Four members of an Eastern European organized crime family have been busted for torching a Brooklyn building housing a rival poker game that was stealing their clients, authorities said Wednesday.
Viktor Zelinger, Vyacheslav Malkeyev, Leonid Gershman and Aleksey Tsvetkov were allegedly operating a high-stakes game in Sheepshead Bay when they decided to burn down their rival’s operation in May 2016, according to a newly unsealed indictment.
But the arson was set while people were still inside – trapping a 12-year-old boy and another resident on the upper floors.
Dramatic video of the rescue shows a firefighter climbing a ladder to rescue the boy and another person, clad only in their underwear.
Five firefighters and both residents had to be treated for smoke inhalation, and one of the smoke-eaters sustained first-degree burns to his face.
The crime family members refer to themselves as “thieves,” or “thieves in law,” authorities said, to denote membership in the organized crime faction.
Zelinger remained at large Wednesday, authorities said. The others are awaiting arraignment at Brooklyn federal court.
Gershman, Tsvetkov and Malkeyev are also charged in the 33-count indictment with pistol whipping an unnamed person they suspected of stealing drugs from the syndicate’s “stash” house.
Gershman, 34, also allegedly called his associate, Artiom Pocinoc, a “boxer with cauliflower ears” during a phone call with a victim, in which he threatened violence if the person didn’t pay up.
Pocinoc, 28, is also charged with beating another victim and extortion.
Zelinger, Gershman and Malkeyev are naturalized U.S. citizens who immigrated to the United States from various Eastern European countries.
Tsvetkov is a citizen of Ukraine, while Pocinoc is a citizen of Moldova.
The Brooklyn syndicate is believed to have ties to a larger crime organization run out of former states of the Soviet Union, and Israel, authorities said.