Name: Semion Mogilevich
Wanted for: Various fraud-related crimes; general supervillainy
Added to the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List: 2009
The circumstances: In 2011 the FBI apprehended fugitive James “Whitey” Bulger, the alleged Boston mob leader who had been on the bureau’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List for 12 years. At the time an FBI press release touted the capture of “a man notorious in Boston and around the world for the very serious crimes he is alleged to have committed.” But as Bulger was being removed from the list, another gangster remained, a fellow whose alleged crimes made Whitey Bulger look like Ray Bolger. Meet Semion Mogilevich, an obese Ukrainian known as the “Brainy Don” who has been called “the most powerful mobster in the world.”
At first look, Mogilevich’s alleged crimes seem fairly banal. He is wanted by the FBI on various fraud charges relating to his involvement with a publicly traded industrial magnet manufacturer called YBM Magnex. Though shares in the company sold for up to $20 on the Toronto Stock Exchange, an investigation revealed that YBM did not actually make magnets, and that the company “was created for the sole purpose of committing securities fraud.” It’s a clever scheme, but hardly unprecedented in the Bernie Madoff era.
But the magnets are allegedly just the tip of the crime-berg. According to the FBI, when he’s not creating sham companies to bilk Canadian investors out of their savings, Mogilevich dabbles in “weapons trafficking, contract murders, extortion, drug trafficking, and prostitution on an international scale.” A 1998 Village Voice profile reported that Mogilevich “controls everything that goes in and out of Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport.” The FBI claims that “through his extensive international criminal network, Mogilevich controls extensive natural gas pipelines in Eastern Europe, and he uses this wealth and power to not only further his criminal enterprises but to influence governments and their economies.” Oh, yes, he’s also said to deal in nuclear materials.
His likely whereabouts: This isn’t hard: Mogilevich is in Moscow. The United States can’t touch him there, because Russia doesn’t extradite to the U.S. Russia itself doesn’t seem particularly interested in going after the Brainy Don: although Mogilevich was arrested by the Russian government in 2008 on tax evasion charges, he was released soon thereafter. (Russian authorities justified Mogilevich’s release by saying that the charges against him “are not of a particularly grave nature.”) He lives out in the open, more or less, and is said to be “on good terms” with Vladimir Putin.
Prospects of catching him: Very slim. Mogilevich, allegedly, is a real-life Keyser Söze: a ruthless, fabulously wealthy international crime boss who is shielded from arrest by his money and contacts, with an occasional assist from his right-hand man, Pete Postlethwaite. He’ll only ever be caught if he falls out of favor with the Russian government (it could happen), or if he for some reason decides to leave Russia and travel to a country that extradites fugitives to America. “If Mogilevich travels outside of Russia, we’re hoping someone will turn him in,” the FBI said. Don’t bet on it.
Most Wanted Score: The FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List was made for people like Semion Mogilevich. I’m giving him a 9.5 out of 10.
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