Murderpedia

 

 

Juan Ignacio Blanco  

 

  MALE murderers

index by country

index by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

  FEMALE murderers

index by country

index by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

 

 

 
 

Iouri MIKHEL

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

   
 
 
Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Kidnappings for ransom
Number of victims: 5
Date of murder: 2001 - 2002
Date of arrest: February 2002
Date of birth: 1965
Victims profile: Meyer Muscatel, 54 / Rita Peckler, 39 / Alexander Umansky, 35 / George Safiev, 37 / Nick Kharabadze, 29
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: California, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on March 12, 2007
 
 
 
 
 
 

Iouri Mikhel (1965-) and Jurijus Kadamovas (1966-) are two Russian immigrants to the United States currently on Federal death row for 5 kidnapping for ransom related murders. The kidnappings occurred over a four-month period beginning in late 2001, in which the kidnappers demanded ransom. Documents related to the case allege the crew demanded a total of more than $5.5 million from relatives and associates, and received more than $1 million from victim's relatives.

Prosecutors said the victims were killed regardless of whether the ransoms were paid. The bodies were tied with weights, and dumped in a reservoir near Yosemite National Park. Federal prosecutors sought the death penalty under murder during a hostage-taking, (18 U.S.C. 1203), a federal crime.

On March 12, 2007 Kadamovas and Mikhel were sentenced to death.

 
 

Two Soviet Emigrants Sentenced to Death in California for Yosemite Killings

Russianspy.org

A court in California has sentenced two Soviet emigrants to death for kidnapping and brutally murdering five people, the RIA-Novosti news agency reported on Tuesday.

District Judge Dickran Tevrizian formally sentenced Jurijus Kadamovas, 40, from Lithuania and Iouri Mikhel, 41, from St. Petersburg, Monday. A jury found the two guilty in February for the ransom killings of four men and a woman in 2001-2002 and for subsequent money laundering.

Prosecutors say the two men led a group that sought to amass a fortune by kidnapping affluent business people, some of whom were Russian immigrants, and extorting money from their families and friends. The local Orange County Register newspaper said the convicts strangled their victims after receiving a $1.2 million ransom from their relatives.

Prosecutors say the victims were killed regardless of whether the ransoms were paid. The bodies were tied to weights and dumped in a reservoir near Yosemite National Park.

Defense attorneys said they would appeal the ruling.

The newspaper quoted the defense as saying during the trial that their clients had grown up under a Communist regime, and became criminals in order to survive.

In addition to Mikhel and Kadamovas, another defendant in the case, Ukrainian-born Piotr Krylov, may also face a capital punishment if found guilty. Two other suspects, including Kadamovas's girlfriend, are cooperating with investigators.

 
 

Sentences given in Calif. kidnappings

By Thomas Watkins, Associated Press Writer

USAToday.com

February 21, 2008

LOS ANGELES — The discovery was chilling: five bodies dumped in a scenic reservoir in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.

Four of the corpses, held down with gym weights, were so deeply submerged that police divers had to use a robotic vehicle to recover them. The other body had floated to the surface earlier when its weights slipped off.

Ainar Altmanis, the man who led investigators to the submerged bodies, was sentenced Wednesday to 23 years and 4 months in federal prison.

His sentencing marks the end of a six-year probe into the killings of four wealthy Russian immigrants and a U.S. businessman in late 2001 and early 2002. All were kidnapped for ransom and killed, investigators said.

Altmanis is the sixth person sentenced in the case; two received the death penalty.

The 48-year-old Latvian citizen pleaded guilty to three counts of hostage-taking resulting in death and one conspiracy charge.

"I got totally confused in this life," he said in Russian through a court translator while looking at family members of the victims. "The life of the person I have become, I do not want it. Please forgive me."

Altmanis, who illegally immigrated to the U.S. in 1991, wept and apologized repeatedly at the sentencing.

"This man should suffer more than my son," said Ruven Umansky, the father of victim Alexander Umansky. "He should stay in prison the rest of his life."

In addition to Umansky, the victims were real estate developer Meyer Muscatel; Russian banking mogul George Safiev; Safiev's accountant Rita Pekler; and Safiev's business partner Nick Kharabadze.

All were killed even though their families and friends gave the kidnappers a total of $1.2 million. Prosecutors said the kidnappers used much of the money to buy new vehicles and mink coats for their girlfriends.

Earlier in the day, Natalya Solovyeva was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for her role in the scheme.

Authorities said she lured one victim to a Los Angeles bar, where he was abducted and then forced to contact another man who was also kidnapped. The men were taken to New Melones Lake, about 60 miles west of Yosemite, where they were killed and their bodies dumped in the reservoir, prosecutors said.

Solovyeva, 32, was the girlfriend of Jurijus Kadamovas, 40, one of the men sentenced to death. Iouri Mikhel, 42, also is on death row.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan DeWitt said Kadamovas and Mikhel also were responsible for at least two other killings, one in Turkey and one in Cyprus. The men would have carried out other kidnappings had they not been caught, she said. They were planning a trip to Aspen, Colo., and to a boat show in Florida to find more victims, she said.

Prosecutors sought only 11 years for Solovyeva, pointing out that she had cooperated in two previous trials. Her attorneys portrayed her as a victim in the thrall of Kadamovas.

U.S. District Judge S. James Otero, however, noted that Solovyeva had been promised a new BMW if she aided in the kidnappings, and that two victims would "probably be alive today" had she not taken part.

Solovyeva had pleaded guilty to two counts of hostage-taking resulting in death and one conspiracy charge.

"I would like to say over and over again how sorry I am for what I did. I am sorry for all the victims," she said in English before being sentenced. "I know I made a terrible choice I will regret for all my life."

 
 

Rare Federal Death Penalty Trial Begins for Two Accused of Yosemite Kidnappings, Murders

Foxnews.com

September 05, 2006

LOS ANGELES  —  The kidnappers' demands were simple: Pay the ransom and the hostages would be freed.

But prosecutors said the crew of Russian immigrants killed their hostages — even after collecting more than $1 million from some of the victims' relatives.

More than four years after the five bodies were found in a reservoir north of Yosemite National Park, the federal trial of two men accused of orchestrating the crimes started Tuesday with jury selection.

It's a rare case in which federal prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

"Regardless of whether the ransom money defendants demanded was paid or not, each of the defendants' victims met the same fate," prosecutors said in court documents. "Defendants brutally murdered each one of them."

Iouri Mikhel, 41, and Jurijus Kadamovas, 39, have pleaded not guilty to charges that include conspiracy and hostage-taking resulting in death. A third defendant, Petro Krylov, 33, also denied the allegations and is scheduled for trial in January.

Three other co-conspirators have pleaded guilty to similar charges. One is the Kadamovas' girlfriend, who likely will testify during his trial.

Authorities suspect the ring had links to Russian organized crime, but it appears prosecutors won't raise that issue during trial because no related charges have been filed.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys declined to comment about the case, but the indictment lays out prosecutors' version of how the kidnappings occurred over a frenzied four-month period beginning in late 2001.

The documents allege the crew demanded a total of more than $5.5 million from relatives and associates of the victims, and eventually collected about $1.2 million used to buy expensive cars and make mortgage payments on luxury homes.

Mikhel used $2,500 to put a down payment on two Doberman pinschers to guard his house, prosecutors said.

At trial, prosecutors intend to present tape recordings of ransom calls, the DNA of two victims collected from handcuffs, and a pair of shoes that were matched to a bloody footprint found on a bridge near the New Melones Reservoir.

The scheme began when Mikhel and Kadamovas targeted George Safiev, 37, a wealthy Russian banking mogul who had recently moved to Los Angeles to start Matador Media, a film production company, prosecutors said in court documents.

After several failed abduction attempts, the kidnappers turned their attention to real estate developer Meyer Muscatel, according to the prosecutors.

Mikhel is accused of posing as an investor and luring Muscatel into what was billed as a business meeting in October 2001. Kidnappers killed him after they were unable to get money from his bank accounts, the prosecutors said.

His body was weighted down and dumped over a bridge along the reservoir. It was discovered a few days later with hands bound and a plastic bag over the head.

Prosecutors wrote that Safiev's accountant, Rita Peckler, was abducted and killed two months later when she was unable to lead the crew to Safiev.

The next victim was Alexander Umansky, who owned a car accessory business that once employed Krylov. Umansky was killed after his family paid more than $230,000 for his release, prosecutors allege, adding the crew sought even more money after his death and promised he would be returned alive.

Prosecutors wrote that Safiev was finally snared in early 2002 after his business partner, Nick Kharabadze, was abducted and forced to arrange a meeting with Safiev. Another business associate transferred $960,000 to a bank account that authorities said was controlled by the kidnappers.

Still, Safiev and Kharabadze were killed and dumped into the reservoir after being told they would be left alive at a motel, prosecutors said.

Authorities learned the location of the bodies after arresting a coconspirator who later pleaded guilty to charges related to the case.

 
 

Trial to start soon in brutal series of kidnap-slayings

Bodies of five Eastern Europeans found in reservoir near Yosemite

By Matt Krasnowski - SignonSanDiego.com

August 19, 2006

LOS ANGELES – A group of immigrants here from the former Soviet Union had an ambitious and deadly plan to raise $100 million.

It called for kidnapping rich Eastern Europeans who had relocated to Southern California and asking their families and associates for ransom. But prosecutors allege the kidnappers – with purported links to Russian organized crime – didn't honor their end of the ransom bargain.

Even though they received payments, the kidnappers allegedly suffocated five victims, weighted their bodies and dumped them in the New Melones Reservoir on the Stanislaus River in Northern California. They allegedly viewed the abductees as witnesses and killed them. Even after the victims were killed, the kidnappers allegedly continued to demand money from their families and business associates.

Court papers said one of the kidnappers boasted that the group would continue its money-making plan until the bodies they dropped in the reservoir near Yosemite National Park were “stacked on top of each other.”

More than four years after authorities made arrests in the case, jury selection in the first trial stemming from the scheme is under way in Los Angeles federal court. Testimony will likely start in September.

Iouri Mikhel, 41, and Jurijus Kadamovas, 39, face the death penalty if convicted. A third defendant, Petro Krylov, 33, also faces the death penalty and his trial is set for January.

The men have pleaded not guilty. One of Mikhel's defense lawyers, Dale Rubin, said he didn't want to discuss the evidence of the case outside of court. “We'll be fighting tooth and nail at trial,” he said.

The trials are expected to give an insider's view of the defendants' alleged plans, with three of their cohorts – including Kadamovas' girlfriend – agreeing to testify against them.

Because there are no racketeering charges against the defendants, lawyers said it's unlikely that the trials will focus much on the structure of their organization or provide insight into how the purported Russian Mafia operates in California.

Nevertheless, in court papers asking that the jurors' identities be kept secret, prosecutors state the defendants “committed the horrendous crimes at issue within the structure of a violent Russian criminal organization.” The papers note Kadamovas told a victim in a recorded conversation that the kidnapping had been ordered by his “bosses.”

The charges also portray the kidnappers as having international connections. They ordered victims to transfer money to accounts in the Middle East and Eastern Europe. An alleged Siberian cohort, accused of laundering some of the ransom money, is considered a fugitive by the FBI.

Prosecutors also alleged Mikhel and Kadamovas were involved in the abductions and killings of Russian businessmen in Cypress and Turkey, but the judge has barred prosecutors from mentioning the allegations to jurors.

According to court papers, a former law enforcement official with knowledge of how Russian organized crime groups operate said it appears the defendants were part of a large, well-funded criminal enterprise.

“These are not freelancers, I guarantee you that,” said the former official, who requested anonymity for safety concerns. “There is too much money involved, too much cost involved in traveling around the world.”

Russian organized crime groups popped up on law enforcement's radar in the early 1990s, shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union. Russian immigrants settled largely in the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn, N.Y., as well as in Hollywood and sections of the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles.

“The first generation of criminals is more comfortable perpetrating crimes within its own ethnic group,” the former official said. “What you see is Russians harming Russians, which is exactly what happened here. This particular crime was a very, very brutal one. One of the most brutal I've ever seen.”

The victims include Beverly Hills businessman George Safiev, 37, of Beverly Hills, who owned a film production company, his associate, Nick Kharabadze, 29, of Woodland Hills, and Rita Pekler, 39, of Encino, who was an accountant for Safiev's Matador Media. Also found in the reservoir in March 2002 was the body of Alexander Umansky, 35, of Sherman Oaks, who ran a car stereo and electronics store where Krylov once worked.

Also killed was Meyer Muscatel, 54, a wealthy San Fernando Valley home builder whose body was found in the reservoir in 2001.

Muscatel, Umansky and Safiev were the main targets of the kidnappers, according to the charges. Muscatel and Umansky were invited to meetings to discuss business deals and were then beaten and held hostage.

Umansky was abducted and killed even though his family wired $235,000 in ransom money to the kidnappers, including a payment of $145,000 sent after he was dead, according to the government.

Both Pekler and Kharabadze were abducted to lure Safiev.

In December 2001, Pekler was abducted, with her kidnappers demanding she arrange a meeting with Safiev. That effort failed and Pekler was killed, documents state.

A month later, Kadamovas' girlfriend, Natalya Solovyeva, lured Kharabadze – an aspiring film producer whose mother was a noted Russian actress – to meet with her. The defendants then allegedly used Kharabadze to ensnare Safiev. The kidnappers forced Safiev to transfer $969,000 into a Miami account.

After Safiev and Kharabadze were killed, the defendants allegedly continued to try to get a business associate of Safiev's to pay additional ransom, sending a letter that sought about $4 million.

For each victim, the ending was the same: death and a long drive to the New Melones Reservoir, 40 miles east of Stockton in the lower Sierra Nevada foothills.

In February 2002, the killing stopped after FBI agents – who were investigating the abductions – took members of the scheme into custody. In Mikhel's home, authorities found a safe containing four sets of handcuffs – two of those sets had the DNA of Safiev and Kharabadze on them – two boxes of a prescription sedative and a syringe, court papers state. Pekler and Muscatel had the drug in their systems at the time of their deaths, prosecutors allege.

Stun guns, a Taser gun, a silencer and multiple handguns and rifles were also found.

 

 

 
 
 
 
home last updates contact