Sheepshead Bay mobster sentenced to 16 years for arson, racketeering

Sheepshead Bay mobster pictured here
Leonid Gershman (right) with co-defendant Aleksey Tsvekov, who is awaiting sentencing.
Photo courtesy of the US Attorney's Office

A high-ranking member of a southern Brooklyn-based crime syndicate was sentenced to 16 and a half years behind bars on Tuesday for a host of crimes — including his involvement in the arson of a three-story Sheepshead Bay apartment building in 2016

Sheepshead Bay mobster Leonid “Lenny” Gershman was sentenced on Tuesday by United States District Judge Brian M. Cogan to charges of loansharking, extortion, arson, marajuiana distribution, and conspiring to traffick firearms, among other charges, according to authorities. 

Gershman, 36, had hosted in an illegal poker ring that helped fund his criminal enterprise when he ignited an inferno that engulfed a Voorhies Avenue building — which housed a rival poker game, according to prosecutors. 

“Gershman is a violent racketeer deservedly punished today for the harm he has inflicted through beatings, extortions, loansharking and, most seriously, an arson that displaced families from their homes and endangered the lives of children and New York City firefighters,” stated United States Attorney Richard Donoghue.  

Along with co-defendant Aleksey Tsvekvov of Bergen Beach, prosecutors claim Gershman hired two co-conspirators to set the rival game’s building on fire in the spring of 2016 — trapping a young boy and a teenager in the blaze leaving them to be rescued by firefighters, according to prosecutors.

One of the two survivors described his experience attempting to escape from the third floor with his younger brother during the blaze while on the witness stand last year. The two suffered smoke inhalation and one of the rescuing firefighters required surgery to treat a resulting back injury, authorities said. 

The Sheepshead Bay mobster was convicted following a three-week trial in August 2018 for the arson and the various other illicit crime syndicate activities — whose members born in the former Soviet Union, and operated throughout southern Brooklyn between 2011 and May 2017, according to investigators.

Tsvekvov, Gershman’s co-defendant, is still awaiting sentencing, prosecutors said. 

“Hopefully today will mark the beginning of a sense of closure to the families that Gershman and his co-conspirators afflicted for so many years,” said Drug Enforcement Agency Special Agent-in-Charge Ray Donovan.

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