Federal prosecutors who took a page from “The Untouchables playbook nailed their man on Thursday when a judge sentenced a Russian immigrant whom they believed killed three people to 30 years in prison — for identity theft and bank and credit card fraud.
U.S. District Judge Leo Glasser sent Dmitriy Yakovlev up the river for stealing the identity of Irina Malezhik and Viktor Alekseyev, both of whom mysteriously disappeared shortly after meeting Yakovlev between 2003 and 2007 — then looting their bank accounts and credit cards of more than $430,000.
But to prosecutors, the stiff punishment, which also demanded Yakovlev pay back the money he stole, was more about the deaths that no one could prove he was responsible for — even though evidence pointed the finger squarely at Yakovlev — than for the crime he was convicted of.
“Today’s sentence ensures that this defendant will never again have the opportunity to murder or otherwise victimize innocent” people, said U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch.
Yakovlev is also believed to be responsible for the death of NYPD mechanic Michael Klein, who sold his Sea Gate property to Yakovlev in 2003 then mysteriously disappeared.
Of the three victims, only Alekseyev’s body has been found — his dismembered remains were discovered in three garbage bags in a New Jersey park along with a bloody Dracula mask.
At the trial, forensic experts testified that the body was cut up by someone with medical training. Yakovlev worked as a surgeon in Russian in 1995 and 1996.
Defense attorney Michael Gold unsuccessfully argued that anyone with knowledge about slicing a Thanksgiving turkey could have done the deed.
Prosecutors also established that Yakovlev knew each of the victims personally, and worked closely with his wife, Julia Yakovlev to carry out the identity thefts. The pair was videotaped buying two watches worth $16,200 at a store on Long Island using Malezhik’s credit card the day after her disappearance.
She was last seen leaving her Brighton Beach home in 2007.
The Yakovlevs were arrested shortly thereafter.
In February, Yakovlev’s wife pleaded guilty to identity theft and credit card fraud, and was sentenced to three years in prison.
Yakovlev did not speak at his sentencing.
The case against Yakovlev was reminiscent of the government’s successful strategy to take down Chicago crime boss Al Capone in the early 1930s made famous by the television series and movie “The Untouchables,” based on the life of G-man Eliot Ness. Instead of charging Capone with murder or bootlegging, Capone was tried for income tax evasion, which he was eventually found guilty of and sent to prison for 11 years.