Prosecutor: Smuggler should pay $1.6M to women he forced to be strippers
Detroit— A stripper smuggler should spend more than four years in prison and pay almost $1.6 million to 12 dancers forced to work in Detroit, federal prosecutors said Thursday.
Prosecutors made the argument in a sentencing memo for Veniamin Gonikman, one of the country’s most wanted fugitives until his arrest in January 2011.
Gonikman was the mastermind of a group that smuggled women into the United States and forced them to work as exotic dancers in Metro Detroit, prosecutors said.
“For nearly four years, Gonikman actively placed multiple young women in a position of exploitation and sought to enrich himself off of their hard work,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow wrote. “He recruited the majority of the victims from his own club in Ukraine and smuggled them into the United States.”
His capture ended a multi-year manhunt. Gonikman fled the country after being indicted in 2005 and had been living illegally in Ukraine using fake passports and tried to bribe a government official who came to arrest him, according to court records.
In 2005, Gonikman was charged in a 22-count indictment with trafficking in persons, forced labor, alien smuggling, money laundering, extortion collection and conspiracy, among other charges.
The arrest came almost four years after Gonikman’s son was sentenced to 14 years in prison for smuggling women from Eastern Europe and forcing them to work in Metro Detroit strip clubs.