Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

FBI: Russian Criminal Gangs May Overtake Mafia in U.S.

WASHINGTON -- Violent criminal gangs from Russia and other countries in the former Soviet Union may one day become more powerful than the Mafia in the United States, an FBI official told Congress on Thursday.

"In a few years, there is a very real chance that they may be the principal organized crime group in the United States," Deputy Assistant FBI Director Jim Moody said at a hearing of the House of Representatives Crime Subcommittee.

Moody said the gangs have grown in strength in Russia and the United States since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

"When communism declined in Russia, the organized crime groups quickly expanded their influence in the emerging move toward capitalism, again because sufficient constraints and law enforcement tools had not been present in the existing Russian law," he said.

He said the gangs were organized along ethic lines, by professional criminals or people with similar backgrounds or by former corrupt communist party leaders.

Among the crimes they were involved in were drugs, extortion, prostitution, kidnapping and money laundering, Moody said. He said most of the gang members were very violent and had no fear of the U.S. criminal justice system.

Moody said the gangs quickly organized in the United States and cooperated with other foreign criminal groups, including those with roots in Italy and Colombia.

"They network very fast. They become very sophisticated very quickly," Moody said.

He said the FBI, which has an office in Moscow, was working with foreign police agencies including the Russian Interior Ministry even though there was evidence of corruption within the ministry.

"As a law enforcement agency we must take calculated risks in seeking assistance from the MVD [Interior Ministry] or any other agency we must establish liaison with to pursue this criminal activity," he said.