants were arrested this morning and will be presented this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew J. Peck in Manhattan federal court. JAVIDNEZHAD and AKBARI remain at large.
Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said: “The twelve charged defendants allegedly participated in a global conspiracy to defraud diamond dealers out of more than $9 million. Centered in Manhattan’s diamond district, America’s busiest hub in the diamond trade, the defendants allegedly took advantage of an industrywide system of credit and trust to obtain largely untraceable diamonds, and then, using various allegedly illegal schemes, refused to pay. We commend our law enforcement partners for their work in shutting this alleged criminal scheme down for good.”
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said: “Diamonds have value worldwide so it comes as no surprise that an alleged organized ring would target diamond wholesalers in Manhattan’s diamond district in a worldwide scheme. Using everything from forged documents to bad checks and tall tales, the group allegedly swindled more than $9 million from victim wholesalers. The FBI-NYPD-CBP Joint Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force is committed to rooting out organized crime groups- big or small-wherever we find them operating I want to commend the FBI agents, NYPD detectives, and CBP officers on their hard work and collaboration in bringing this investigation towards prosecution.”
NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill said: “As alleged, these defendants bought nine million in untraceable diamonds with bad checks, forged documents, and long stories to perpetuate their scheme. I want to thank the NYPD detectives, the FBI, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District for their efforts to bring these defendants to justice.”
Acting CBP NY Field Office Director Leon Hayward said: “U.S. Customs and Border Protection is proud of the expertise we bring to support and assist investigations that result in the takedown of criminal enterprises. It is through interagency partnerships and collaborative efforts, like the one leading to today’s arrests, that law enforcement successfully combats today’s criminal organizations.”
According to the allegations in the Complaint unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:
Since in or about 2015, the FBI has been investigating a series of predatory frauds perpetrated by a group of diamond merchants in New York City. This group swindles diamond wholesalers in a variety of ways, and then resells the ill-gotten diamonds through Manhattan’s diamond district. In order to avoid detection, the group focuses on obtaining small round stones called melee diamonds, which are virtually untraceable, as they do not bear the unique numerical identifiers common on larger stones.
The group uses a variety of methods to defraud its victims, including bad checks, false references, forged documents, and tall tales—all to convince its victims to part with their diamonds before receiving payment. The group’s most common technique is the “bust out”: first the group builds up credit and trust with a victim by paying for goods on delivery, and then, at the moment of maximum credit, the group walks away with the millions of dollars in diamonds, leaving the victim high and dry.
Once victims begin to realize their predicament, and begin to insist on payment, members of the group refuse and, instead, inform the wholesalers that their diamonds have been lost, or that another customer took the victim’s diamonds and has refused to pay, or that a different member of the group will repay the victim at some point in the future. Members of the group have even conditioned payment on the victim’s willingness to assist the group in still another fraud.
Among the schemes described in the Complaint:
From at least January 2015 to November 2016, GODEL SEZANAYEV a/k/a “Gary”, ALBERT FOOZAILOV, IMANIL MURATOV a/k/a “Eddy,” MANASHE SEZANAYEV a/k/a “Michael,” and ALI JAVIDNEZHAD deployed an ad hoc strategy to obtain as much of the diamond inventory of a wholesaler (“Victim-1”) as possible without full payment. The defendants’ scheme caused Victim-1 in excess of $2.4 million in losses.
In or about May 2015, GODEL SEZANAYEV a/k/a “Gary,” ARKADIY ISRAILOV, and NIZAMUDEN AKBARI conspired to defraud a jewelry merchant at a Las Vegas trade show.
From in or about December 2015 to December 2016, ALBERT FOOZAILOV, NATHAN ITZCHAKI, MARK MULLAKANDOV, MARK NATANZON, MENCHAM ABRAMOV, and SHOLOM MURATOV induced numerous victims in Mumbai, India (“Victim-2,” “Victim-3,” “Victim-4,” and “Victim-5”) to send diamonds by interstate carrier by purporting to agree to payment terms that they had no intention to, and did not, honor. The defendants caused these victims losses in excess of $7.44 million.
GODEL SEZANAYEV a/k/a “Gary,” 40, ALBERT FOOZAILOV, 53, IMANIL MURATOV a/k/a “Eddy,” 60, MANASHE SEZANAYEV a/k/a “Michael,” 34, ALI JAVIDNEZHAD, 51, ARKADIY ISRAILOV, 38, and NIZAMUDEN AKBARI, 56, are each charged with conspiring to commit wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. FOOZAILOV, NATHAN ITZCHAKI, 58, MARK MULLAKANDOV, 41, MARK NATANZON, 68, MENCHAM ABRAMOV, 31, and SHOLOM MURATOV, 35, are charged with conspiring to commit mail fraud, which also carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the judge.