The New York Police Department shut down a multimillion-dollar fencing ring Wednesday, arresting 22 people and padlocking a dozen Manhattan jewelry stores where stolen gems and gold were bought from burglars and then melted down or resold overseas, authorities said.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said two brothers—Igor Kataev, 33, of Jamaica, and Alexander Kataev, 35, of Flushing—ran three jewelry stores in the Diamond District that were "a major artery" in the illegal operation, Newsday reports.
Also arrested for their alleged involvement were Igor Kataev's wife, Nilya Rakhminova, 26, and her parents, Boris Rakhminova, 51, and Balur Rakhminova, 44, of Flushing. Police say they bought and resold the stolen jewels out of their adjacent jewelry store and hair salon on the Upper East Side, the newspaper reports.
Since the police probe began in March 2001, undercover detectives posing as jewel thieves made more than 140 sales to the store managers.
"The majority of the stolen jewelry the stores were fencing came from home burglaries," Kelly reportedly said. "In most cases, that jewelry was then melted down and sold to other dealers. In some cases, when the items were expensive or they were rare, they were kept intact and usually would be sold overseas."
Police had not yet calculated the total value of the jewelry seized in the investigation, dubbed "Operation Goldrush," the newspaper reports. It included several gold pieces and costly Rolex watches.
Police also confiscated 13 vehicles—including a Lincoln Navigator, four Mercedes, and four Lexuses—and five weapons, the newspaper reports. They are conducting search warrants on the homes of those arrested, who face charges ranging from criminal possession of stolen property and enterprise corruption to money laundering and tax fraud.