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Red Mafiya: How the Russian Mob Has Invaded America Hardcover – May, 2000

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Editorial Reviews Review

Amid his efforts to expose the Russian mob, Robert I. Friedman learned from the FBI that "the most brilliant and savage Russian mob organization in the world" had put a $100,000 price on his head. Reading Red Mafiya, it's not hard to see why: this is a brave book about a troubling subject. Friedman, a freelance journalist, describes the research behind it: "I ventured into the Russians' gaudy strip clubs in Miami Beach; paid surprise visits to their well-kept suburban homes in Denver; interviewed hit men and godfathers in an array of federal lockups; and traveled halfway around the world trying to make sense of their tangled criminal webs, which have ensnared everyone from titans of finance and the heads of government to entire state security services." Their racket involves heroin smuggling, weapons trafficking, mass extortion, and casino operation, among other activities. "Blending financial sophistication with bone-crunching violence, the Russian mob has become the FBI's most formidable criminal adversary, creating an international criminal colossus that has surpassed the Colombian cartels, the Japanese Yakuzas, the Chinese triads, and the Italian Mafia in wealth and weaponry," writes Friedman. They've even penetrated professional hockey, as Friedman shows in an eye-opening chapter ("Federal authorities have come to fear that the NHL is now so compromised by Russian gangsters that the integrity of the game itself may be in jeopardy").

Red Mafiya benefits from a breezy narrative in detailing a master criminal operation whose influence on the United States is growing rapidly. Russian mobsters already have siphoned off millions of dollars in foreign aid meant to prop up their country's economy--and they may have a more direct impact on American national security concerns in the years ahead: "The Russian mob virtually controls their nuclear-tipped former superpower," writes Friedman. Now, there's a scary thought. Lifting the Iron Curtain seems to have been a mixed blessing: it let freedom in, and organized crime out. --John J. Miller

From Publishers Weekly

This disturbing, sharply rendered account tells how the post-Communist Russian Mafiya has infiltrated American life with tactical intelligence and a rare level of viciousness. Drawing from interviews with top Russian mobsters and police, journalist Friedman (Zealots for Zion: Inside Israel's West Bank Settlement Movement) trenchantly explores the brutal corruption of the U.S.S.R. and the anarchic greed that has flourished since its collapse, incubating a "criminal colossus that has surpassed the Colombian cartels, the Japanese Yakuzas, the Chinese triads and the Italian Mafia in wealth and weaponry." Friedman, whose reporting on this subject has appeared in Vanity Fair, the Village Voice and other publications, writes of one wise guy responsible for 100 hits and of "Tarzan"Dthe swaggering Miami mobster busted while attempting to tender a Russian submarine to Colombian drug lords. Friedman documents how the mobsters have imported their brand of terror tacticsDshakedowns, kidnappings, bombings and public assassinationDfrom Moscow to Russian communities in Denver, Brooklyn's Brighton Beach and elsewhere, and examines what he casts as the largely inadequate, uninformed responses by law enforcement. Perhaps most disturbing, he suggests, is this: following profitable 1980s-era gasoline bootlegging schemes, Mafiya criminals shrewdly expanded into numerous quasi-legal pursuitsDestablishing luxurious Russian-themed nightclubs, corrupting Russian migr ice hockey players and making inroads in Israel through their own Jewish ethnicity. Friedman isn't always in control of the bewildering array of players and narrative threads that make up his complicated tale. But there's much to praise in this frightening, urgent reportorial projectDa project that has resulted in death threats against Friedman, as he relates in his hair-raising introduction. Photo insert not seen by PW. BOMC alternate. (May)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1st edition (May 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316294748
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316294744
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #701,784 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 23, 2000
Format: Hardcover
No other report on the many-tentacled Russian mafia has yet been assembled. Friedman, a veteran investigative reporter, takes the reader deep inside this shadowy world, illuminating the terrifying truth behind recent headlines about the Russian mafia in the United States.
If anything, the book is too ambitious: the level of detail and breadth of its coverage is so extensive that some may wish that it focused on a single crime family or era instead of attempting to tell the entire story of the Russian mafia, which has its roots as far back as Czarist Russia. This book is simply much bigger in scope than most books, movies or television shows about any form of organized crime--Russian or not--tend to attempt. Yet if the book suffers from its breadth, summarizing important historical developments too briefly, it also makes a virtue of its intimate, character-driven narrative. A gripping tale that brings the reader into the netherworld of the Russian mafia and introduces him personally to the individuals who live and die by the AK-47.
A short note: Some in the Russian-American community have found this book to be offensive, believing that the author treats all Russians as if they are criminals. As a non-Russian or Russian-American, I did not find this to be so. I understand the fear of stereotype felt by Russian and Russian-Americans, but this complaint sounded similar to the ones expressed by Italiam-Americans when books and reports about La Cosa Nostra came out. The subject is Russian criminals, so many of the Russians in the book are criminals, but nowhere did I see racist, biased treatments of all Russians as criminals. It is true that, because the Russian mafia began before the breakup of the Soviet Union, the term "Russian" is used broadly. However, the author always seemed to identify the individual figures in the book by their specific roots, whether Ukranian, Russian, etc.
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful By zonaras on March 14, 2003
Format: Hardcover
RED MAFIYA by Robert Friedman is a report on some of the figures and actions of the Russian mob in the United States today. Although, there are some claims that this book is "anti-Semitic," the author is himself Jewish. Friedman was a brave author to write and publish this because of the nature of the criminals he is trying to expose.
The Russian mob has been making tremendous headway in its criminal undertakings since it first took root in the 1970's. It is made up of many Soviet emigres who were brought over to the US because of some of their "refugee" status. Many are Jews brought over through the auspices of Jewish aid and refugee organizations. The two largest centers of Russian mob activity are Brighton Beach (in Brooklyn) and Miami. Many of its members are brilliant and highly educated, some holding PhDs in engineering, mathematics and economics. They have been involved in pretty much everything in which illegal money is to be made: the drug trade, prostitution, sex-clubs, gasoline bootlegging to avoid excise taxes, money laundering, arms deals, extortion, possibly rigging NHL games, jewelry theft and smuggling, the list goes on and on...
One of the reasons for the Mafiya's success is that is has two entire countries to base themselves in: Russia and Israel. Russia is completely corrupt with a crumbling economy and infrastructure. Israel offers a safe haven because it does not extradite its citizens and any Jew fleeing peresecution can seek refuge there. Israel also has very lax banking laws, to encourage the income of capital, so billions of dollars have been illegally laundered there over the years.
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66 of 79 people found the following review helpful By taking a rest HALL OF FAME on April 19, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The demise, dissolution, breakup, choose your own word, of The Former Soviet Union is about as dramatic a Historical Event as one is likely to witness. It is not a simple topic, what has happened, and what will continue to evolve will fill hundreds of books well into the future. Attempting an overview of what is presented, as the largest illegal transfer of wealth on record cannot be done in 288 pages even if the pages are microfilm! Every time this book began to focus on a specific event, it would jump to the next.
There is more information in this 288-page book than anyone can possibly digest. Trying to keep track of the organizational structure of the "Mafiyas", and their relationships to each other, would take a Cray Supercomputer. The Author also touches on Historical events of huge import, theories on what may result from them, and they too are quickly abandoned, before any real exposition has been offered.
There is a theory that the wealth that has been removed from Russia/The Former Soviet Union could have similar effects politically as The Versailles Treaty of WW I had on Germany. It's an interesting idea, may warrant a book, but not the shallow mention it receives here. There are at least a dozen similar theories that are intriguing in the extreme. These cannot be treated like bulleted points in a memo.
This is a highlight book of illegal activity that spans from Meyer Lansky to the present. One of the problems is names like Genovese, Gambino, and Gotti, are familiar to readers of the genre. This book mentioned hundreds of organizations, and half the Countries on the Planet!
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