Avtandil Khurtsidze found guilty on racketeering, other charges

Former interim middleweight world titlist Avtandil Khurtsidze was found guilty on Tuesday in New York federal court of racketeering, wire fraud and other charges in connection with a sprawling and violent criminal ring. He faces up to 40 years in prison.

Khurtsidze, along with crime boss Razhden Shulaya, known as the "Thief-in-law," were convicted for their involvement in the crime ring that operated in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Nevada and abroad. They are jailed and awaiting sentencing.

Khurtsidze was found guilty of one count of racketeering conspiracy and one count of wire fraud conspiracy, each of which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

"As a unanimous jury found, Razhden Shulaya and his chief enforcer, Avtandil Khurtsidze, engaged in an array of criminal schemes that included violence, extortion, theft, trafficking in stolen goods and fraud," said Geoffrey S. Berman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, whose office prosecuted the case.

Khurtsidze has been incarcerated since being arrested on June 7, 2017, on a variety of charges for his role as the "enforcer" in the New York-based Russian and Georgian crime syndicate, along with 33 others as part of a federal government roundup of those accused of being involved in the crime ring.

Lou DiBella, Khurtsidze's promoter, was disgusted with the fighter.

"He's gotten due process. F--- him for squandering his championship-caliber skills and career," DiBella said. "He let many people down who believed in him, but no one more than himself. Just a waste, and it's all on him for choosing the dark side."

Khurtsidze (33-2-2, 22 KOs), 39, a native of the Republic of Georgia who was based in New York, won a vacant interim middleweight world title in April 2017 when he traveled to Leicester, England, and knocked out Tommy Langford in the fifth round. Khurtsidze then was supposed to fight full middleweight titlist Billy Joe Saunders in a mandatory bout last July 8 in London, but the fight was canceled and Khurtsidze was eventually stripped of his interim belt after he was arrested and denied bail.

According to prosecutors, the Shulaya Enterprise was an organized criminal group operating under Shulaya's direction that engaged in acts of violence, extortion, the operation of illegal gambling businesses, fraud on various casinos, identity theft, credit card frauds, trafficking in large quantities of stolen goods, money laundering through a fraudulently established vodka import-export company, payment of bribes to local law enforcement officers, and the operation of a Brooklyn, New York-based brothel.

Khurtsidze acted as Shulaya's chief enforcer and engaged in multiple acts of extortion and violence. He was captured on video twice assaulting others in service of the Shulaya Enterprise, participated in recorded acts of extortion of gambling debts and planned additional acts of violence with Shulaya targeting associates whom Khurtsidze and Shulaya perceived as having disrespected Shulaya's status.

They participated in a scheme to defraud casinos by targeting particular models of electronic slot machines using a complicated algorithm designed to predict the behavior of those machines. Shulaya obtained the technology used to commit that fraud through violence, including through the 2014 kidnapping of a software engineer in Las Vegas. Shulaya and Khurtsidze then refined that technology by training lower-level members of the crime ring to execute the casino scam using smartphones and software they developed.

Shulaya faces up to 65 years in prison after he was found guilty of one count of racketeering conspiracy, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison; one count of conspiring to traffic in stolen goods, such as luxury watches, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison; one count of conspiracy to traffic in contraband tobacco, which carries a potential maximum penalty of five years in prison; one count of identification document fraud, which carries a potential maximum penalty of 15 years in prison; and one count of wire fraud conspiracy, which carries a potential maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.