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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

For Young Home Buyers, It's Murder

City Crime Statistics
Feb. 2 - Feb. 8*
Theft (total)912346
Apartment burglaries14610
Car theft3511
For the Record
Car accidents101
    a) killed15
    b) injured104
Public drunkenness4145
    a) detained overnight1387
Missing persons41
Bodies discovered71
*City police said Feb. 3 statistics for several categories were missing due to technical problems.
Source: Moscow police

For one young Moscow couple trying to take their first steps on the housing ladder, a bloodthirsty plan to avoid taking out a high-interest mortgage has left them facing a 7 1/2-year stretch in less comfortable accommodation.

On Jan. 19, the Moscow City Court convicted engaged couple Mikhail Kharlamov and Yelena Samokhina of hiring a hitman -- on credit -- to kill the bride's parents and younger brother to obtain ownership of the family apartment.

The plan was to sell the apartment and use the money to pay off the killer and purchase a smaller, cheaper apartment in which to begin their new life together, police spokesman Valery Buzovkin said.

According to Buzovkin, Kharlamov, 23, asked Samokhina, 19, to marry him last summer. But without an apartment of their own the couple would have had little choice but to live with Samokhina's parents and younger brother.

Somewhere along the line the two hatched the plan to kill the young woman's family, promising a security guard at the technical college where she worked $15,000 for the job after the sale of the apartment at 5 Medynskaya Ulitsa in southern Moscow, Buzovkin said.

But like many contract hits that go awry, the couple misjudged the character of the hired killer. The security guard went to the police, who arranged a sting operation to catch the couple red-handed.

Police rigged a wire on the security guard, and on Aug. 26 police arrested the couple after Samokhina handed over keys to the apartment, a picture of the flat and a 5,000 ruble ($170) advance, Buzovkin said.

During the trial, prosecutors played a tape of the recording made during the sting, and Samokhina could be heard telling the guard that he should make it look like a maniac had ransacked the apartment, Russian media reported.

"I would kill them myself, but they would suspect me immediately," Samokhina said on the recording, Izvestia reported.

Buzovkin, who was present himself during the sting, said he doubts that Samokhina was behind the plan, as she claimed during the initial interrogation.

"We took her into the car, and she immediately began saying, 'Whatever you do, don't touch him. He had nothing to do with it,'" Buzovkin said. "But she was looking over at him, and it looked as if he was pressuring her to keep quiet."

Be that as it may, both Samokhina and Kharlamov were convicted of conspiracy to commit murder and sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison. The sentence was set to begin on Jan. 30 but has not yet taken effect, pending an appeal by Samokhina's lawyer, an employee at the Moscow City Court said by telephone Wednesday.

Samokhina's mother, Tatyana, pled in court for her daughter to be found not guilty, saying her daughter "was just joking," Izvestia reported.

"My little daughter didn't want anything bad to happen," she was quoted as saying. "I beg you to let her go."

Cases of hits on relatives to obtain apartments are not unheard of in Russia, though they are far less common than business-related contract murders, said Alexei Vakhromeyev, spokesman for the city police's criminal investigations department.