35 year old Leonid “Lenny” Gershman ran a violent criminal enterprise (the “Syndicate”) with links to high-level members of Eastern European Jewish mafia known as Thieves-in-Law (“Thieves”). Gershman made money through gambling, loansharking, extortion and drug-trafficking. At one point Gershman burned down the building of a rival poker house in Brooklyn. A college student and a child almost died being rescued from the burning building.
Gershman was born in Moldova, a small Soviet era country that borders the Ukraine. Most Jewish mobsters came from the Ukraine. I was locked up in Otisville with numerous Russian and Ukrainian Jews from Brooklyn who were involved in financial crimes. Some had ties to the Russian mob. The only reason these guys knew that they were Jews is because in the Ukraine they were treated like second class citizens because they were Jews. Many left these Soviet occupied countries in the 1980s and fled to either the United States or Israel. Most of these Russian Jews argued to their Federal sentencing Judge that because they suffered persecution and anti-Semitism back in Soviet occupied countries the Judge should cut them a break. This argument never works. It doesn’t work for African American criminals and it doesn’t work for Russian Jewish criminals.
Gershman’s family settled in Israel after fleeing Moldova in the 1980s. After ten years in Israel the Gershman family moved to Brooklyn. If the Gershmans stayed in Israel Lenny Gershman would have joined the Israeli army and would have had a release for his violent tendencies. Gershman would have made a great Mossad agent. Instead, Gershman was exposed to the Russian – Jewish mob underworld in Brooklyn. As a result, Gershman led a life of crime. Gershman was only 23 years old when he was busted for pistol whipping his neighbor.
At the Coney Island Poker Spot, on Coney Island Avenue, Gershman took a “rake” or “chop” of the total money wagered on each poker game, usually between five to ten percent of each pot. The largest chop in a single session was over $80,000, reflecting wagers of approximately $800,000. The Coney Island Poker Spot used to be on McDonald Poker Spot located on McDonald Avenue. The boys in blue busted up that poker operation so they moved to it Coney Island Avenue.
Federal prosecutors asked Judge Cogan to sentence “Lenny” Gershman to 34 years. The Feds argued to Judge Cogan: “In sentencing Gershman the Court has the opportunity to send a powerful message to criminals in the South Brooklyn community where Gershman operated. Many of these people have seen Gershman and his associates flaunting their wealth and power while committing acts of intimidation and violence with apparent impunity. Many believe that this criminal behavior is worth the risk—especially in light of the perception that local arrests rarely lead to convictions (much less significant sentences) and that even federal sentences are tolerable. For example, instead of being deported or destitute after his seven-year racketeering sentence, co-defendant Tsvetkov emerged from prison as a respected criminal and used that reputation to quickly amass wealth and power. This case has received significant attention in local media—especially in Russian language newspapers and radio after the unsealing of arson charges in 2017—and Gershman’s sentence is likely to be reported widely. The Court’s sentence should convince those listening that the rewards of crimes like those Gershman committed are not worth the risks.”
Gershman hired Jew lawyer Jonathan Savella, a Manhattan lawyer who graduated from Brooklyn Law. I am surprised Gershman, whom the NY Post reported drove a high end BMW, wore a $1,500 belt buckle, wore $1,000 Yeezy brand sneakers, and Kanye West-branded footwear, didn’t hire the name brand Jew lawyer of choice for New York Jewish criminals: Ben Braffman. Savella used to work for attorney Marc Fernich, who represented Jeffrey Epstein before Epstein died a mysterious death while locked up at MCC in Manhattan. Gershman is currently locked up in MDC in Brooklyn. Gershman will never go to Camp Otisville, as he was convicted of crimes of extreme violence.
Gershman’s attorney saved Lenny from 35 years in the Big House. Judge Cogan sentenced Gershman to only 16.5 years. Rather than give Lenny the max, Judge Cogan went easy on him. Cogan said that he had just sentenced El Chapo, and that he has been “jaded” by some of the mobsters he has sentenced in the past. Cogan said that he saw potential in Lenny to do better, and praised his intelligence. Throughout the sentencing hearing, Gershman looked at his family members and Russian supporters and blew kisses at them. Following the sentencing, Gershman smiled as he left the courtroom.
Attorney Savella did a good job for Gershman even though Savella admitted that his client was a thug and argued: “Lenny Gershman is loyal, dauntless, confrontational and possessed of an occasionally volatile temper. These traits made him an able bill collector – at least when the debtors were thugs or con men – and rendered him useful to cannier villains like Renat Yusufov and Vyacheslav Malkeyev, who called upon Gershman for “muscle” in disputes with other street toughs. They do not, however, explain why Gershman cast his lot with criminals. The answer to that question lies beneath Gershman’s outward personality, in a deeply alienating adolescence and a predisposition to addiction.” I don’t know how “predisposition to addiction” can cause one to commit acts of extreme violence. Savella mentioned a motorcycle accident in 2011 that got Lenny hooked to Percocets. I always thought that Percocets put you to sleep, not make you violent. Either way, the Federal Judge appointed by George W. Bush bought the arguments and spared Lenny a 34 year sentence.
Lenny will be ringing in the New Year in MDC prison in Brooklyn. I spent New Year’s Eve in Otisville prison. I still remember cooking a few bags of noodles at my prison job in the warehouse and smuggling them back to the dorms for the New Year’s Eve parties that were going on in the camp. It was a sober New Year’s Eve. I’m sure there were some guys who smuggled in alcohol, but I saw no point in taking that risk. The guards were constantly giving you random breathalyzer tests. They also randomly took urine samples. The guard stood right over you to make sure the urine came from your body, and not someone else. It wasn’t easy to provide a sample under such conditions. I told the guard I had stage fright. When he said I had to either provide a sample or go to the SHU (solitary), my glands kicked in.
In the Chinese calendar 2020 is the Year of the Rat. The Chinese believe that the rat is industrious, thrifty, diligent and positive. I met many rats in Otisville, but I never met a rat that was industrious, thrifty, diligent and positive. I hope the rat Michael Cohen enjoys his New Year in Otsiville. L’Chaim Mr. Cohen.
For G-d, For Country, For Yale, For 2020.
“It is better to be cursed by the Prophet Achiya ha’Shiloni, and cursed out by Larry Noodles, than to be blessed by Bil’am.” Taanit 20.
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