Veniamin Gonikman, sought by U.S. immigration officials for trafficking in Eastern European girls and making them work in U.S. strip joints, was finally busted yesterday by ICE. Not that ICE really did anything but arrest him when he got off a plane at JFK that everyone knew he was on. The 55-year-old goniff Gonikman had been deported Wednesday from the Ukraine, where, though he’s a U.S. citizen, he has his roots.
Check out the 2007 Capitol Hill testimony on human trafficking by “Katya” about Gonikman’s smuggling her from the Ukraine. She thought she was coming to the U.S. to be a waitress in Virginia. That’s not where she wound up.
Gonikman sent her to Detroit to work in a strip joint named Cheetah’s, where she and others were held as virtual slaves.
Bad stuff, but lots of human trafficking stories are overblown. Katya’s plight pales in comparison with the continual horrors of rape on a massive scale suffered by women (and men and children) in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the most underreported and deadliest war since World War II has been raging for years.
The Congo bloodshed gets little play in the U.S. press, even compared with this relatively minor bust of the Ukrainian bad guy. But the plight of the European girls does sound like the synopsis of an early Elmore Leonard novel, except that it’s real. They weren’t exactly sex slaves, but they kinda were.
Gonikman was one of ICE’s most wanted fugitives, having slipped away from the immigration cops in Detroit in 2005.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 28, 2011