RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - A Russian couple who lived a lavish life behind the gates of a sprawling North Carolina mansion hid an explosive secret, prosecutors said this week: They were living off a scheme that produced $150 million in kickbacks from subcontractors seeking business with Russia’s military.
On top of that, federal prosecutors also said the husband, Leonid Teyf, was plotting to kill a man - the son of a former housekeeper - whom he suspected of having an affair with his wife.
Now, the 57-year-old Teyf, his wife and three others face charges ranging from money laundering to immigration fraud. Teyf has also been charged with murder-for-hire.
The money-laundering scheme dates back to around 2010, during Teyf’s time as deputy director of a company called Voentorg that provided Russia’s military with laundry, food and other equipment, according to a federal indictment. Voentorg, in turn, sought goods from subcontractors and Teyf demanded a cut of government funds they were paid - kickbacks that grew to $150 million in cash over a two-year-period, prosecutors said.
“Some of the money was paid to others involved in the scheme, and some of the money was placed in accounts under Leonid Teyf’s control,” federal authorities wrote in a news release late Wednesday.
Teyf, who also was president of commercial fishing fleet in Russia, moved money from “illegal kickback of funds belonging to the government of Russia” using foreign banks known for money laundering, according to the indictment. And since at least 2010, prosecutors say, Teyf and his 41-year-old wife, Tatyana, wired approximately $39 million into U.S. bank accounts.
Teyf and others also set up U.S. businesses to help launder the money, authorities say, including a trucking company in Illinois.
Teyf and his wife had luxury cars, expensive artwork and a 17,000-square foot house tended by housekeepers along a Raleigh golf course, court documents show. Wake County property records list its value as nearly $5 million. Deeds indicate the couple has owned it since 2012.
The house was raided by federal agents on Dec. 5, drawing attention from local media outlets.
Federal prosecutors now are trying to seize assets including the mansion, four Mercedes-Benz sedans and artwork worth $2.6 million.
Teyf, his wife and Alexey Timofeev each face multiple counts of money laundering. Timofeev had helped run the Illinois company used in laundering money and was involved in transferring money between accounts, according to the indictment.
Two others face felony immigration fraud charges.
Lawyers for Leonid Teyf didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment. Lawyers for the others weren’t listed in a federal court docket, and representatives for the federal public defender’s office didn’t immediately respond to a message asking if they are representing them.
While investigating the money laundering charges, investigators discovered something more sinister this year. The FBI learned that Leonid Teyf believed his wife was having an affair and asked a confidential law enforcement source to help him plot the man’s death, prosecutors said. Teyf believed his wife was having an affair with the son of a former live-in housekeeper, according to court documents.
Teyf sought to bribe a Homeland Security employee this year to deport the man to Russia, where he would likely be killed, according to court documents, but he grew impatient.
“When the deportation plan was taking a longer period of time than he expected, Leonid Teyf returned to his murder-for-hire plan and paid the Confidential Source $25,000 to kill the man before the end of 2018,” authorities said in the news release.
Authorities say Teyf supplied a firearm with serial numbers scratched off for the killing, which was never carried out.
Leonid Teyf faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of bribery, firearm and murder-for-hire charges. The others face maximum sentences of 10 years.
This story has been corrected to show that federal authorities sent the news release Wednesday, not Thursday.
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