Brooklyn Arson Was Over Rival Underground Poker Game, Feds Say


A fire that destroyed a building in Brooklyn last year was set because it housed a rival poker game to one ran by members of an Eastern European organized crime syndicate, the government said Wednesday in a news release.

According to a 33-page indictment, a group of men torched the building in the early morning hours of May 2, 2016. Fortunately no one died in the blaze, though two residents of the building and five firefighters were injured. The poker game was housed on the ground floor.

Amateur video was taken of the fire and posted to YouTube.

Five of the six men are in custody, while one remains at large. Four of the men face charges related to the fire, while two are accused of other mob-related crimes.

The government said that defendants Viktor Zelinger, Vyacheslav Malkeyev, Leonid Gershman and Aleksey Tsvetkov targeted the building at 2220 Voorhies Avenue in Brooklyn because it competed with their “high-stakes” illegal games at 2663 Coney Island Avenue.

All the men, with ages ranging from 28 to 39, are looking at decades in prison, respectively, if convicted of the alleged crimes, which also include assault in aid of racketeering, extortion and unlawful firearms dealing. The case is being handled by the DOJ’s Organized Crime and Gangs Section.

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