Who is Natan Gozman? Russian mobster turned a CI for FBI and helped convict banker of fraud
On March 18, New York-based bankers Herode Chancy and Michael Albarella pleaded guilty to fraud and bank bribery. The duo allegedly fraudulently obtained business loans worth over $1 million, with no intent to ever repay them. Due to be sentenced, Chancy's lawyer has claimed the FBI played a role, as did notorious former Russian gangster Natan Gozman. The attorney wants their roles to be taken into consideration, hoping it would lead to a lighter sentence.
The fraud case in Manhattan, though significant, has mostly slipped under the public's radar because of another case in the city — that of the Trump Organization. Since late 2020, the Manhattan DA's case into the company has dominated headlines for its many twists and turns. In the most recent update, prosecutors have indicted former CFO Allen Weisselberg, leading to him being booted from his many high-profile roles.
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The case against Chancy and Albarella though is another significant one. The duo, along with Adedayo Ilori, would have got away with a fraud of $1,025,000, if they had not been caught. The FBI says that happened because they worked with an underwriter from the lender they were planning to defraud, who happened to be an undercover law enforcement officer. The DoJ or FBI did not name the officer, but Chancy's lawyer alleges it was Gozman.
Who is Natan Gozman?
If the name sounds familiar, it is. Gozman was a former Russian mobster who kidnapped and killed former Soviet boxing champ Sergei Kobozev in 1995. The high-profile case dominated media headlines, after the FBI found his body in a grave in 1999. The murder was traced back to the Russian group "Brigade", of which Gozman was a member. Beyond that infamous murder, little is actually known about Gozman.
Reportedly, Gozman joined Brigade in the early 1990s as a teenager. He did numerous jobs for the Russian mafia, including robbery, extortion, and even murder. He became a household name after he was named one of the three people responsible for the murder of Kobozev, which he participated in reportedly to "boost his standing". Alexander Nosov and Vasiliy Ermichine were convicted, but Gozman reportedly fled the US and was never caught till 2005. Gozman remained a fugitive in Poland for years, before he was extradited and returned to the US.
He then cut a deal with prosecutors, agreeing to plead guilty for the murder of Kobozev in 2005. He also pleaded guilty to another murder and robbing a jeweler. Then in 2007, he testified in a trial in exchange for reducing his sentence to 10 years. According to reports, the testimony was for the trial of Marat Krivoi and Vitaly Ivanitsky. The duo was tried at Brooklyn Supreme Court for a pair of 15-year-old murders. At the time, Gozman was reportedly undergoing treatment under a psychiatrist for "depression, anxiety and sleep disorders — symptoms related to his incarceration".
It is believed Gozman testified in exchange for a lighter sentence, which he got. It's unclear what happened to him after. The 2007 trial is the last time Gozman's name was mentioned in the press, before the case against Chancy and Albarella.
Gozman's role in banker's fraud case
According to court documents, the two were convicted because Gozman worked as a confidential informant for the FBI. Chancy's lawyer alleges Gozman set him up to engage in the bank fraud — and worked with the feds while he needed cash to pay back some $70,000 in defaulted loans. The New York Post reported attorney Clay Kaminsky wrote in a memo, "The scheme never could have happened without Gozman, who coached Mr Chancy at length on how to make the fraudulent applications." "He told Mr Chancy exactly what to do and how to do it. Together with the undercover agent, Gozman even suggested the amounts for the fraudulent loan applications and asked for Mr Chancy’s help laundering his (Gozman’s) share of the proceeds," Kaminsky added. The lawyer also added that Chancy was unaware of Gozman's past.
When contacted, Gozman denied organizing the fraud. "Nobody set him up. Nobody set nobody up,” he told The Post. The FBI has not offered a comment, and Chancy's attorney also declined to comment further. In its press release, the DoJ did not mention Gozman's role at all. It simply wrote, "Chancy and Ilori believed that the underwriter for the third-party commercial lender was participating in the scheme and agreed to pay the underwriter a “commission” for the underwriter’s role in the scheme. In reality, however, the underwriter was an undercover law enforcement officer."
Chancy, 41, has pleaded guilty to one count of bank bribery, which carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison. The judge overseeing the case has scheduled a hearing for later this week to determine if the allegations should be taken into consideration for his sentencing.