The popular Midtown strip club Cheetah's, located off Times Square and well-known for its "Body Sushi" night, and the Rouge Adult Club in Maspeth, Queens, were reportedly used to funnel Eastern European women into the country in a long-term visa and marriage fraud ring.
Police say the suspects facilitated the dancers' entry by helping them fraudulently obtain non-immigrant J-1 Visas before forcing them to work at the clubs in violation of their Visa requirements.
Authorities say one of the ringleaders falsified documents to make it appear that the women were married to American citizens in order to obtain green cards.
At least 20 suspects were taken into custody and charged with extortion, racketeering, visa fraud and marriage fraud.
"Today's arrests bring to an end a 10-year criminal enterprise operated by colluding organized crime entities that profited wildly through a combination of extortion, visa fraud and the threat of violence," immigration special agent James Hayes said. "As alleged, the defendants controlled their business and protected their turf through intimidation, violence and threats of physical and economic harm. Today, that business model has been extinguished."
Five of the suspects have been identfied. They are:
Police say the crime group helped arrange at least three fake marriages for the women.
As members of competing crime families, the suspects apparently got into frequent disputes that had to be resolved. Side deals were made for "protection" in disputes over the apportionment of illegal aliens from Russia and Eastern Europe, and disputes over ownership interests of the strip clubs.