BY JOHN MARZULLI
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Tats a made man in the Russian Mafia.
Federal prosecutors persuaded a Brooklyn judge to reject $1 million bail for a reputed mobster, arguing that his distinctive tattoos suggest that he is a made member of a notorious international crime group known as “thieves in law.”
Aleksey Tsvetkov had two stars tattooed on each shoulder while he was in prison serving a 78-month term for his last federal conviction for racketeering, extortion and assault in Coney Island and Brighton Beach.
Tsvetkov, 37, was arrested last week on similar charges in connection with a Brooklyn-based mob syndicate, but the tattoos indicate that his status in organized crime has changed since the prior case.
“He’s holding himself out as a ‘made man’ in this Russian Mafia,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrey Spektor argued Tuesday in Brooklyn Federal Court.
The prosecutor also pointed out that a Russian eagle tattooed on Tsvetkov’s side suggests he might flee to that country. Another tattoo of a cross on his right arm raised questions about Tsvetkov’s previous claims that feared persecution in his homeland because he is Jewish.
The new federal indictment alleges that Tsvetkov, a Ukrainian national, and eight co-defendants report to high-ranking thieves in law mobsters in Eastern Europe in connection with collecting extortion money and loansharking debts from victims overseas.
Defense lawyer Joel Cohen acknowledged that his client was a bad guy in the past, and did indeed get the thieves in law tattoos while doing time in prison.
“The fact that he has some tattoos is not indicative of who he is today,” Cohen argued.
“I actually have a dragon tattooed on my right arm. Does that mean I’m a member of China’s organized crime?”
Tsvetkov got the ink “to hold himself out as a tough guy ... that’s how you survive in prison,” Cohen added.
The lawyer also pointed out that thieves in law are prohibited from having a wife and children, legitimate jobs and cooperating with the police.
He said that Tsvetkov is married, has two young children, owns an auto body shop and called the NYPD about a customer who tried to commit insurance fraud.
But the prosecutor noted that the tattoos speak for themselves and that trying to falsely pass oneself off as a made member of thieves in law would be a death sentence.
Magistrate Judge Ramon Reyes ordered Tsvetkov held without bail.
Cohen is appealing the decision.