Over two dozen people were arrested Wednesday in connection with an operation that illegally put Eastern European and Russian women to work in strip clubs across the city. NY1’s Dean Meminger filed the following report.
Early morning raids on nine strip clubs, including Gallagher's in Queens and the Cheetah's Gentlemen's Club in Midtown, landed 25 people in handcuffs Wednesday.
Homeland Security investigators say members of the Gambino and Bonanno crime families along with Russian mobsters illegally brought hundreds of women from Russia and Eastern Europe to the U.S. to dance and strip in New York clubs.
"Some were recruited as waitresses, some were told straight up what the situation was. Some were recruited from overseas through advertisements in foreign language newspapers throughout Russia and Eastern Europe, some were recruited from Facebook in Russia," said James Hayes of the Department of Homeland Security.
Authorities say some of those arrested helped get illegal work and travel visas for the women. However, when the women got into the country, they were employed as adult dancers, which is against the law.
Some of the accused also allegedly extorted the dancers and other clubs for money.
"When the Russian organized crime members would say ‘hey, if we’re not paid a certain amount we are not going to supply you with dancers next week,’" said Hayes. "There were threats of violence on the parts of the Italian organized crime families."
Among those arrested were five men from Albany, Binghamton, and New Jersey who are accused of illegally marrying some of the women so that those women could apply for green cards to stay in the country.
Authorities say the women appear to have gone along with all of the schemes, but an advocacy group for women said it sounds like some of them were victimized with promises of living in America.
"New York City is really a hub , one of several cities where trafficking is appearing quite frequently, so it doesn't surprise us," said Liz Roberts of Safe Horizon.
Some of the dancers were also arrested for being in the country illegally.
Homeland security officials say the investigation is continuing.