U.S. Arrests ‘Most Wanted’ Fugitive In NYCJanuary 28, 2011 - 1:45 PM | by: Laura Ingle
One of the most wanted fugitives in America has been arrested at New York’s J.F.K. International Airport, where special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (known as “ICE”) took the suspect into custody who was wanted for a long list of crimes, including human trafficking.
Federal investigators have been searching for 55 year old Veniamin Gonikman, the alleged mastermind of a human smuggling scheme, for over five years. If Gonikman is convicted of the charges against him, he is looking at up to 20 years in prison.
Gonikman has been considered one of the ICE’s top ten fugitives, after slipping away from authorities in Detroit in 2005. That is when he was initially charged with a 22-count indictment for human trafficking, forced labor, money laundering and extortion just to name a few alleged offenses.
Gonikman who is a U.S. citizen, was arrested in the Ukraine for living there as an illegal immigrant and was deported by Ukrainian officials yesterday. Once he arrived at J.F.K in New York City, he was arrested by U.S. authorities for the 22 charges he faces here. Gonkiman is accused of operating a company called “Beauty Search Inc.” in Detroit as an alleged corporate cover for a human trafficking operation which smuggled and harbored 12 women from Eastern Europe to work at a strip club. The women were allegedly forced to work, and then turn over all of their earnings to Gonikman and his associates. Federal investigators say over time the women gave the men over 1 million dollars.
The scheme was revealed in 2005 when one of the women escaped and went to authorities. That woman later testified before the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary in 2007 about her ordeal, and said that she could not refuse to go to work, or she would be beaten and had a gun put to her face.
Today, Gonikman waived an identity hearing in New York, and consented to removal to E.D.M.I. (U.S. District Court – Eastern District of Michigan) to face the current charges. Gonikman’s eight associates, which includes his son, have all been convicted and sentenced on similar crimes.