Editor's note: As we seek to move forward, it is wise to sometimes look back to see where we have been. In so doing we might notice some things anew, in a different way,or perhaps, even for the first time. So it is with the following article, orginally published in the Spring of 2001 in the New York Daily News which has only recently come to my attention. It is of historical interest only now, but I have highlighted a passage of interest.
"Thursday, April 5, 2001
STOOLIE CRACKED 'MAFIYA'
Ex-KGB fink helped bust Russian gang
BY MIKE CLAFFEY
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Seated at a table in late July at the Turf Terrace Restaurant at the race track in upstate Saratoga Springs, reputed Russian mob boss Alexander Bor posed with pals for a snapshot taken by the waiter.
Then he turned to his new friend, an enterprising young Russian who went by the name Michael Guss, and told him point-blank that the FBI had them under round-the-clock surveillance.
"They're watching as we speak," said Bor.
Guss, a one-time informant for the Soviet KGB, masked his surprise, offering Bor a skeptical look."My sources are reliable," the mob boss assured him.
Little did Bor know how right he was. For at that very moment, he was speaking to a U.S. government agent.
Guss, whose real name is Michael Syroejine, was on a mission to destroy Bor's gang and in the process save his own skin.
His tale of undercover work was never publicized. But government reports obtained by the Daily News document his adventure as the double agent who double-crossed the Brighton Beach 'Mafiya' and their Cosa Nostra pals.
Because of his work, the feds were in on the ground floor of a Wall Street penny-stock scam run by Russian gangsters and Colombo crime family associates. Of the 26 people indicted in a case brought in 1999 by Brooklyn Assistant U.S. Attorneys Patricia Notopoulos and Julie Myers,
22 pleaded guilty and two were convicted at a trial at which Guss was a star witness.
"There seems to be no limits to whom the Department of Justice will accept as an ally," complained Joseph Corozzo, a lawyer who won an acquittal for one defendant. Guss should learn what he gets out of the deal in June when he is to be sentenced by a federal court judge in Albany. It was there that he was arrested on a money-laundering charge in 1995 shortly after coming to the U.S.
His story begins in Leningrad, now St. Petersburg, where he had followed his father, a globetrotting spy, into the service of the KGB. After law school, the agency installed him in the foreign trade department of a Soviet military enterprise. The post initiated him into a shadowy world in which, he says, Russian criminals worked 'hand in hand' with government officials.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union, he says, he ended his espionage career and wound up working for a St. Petersburg TV station in 1993. There, he admits, he embezzled nearly $2 million, depositing the money in accounts in the U.S.
He then fled Russia, but was nabbed in Albany trying to launder the loot.
Facing up to 30 years behind bars, Guss hoped he could wiggle his way out of trouble by offering to infiltrate the Russian mob in New York.
It turned out that the IRS and the FBI were very interested in his services.
The feds set him up with a flashy BMW, a wad of cash and a cover story and turned him loose in Brighton Beach.
Guss hooked his fish in the summer of 1996, when he made contact with Bor, the boss of his own crime family who held the title 'thief-in-law,' given only to the prison-hardened cream of the Russian criminal class.
Bor had only recently succeeded Vyacheslav Ivankov, known as Yaponchik, the top Russian mobster in the U.S., after Ivankov was convicted of extortion and sentenced to 10 years in federal prison.
On the trip to Saratoga Springs and their stay at the plush Sagamore resort on Lake George, Bor boasted he was pulling in $1 million a year and controlled 28 protection rackets in Russia. He had plans for an even bigger score in the oil fields of Kazakhstan.
But he confided he needed Guss' help laundering his income.
A few weeks later, the two men cemented their alliance with a weekend at the crime boss' Massapequa, L.I., home. Bor pointed out the homes of underworld neighbors - members of the 'Genovese, Gambino and Gotti families' - and the two spent a Saturday night at a Russian mob-owned strip club in Brooklyn.
Sunday morning, it was off to a Russian Orthodox church in Oyster Bay, L.I., where Bor was a 'benefactor' and chummy with the priests. 'Candles were lit, icons were kissed, and we left back for Massapequa,' Guss reported.
During that visit, Guss learned of Bor's plans to set up a brokerage firm in Manhattan.
'His colleagues in Moscow were very interested in this, too, and suggested we join forces to develop this project,' Guss said.
Not long after, Guss paid a visit to a shabby boiler room operation - where illicit brokers engaged in high-pressure selling of dubious securities - that the Russians had on Coney Island Ave.
Guss quickly proved his value. He ordered computers and upgraded the accounting system that tracked the cash being fleeced from gullible investors.
Within months, a Manhattan operation was up and running in partnership with the Colombo family. It was headed by a Nyack, Rockland County-based financier and Rolls-Royce collector, David Houge.
Guss invested $25,000 in government money in the scam, which started with Amerivet Dymally Securities, an operation that closed in May 1997 after defrauding investors of about $400,000.
Then Houge acquired control of an existing brokerage, First National Equity, which peddled a bogus stock in a company called Legend Sports. The Securities and Exchange Commission halted trading in Legend in September 1997, and the brokerage closed that November after scamming investors out of $6.7 million.
Hogue was arrested in 1998, and arrests and indictments continued into the next year.
Notopoulos said defrauded investors will eventually get their money back from the forfeited funds, the bulk of which came from the sale of Houge's collection of autos. Bor fled the U.S. before arrests were made in this case. According to the FBI, he's in jail in Germany on a murder rap.
Guss, whose attorney Peter Moschetti did not return repeated calls, pleaded guilty to money-laundering charges in January 1996 and is hoping for leniency. He has rejected opportunities to enter the witness protection program and is living at an undisclosed location."
In 1996 there was only one Russian Orthodox Church in Oyster Bay, Long Island - at the chancery of the Orthodox Church in America. And the priest-in-charge was the former Chancellor, Robert Kondratick.
- Mark Stokoe