Human Trafficking Suspect Appears In Federal Court

DETROIT, USA -- A former fugitive accused of being a member of a violent ring that lured Eastern European women to the United States and forced them to become strippers was brought to Michigan to face charges.

Human trafficking suspect Veniamin Gonikman

Veniamin Gonikman appeared Friday for arraignment in U.S. District Court in Detroit.

A judge ordered the proceedings to resume Wednesday after an attorney for the naturalized U.S. citizen from Ukraine said he needed an interpreter who understood and spoke Russian.

Defense lawyer Wally Piszczatowski told federal Magistrate Mark Randon that Gonikman "can converse in the English language," but needs an interpreter for more detailed discussions about the case and charges.

Randon also ordered that Gonikman remain in custody pending a separate detention hearing Wednesday.

Gonikman, 55, consented last month in a New York courtroom to be sent to Michigan to face the charges.

Court documents allege Gonikman was using a fake Russian passport while living in Ukraine in recent years. Officials there arrested him in on immigration violations and ordered his deportation.

He was taken into U.S. custody after landing at Kennedy Airport in New York.

The Associated Press reported on the case involving Gonikman last year in a lengthy investigation of the exploitation of a U.S. cultural exchange program that provides foreign college students temporary visas to live and work in the United States.

Some women were beaten and sexually assaulted, threatened with guns and forced to work 12 hours a day, six days a week at the Cheetah's strip club in Detroit, according to court records.

Gonikman faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of human trafficking, money laundering, extortion and other charges.

Source: AP