DETROIT (AP) – A man once listed as a top fugitive by the U.S. government was sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison for conspiring to lure Eastern European women to the U.S. and force them to become strippers.
Veniamin Gonikman, 56, pleaded guilty last year in a deal that called for him to receive no more than four years, three months in prison. U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts gave him three years behind bars, followed by three years’ probation.
Gonikman was the ninth and final member of the charged conspiracy to be sentenced.
“The defendants in this case preyed on young and vulnerable women from a foreign country,” said Brian Moskowitz, head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations in Detroit. “These women were brought to America with promises of education and travel, and instead forced to work in seedy strip clubs.”
Gonikman is a naturalized U.S. citizen from the Ukraine, where he was arrested in January 2011. U.S. authorities say that in 2001, Gonikman helped smuggle two young Ukrainian women through Mexico into the U.S. The women were forced to serve as exotic dancers in Detroit, authorities say.
“Human trafficking is the equivalent of modern day slavery,” Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez said in a statement. “It deprives the victims of their freedom and dignity and it has no place in our country.”
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