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November 30, 2011 5:38 PM   Subscribe

Feds: New York Mafia and Russian mob joined to lure women as strippers; arranged sham marriages

Not necessarily directly related in any way to our Russian Incident, but I thought people might like to know that the overall problem is being addressed.

The J-1 visa program is mentioned in some versions of this story; the Lux Lounge in none of them, but then we had general agreement that Lux itself was not skeezy.
posted by dhartung to MetaFilter-Related at 5:38 PM (58 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Are you joking about "general agreement"? The disagreement was vitriolic as I remember it, with a mefite visiting the place and then posting about it on his blog, people arguing with him there, et cetera. The takeaway as I recall was that a bar could be both normal appearing and a front for other activities.
posted by mlis at 5:44 PM on November 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


*slips fiver in threads g-string, orders overpriced beer*
posted by jonmc at 5:49 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


What's this related to? Why is it in Metatalk?
posted by Poet_Lariat at 5:49 PM on November 30, 2011


Roundup here, Poet_Lariat.

There very definitely was not agreement about the non-skeeziness of the club.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:53 PM on November 30, 2011


Here's the related thread:
A Russian friend of mine may be in a dangerous situation in Washington, DC.

My friend and former student K arrived in DC yesterday, along with a friend. She came over on some kind of travel exchange program put together by a Russian travel agency called 'XXXXX'. They paid about 3K for this program.

The program promised a job offer in advance, but didn't deliver. They said they would send one via email, but failed there, too.
posted by hooray at 5:54 PM on November 30, 2011


What's this related to? Why is it in Metatalk?

It all started here.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 5:54 PM on November 30, 2011


"ex-patriate ecdysiasts"? Seriously?
posted by katemonster at 5:56 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I should have qualified "general agreement". Carry on.
posted by dhartung at 5:57 PM on November 30, 2011


My post did not post with Russian Incident linked, as intended. Sorry for that as well.
posted by dhartung at 5:59 PM on November 30, 2011


Thank you Horace and Salvor . What an amazing story
posted by Poet_Lariat at 6:08 PM on November 30, 2011


Organized crime in New York fascinates me. There are some neighborhoods you walk through where you look around at every little mom-and-pop business and wonder, how do you stay afloat? There's no way that shoe store, that juice place, that empty restaurant is gonna make it. Sometimes I feel like those businesses making it on their own without any sort of shady activity must be the exception, not the rule. I would love to see a longer feature on this.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:13 PM on November 30, 2011 [12 favorites]


One contact I have at a certain gov't agency called the summer of 2010 "the worst ever" in terms of trafficking. Over time and through various agencies I learned that the incident that Mefi helped out with was just one of a huge, huge number. I also learned that because of the frequency with which traffickers exploit J1s, there is a discussion around banning the visa entirely.

In response to the sharp uptick in trafficking and exploitation cases, the State Department changed the rules for summer 2011, specifically for the regions where K&S came from (Eastern Europe, Russia, Ukraine).
posted by fake at 6:33 PM on November 30, 2011 [9 favorites]


This is slavery in the United States. Slavery right now.
posted by Danila at 6:36 PM on November 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


Today I learned the word ecdysiast.
posted by desjardins at 6:37 PM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah. There is slavery in the US. And it's not just around sketchy night clubs.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:40 PM on November 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


mobsters sent female emissaries to upstate New York to find young, single men willing to marry ex-patriate ecdysiasts in exchange $5,000. The nuptials secured green cards so the dancers could continue to work in the clubs.

Wait, I marry the hot Eastern European stripper AND I get $5k?
posted by nathancaswell at 6:58 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wonder if some of the clubs mentioned in the article are the same Astro Zombie linked here.
posted by fake at 7:00 PM on November 30, 2011


This is probably as good of a place as any to point out that a bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which provides a lot of the funding and protections at a federal level for prevention of and response to domestic/sexual violence and human trafficking, was introduced in the Senate today. Here's a summary of some of the provisions for trafficking victims in the last reauthorization (in 2005). I encourage you to call your senator (contact info and talking points here) and urge them to support this bill.
posted by quiet coyote at 7:00 PM on November 30, 2011 [16 favorites]


I heard other members of the Bonnano family were wanted for questioning, but they split.
posted by eddydamascene at 7:26 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


This seems odd for MeTa, sort of like intense navel gazing. Feels like it should be a post to the blue, with links to the various issues instead of linking it to Metafilter
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:31 PM on November 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


Feels like it should be a post to the blue, with links to the various issues instead of linking it to Metafilter

I agree, particularly given the ambiguities of the original situation.
posted by Forktine at 8:08 PM on November 30, 2011


Wait, wasn't there a mod clarification about MeTa not being for updates?
posted by vidur at 8:11 PM on November 30, 2011


Ok, there used to be a bar called Deno's party house on 8th. I used to play on a bar dart league (runner up city champions c league ) and had to play there from time to time. The room was two ground floor units with a wall broken down to merge them. There were actually 4 bars squeezed in there, each with 3 girls working them. That is an awful lot even for the busiest rush you will see. The girls were friendly but didn't speak much English, bud, bud light and Jamesons was about the extent of it for most. Oh yeah, they wore only bikinis and stripper heels.

I got to talking to some of the ones with a better command of English, they worked at that bar and some of the more downscale strip clubs. One of them told me that all strip clubs in New York as somewhat affiliated with organized crime, that is just the way it works they said. They said italian run strip clubs, the upscale ones, make money on bottle service and people throwing money. The Russian run strip clubs, where they worked shifts, make money of of prostitution.

The bar got shut down eventually and I wondered why, everyone on my team was like "you didn't know? There was a brothel in the floors above the bar"

Anyway, I can confirm this, although via hearsay and rumor.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:12 PM on November 30, 2011


It's definitely sort of weird borderline territory here, yeah. That said, I wasn't sure what people were or weren't going to make of it and have been letting it sit.

If someone wants to make a solid front page post about this, that's cool.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:17 PM on November 30, 2011


There are some neighborhoods you walk through where you look around at every little mom-and-pop business and wonder, how do you stay afloa

When I was a kid there were a bunch of mom and pop corner stores in my neighborhood, they almost all sold vaguely shady stuff, illegal fireworks, took bets, would have "fallen off the truck" mercendise for good customers. Some had back rooms with a couple video poker machines. I always heard rumors some sold drugs but I never really knew for sure. They are all gone now. I can't speak for other neighborhoods. There were three in particular that I bought fireworks from, until I got a better hookup, they never had anything good.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:47 PM on November 30, 2011


Your mom (and pop) is a front for the mafia.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:50 PM on November 30, 2011


Russians and crazy and sexy but remember that most human trafficking is men for labor, don't overlook them because they aren't nice to look at. There is still too much slavery in the world.
posted by fuq at 9:37 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


and=are...
posted by fuq at 9:52 PM on November 30, 2011


Wait, wasn't there a mod clarification about MeTa not being for updates?

I don't read MeTa except when linked in, so I probably missed it. This was intended as a follow-up rather than a topical post.
posted by dhartung at 10:19 PM on November 30, 2011


Wait, wasn't there a mod clarification about MeTa not being for updates?

I don't read MeTa except when linked in, so I probably missed it. This was intended as a follow-up rather than a topical post.


Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that was such a thing for sure. I just seem to have a vague recollection of such a clarification. In any case, CORTEX HAS SPOKEN!
posted by vidur at 10:27 PM on November 30, 2011


I was glad to see the llink I still get email/memail denying the existence of trafficking, prostitution, and mafia in NYC. Great to see it being shut down.
posted by fake at 10:33 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow, that is sad, fake. Both that there are people in denial and that they would go to the trouble of contacting you.
posted by mlis at 10:41 PM on November 30, 2011


fuq that most human trafficking is men for labor, don't overlook them because they aren't nice to look at.

I would be interested to read any citations you have, and, honestly, given that you are pursuing a career in a social justice/advocacy field, it seems kind of uncool to make a statement like that without citations.

Also, maybe it is a little more complicated than men being overlooked "because they aren't nice to look at"?
posted by mlis at 11:05 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wait, wasn't there a mod clarification about MeTa not being for updates?

Using MeTa for an update to a MeFi post that is now closed [or still open even] is not so great. Using it for a bit of news about a very high profile thing that happened on the site is more MeFi-related territory, though clearly everyone doesn't think so. Edge casey, but probably okay.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:10 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would be interested to read any citations you have, and, honestly, given that you are pursuing a career in a social justice/advocacy field, it seems kind of uncool to make a statement like that without citations.

According to this, men aren't the most trafficked, but they do make up a sturdy percentage.
posted by cmonkey at 11:22 PM on November 30, 2011


Thx cmonkey going to check that out later this morning. Also, move to strike my line about social justice which seems more fighty than what I hoped to convey.
posted by mlis at 12:20 AM on December 1, 2011


Yah, I was on my long break when the sex-trafficking thing happened and I only learned about it and read the (entirety of) the associated threads a couple of weeks ago. In my opinion, even accounting for the lack of unambiguous confirmation that this was a sex-trafficking incident, the story was so big (in web terms) and MetaFilter's role so central, and will likely become a very important part of MeFi's collective history and culture, that even an update to the general story that isn't directly linked to the MeFi incident is of great enough general MeFi interest to be justified as a MeTa post.

That was a long-winded way of saying "that thing was a really big deal on MeFi and so an update on the specific context it existed in is of great interest here, so the post should stay".

I suck at boiling things down to a few words. Sigh.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:38 AM on December 1, 2011


Ivan Fyodorovich: I suck at boiling things down to a few words. Sigh.

Not at all, dude. If you'd just skipped the first paragraph, the point you were trying to make would have come across just fine. You're obviously very capable and recognizing the problem is the first step.
posted by gman at 6:15 AM on December 1, 2011


Wait, I marry the hot Eastern European stripper AND I get $5k?
posted by nathancaswell at 8:58 PM on November 30


and you get to participate in a human rights violation...
posted by soelo at 7:26 AM on December 1, 2011


There are some neighborhoods you walk through where you look around at every little mom-and-pop business and wonder, how do you stay afloat? There's no way that shoe store, that juice place, that empty restaurant is gonna make it.

When I lived in Hamilton Heights, there was a butcher shop at 137th street that was always packed with people, selling stuff left and right... and another one across the street that was always half-empty and filthy.

It was the busy and prosperous looking one that got shutdown by the NYPD because they were running the numbers. Not sure if that's why they were busy.
posted by Jahaza at 7:34 AM on December 1, 2011


> Not sure if that's why they were busy.

Stringer Bell wanted his copy shop to make money on its own.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:35 AM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, indeed.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:45 AM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Organized crime in New York fascinates me. ... There's no way that shoe store, that juice place, that empty restaurant is gonna make it.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero


There is one storefront down here near City Hall, where a clothing shop opens, they stock it with $75 acrylic sweaters, and staff it with 8 Russians salespersons. In 9 months, they go out of business, then another one opens in the same place under a different name.

I wonder how that works, exactly. Something to do with taxes or money laundering, I'd guess.

Some of them are EB-5 visa gigs, like the poorly run Blimpie's franchises, but those need to stay open for longer than this clothing store does.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:06 AM on December 1, 2011


I'm pretty sure that many of cellphone case kiosks at the local malls are some kind of organized crime tax shelter.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:11 AM on December 1, 2011


If anyone wants to build an FPP about this, there's a new report out on state-by-state legal progress over child sex trafficking. Few states received even a passing letter grade.

For some reason I can't find a US DOJ release about the indictments, although all the articles seem to be referring to it.
posted by dhartung at 10:15 AM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I did find an FBI press release, dhartung, but I don't see anything on the DOJ site.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 11:48 AM on December 1, 2011



I would be interested to read any citations you have, and, honestly, given that you are pursuing a career in a social justice/advocacy field, it seems kind of uncool to make a statement like that without citations.


I was mainly just trying to be provocative and get people to think. I remember the statistic from a class on immigrants and refugees and don't know if it's up to date. Sex slavery is a real problem but one thing I see is people jumping on stories of hot Russians being trafficked when there is a serious problem with trafficked men that's hard to bring attention to because, hey, sex slavery is exciting to talk about and we all don't benefit. Most of us benefit from slavery of the non-sex sort unless we're careful about produce and products and such. There is also such a social prejudice in our country against trafficked latino men that I really wanted to bring it up. I think the current immigration scare is helping traffickers. I don't want us to congradulate ourselves too much when there is still a lot of work and consciousness-raising to do.

Also I was tired and had been dealing with my power going out (again) when I wrote that, so yeah, statistics would have been nice, you're right. I was so grarry yesterday I'm suprised there was only one typo.
posted by fuq at 12:43 PM on December 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Regarding male vs female trafficking - I think a lot of it has to do with how you define "trafficking." The media image is of girls kidnapped into sex slavery against their will, but I don't think that's even close to a majority of cases. More often, people are lured abroad with promises of work, so they know where they are going and generally what they will be doing (including sex work/stripping.) But the problem is that the working conditions are not as promised, and it ends up being virtual slavery because they have no other options and are not legal. Under this definition, I would guess at least as many men as women are trafficked.
posted by yarly at 3:44 PM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


ThePinkSuperhero: "Organized crime in New York fascinates me. There are some neighborhoods you walk through where you look around at every little mom-and-pop business and wonder, how do you stay afloat? There's no way that shoe store, that juice place, that empty restaurant is gonna make it. Sometimes I feel like those businesses making it on their own without any sort of shady activity must be the exception, not the rule. I would love to see a longer feature on this."

Funny that you should comment on that, TPS. I was wondering a couple days ago about how often our NYC Mefites see organized crime happening as they go about their business. By seeing I mean things like the mom-and-pop places, people selling clothes out of the back of vans, etc. How obvious is it in NYC to a regular non-criminal person who keeps his/her eyes open?
posted by deborah at 5:24 PM on December 1, 2011


It seriously depends on the neighborhood (Wall Street is particularly full of well-organized crooks) and how observant you are, and what you define as "crime"...and even then you don't know if you're right or if something is organized crime vs just a dude doing his thing.

It also depends how much you fit in to a neighborhood's little culture(s). I used to could hook you up with tons of illegal stuff in one neighborhood because I ran with that crowd, but here in my Russian/Bengali/other neighborhood I have no clue.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:33 PM on December 1, 2011


I also learned that because of the frequency with which traffickers exploit J1s, there is a discussion around banning the visa entirely.

Oh, that's just great for all of the medical/research students here on utterly legitimate grounds, who already put up with a huge runaround to get visas.
posted by desuetude at 11:35 PM on December 1, 2011


You're confusing the J-1 visa with other kinds of visas. It's a cultural exchange visa that is used for work, usually low-level summer work like concession stands. It wouldn't affect student or researcher visas.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:36 AM on December 2, 2011


CNN article.
posted by fake at 7:20 AM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is incorrect, the young rope-rider. The J1 covers anyone who is in the country for academic training and is funded by the gov't directly or indirectly for work connected to their training. International graduate students and postdocs (whose support comes from their own, their PI's, or university/departmental grants) are typically on J-1 visas, as are some undergrads who receive work-study tuition/stipend support. Changes to the J1 most certainly WILL affect students & researchers.

cf http://j1visa.state.gov/programs/college-and-university-student/
posted by Westringia F. at 10:52 AM on December 2, 2011


Woah, thanks for the info and sorry for the misinformation. I wonder why such different programs are under the same classification?
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:02 PM on December 2, 2011


Got me, but you're right -- it IS a really big & diverse grouping:
   http://j1visa.state.gov/programs
The overall theme is work-study, but in a pretty loosely-defined way (eg, summer work counts as long as you're a student abroad, even if the work isn't connected with your studies).

It would probably make more sense to focus on tightening up/killing just the J1 programs that are more open to abuse (summer work-travel? maybe intern & au pair? dunno) and keep things relatively barrier-free for J1 applicants with an accountable US sponsor (universities, hospitals, gov't agencies). Maybe that's what fake meant? I'm hoping....

And Pollomacho, if you're reading, any insight? I remember you work at State, or did at the time of the incident....
posted by Westringia F. at 12:26 PM on December 2, 2011


I need to clarify here. I definitely wasn't speaking for pollomacho and want to be clear that I have no knowledge of any ongoing effort to end the J1 program, just that at one point the suggestion had been floated, in response to the uptick in trafficking/abuse of the program.

From the news articles, it looks like these agencies are doing great work, appropriately spending effort on prosecuting traffickers and things are moving in the right direction.

Sorry for any unnecessary alarm.
posted by fake at 3:19 PM on December 2, 2011


Woah, thanks for the info and sorry for the misinformation. I wonder why such different programs are under the same classification?

For research programs in the sciences, grad students and postdoctoral fellows (especially the latter) are more like employees than students. I can see how it gets broadly lumped in with work-study programs and cultural-exchange summer jobs.
posted by desuetude at 2:48 PM on December 3, 2011


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