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Four Charged in Alleged Arson of Rival Poker Game in Brooklyn

According to the United States Department of Justice, a 33-count indictment was unsealed Wednesday in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The indictment charges six defendants, who allegedly have ties to an Eastern European organized crime syndicate, with racketeering predicate acts. One of those alleged crimes involved arson that took place in May 2016.

The Arson Charge

Four of the defendants, Viktor Zelinger, Vyacheslav Malkeyev, Leonid Gershman, and Aleksey Tsvetkov, are charged with crimes related to arson of a residential building at 2220 Voorhies Avenue in Brooklyn that took place shortly after 1:00 a.m. on May 2, 2016.

The impetus for the crime? It is alleged that the defendants operated an illegal high-stakes poker game on Coney Island Avenue and that they conspired to set fire to the Voorhies building because it was the location of a rival poker game.

While the rival game was allegedly on the ground floor of the residential building, the entire building went up in flames, and two residents were trapped in a third-floor apartment as a result.

Putting Out the Fire

In the amateur video of the fire, a firefighter is seen climbing a ladder through dense smoke to rescue the two trapped teens.

The residents and five firefighters sustained injuries in the fire, and one firefighter suffered burns to his face. The building and all apartments within it were destroyed.

Investigation and Prosecution

Five of the six defendants are in custody while one, Zelinger, remains at large. According to the Department of Justice, the arrests were the result of a long-term investigation by the DEA’s New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force.

“The charges contained in the indictment are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.”

The Office’s Organized Crime and Gangs Section is handling the government’s prosecution of the defendants.

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