Three people were arrested in New York City recently and accused of bringing at least 30 Russian women into the US and forcing them to dance nude in strip clubs. Two US citizens, Viktoria Ilyina and her husband Lev Trakhtenberg, and one Russian national, Sergei Malchikov will each face 12 different charges, including five counts of attempted forced labor and five counts of trafficking women in a trial scheduled for Nov. 6. They could each face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. After their arrest, Ilyina was released on $155,000 bail while Trakhtenberg and Malchikov remain in custody.
According to an official indictment, the three began bringing the women into the US through New York Kennedy International Airport in November 1999. The trio, who may be connected to the Russian mob, would take away the women’s identification cards and tickets and force them to dance naked in New Jersey strip clubs. The women were then forced to hand over their $1,200 weekly pay. Malchikov drove the women to the clubs from Brooklyn, where they lived, and forced them to dance by making threats against them and their families, according to Assistant US Attorney Leslie Schwartz. Trakhtenberg obtained entertainer visas for the women by falsely claiming that they were members of an “internationally recognized” singing group, according to Schwartz.
With approximately 50,000 women from the former Soviet Union trafficked abroad every year and forced into sexual slavery, Russia was named as one of 19 countries on the third tier or US State Department’s blacklist in their recently released Trafficking in Persons report. Over the past year, there have been 4 million victims of human trafficking worldwide, with 50,000 sent to the United States, according to the report. Traffickers typically confiscate passports and then beat, rape or drug the women in order to ensure compliance, according to victim advocates.