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Financial Crimes

California man sentenced on extortion charges involving Las Vegas shopping mall and casino kiosks

LAS VEGAS – A California man was sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison for attempting to extort money and gain ownership of a shopping mall kiosk business from two former business partners following an extensive investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations.

Moshe Barmuha, 38, of Studio City, Calif., was sentenced Feb. 17. He previously pleaded guilty April 15, 2011 to the charges which included one count of conspiracy to interfere with commerce by threats and violence and one count of interstate travel in aid of racketeering. The sentence included an enhancement for prior violent criminal convictions in Israel.

The co-defendants charged in the case have also pleaded guilty and were sentenced earlier this year. They include: Yakov Cohen, of Las Vegas; Ruslan Magomedgadzhiev and Murad Magomedgadzhiev, of Tarzana, Calif.; and Lior Zaken of Studio City.

According to court documents, from September 2009 to April 5, 2010, the defendants conspired and attempted to extort money from two men – identified as M.O. and M.K. – through force, violence and fear. In July 2007, M.O. and M.K. operated several kiosks in Las Vegas-area casinos and shopping malls at which they sold electronic products, such as hands-free microphones.

In early 2008, M.O. and M.K. began expanding their business to include retail women's cosmetics and skin care products, and entered into a partnership with Cohen, a competitor who also operated kiosks in Las Vegas-area casinos and malls. During the next year, the men got into a business dispute, and M.O. and M.K. alleged that Cohen was stealing and cheating them. M.O. and M.K. then terminated their business relationship with Cohen. Following this dispute, Cohen and the other defendants began threatening M.O. and M.K. and attempted to extort money from them.

In September and October 2009, Barmuha and Cohen threatened M.O. and M.K. in person and over the telephone. Barmuha, Cohen and Zaken then hired Ruslan and Murad Magomedgadzhiev in January 2010 to "strong-arm" M.K. The Magomedgadzhievs then physically assaulted M.K. Jan. 8, 2010, while he was walking to his vehicle, causing a serious head injury.

This investigation was conducted by HSI, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Los Angeles Police Department. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly M. Frayn.