Small-town health aide was big-time mob associate
Woman duped Schoharie County couple — as she served reputed crime kingpin
In rural Schoharie County, Jerry and Patricia Gauthier knew her as “Anna,” an invaluable home health aide and member of their family.
In Brooklyn, Nazo Gaprindashvili carried another identity — high-level associate of the Russian mob.
Gaprindashvili, 34, a native of the Republic of Georgia, was a confidante of Razhden Shulaya, whom federal prosecutors identified as one of the most powerful Russian organized crime bosses in and around New York City.
“When he needed certain things done, she would do them,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Thomas told a judge in August 2017.
Shulaya, 41, a reputed “vor v zakone,” or “vor” — which stands for thief-in-law, an elite level of Russian criminal the equivalent of a Cosa Nostra boss — is on trial in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
Gaprindashvili, who pleaded guilty in February to racketeering conspiracy, was sentenced on Monday to four years and nine months in prison. She helped shake down a restaurant, scammed casinos and allowed her Brooklyn apartment to be used for gambling. And in Gilboa, a Schoharie County town of 1,259 an hour west of Albany, she stole from the family that took her in and accepted her, prosecutors stated in a pre-sentencing memo to Judge Katherine Forrest.
“Gaprindashvili primarily assisted Shulaya in his illegal gambling and extortion activities and financed the enterprise through a particularly egregious exploitation of her infirm employer,” the memo said. “(Jerry Gauthier) gave Gaprindashvili access to his home and his finances for the purpose of keeping him healthy. She used that access, instead, to steal well over half a million dollars, funneling a portion of that money to Shulaya and his enterprise.”
In Gilboa, best known for its century-old dam on the Schoharie Creek, the Gauthiers once ran the Golden Acres resort. By 2016, Jerry Gauthier, who had suffered a stroke a few years earlier, needed a home health aide.
Gaprindashvili filled that role — or so it seemed.
“Thank God for our lovely Anna,” Patricia Gauthier, who has since died, wrote on Facebook in February 2017. At the time, Gaprindashvili was returning to the family after being away for several months.
The Gauthiers’ trusted health aide was also a trusted aide to Shulaya. Thomas said Gaprindashvili helped the reputed mob boss “softly extort” restaurants in Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach, a hotbed of Russian mob activity, and assisted in one shakedown for $100,000.
“She was a constant presence and support system for Shulaya at a high level and in that capacity involved herself in many of the affairs of the enterprise,” the prosecutor said.
Those affairs included references to violence. In January 2017, Gaprindashvili and Shulaya had a conversation in which the reputed kingpin told Gaprindashvili. “We smashed that (person’s) teeth and fingers (expletive) that day,” the prosecutor said.
“And her response,” Thomas said of Gaprindashvili, “is to sigh.”
Five months later, Gaprindashvili’s double life was over. In June 2017, the FBI and federal prosecutors in Manhattan announced a takedown of more than two dozen members of the “Shulaya Enterprise,” which they said engaged in the theft of cargo shipments (including 10,000 pounds of chocolate confections) and a scheme to rob men after they were seduced by a woman, lured to a location and drugged with chloroform.
Prosecutors said the syndicate’s tentacles spread from Brighton Beach to Florida to Las Vegas and the unlikeliest location of all, Gilboa.
“It blows my mind,” said Town Supervisor Anthony Van Glad, when told about the Gaprindashvili’s presence in the community he’s led for 15 years. “We’re a quiet rural community. It’s hard to believe the Russian mob is in Gilboa — or was.”
The supervisor said he knew the Gauthiers and their resort. He knew nothing about Gaprindashvili and said he imagined the vast majority of people in Gilboa had no clue about the nefarious visitor from Brooklyn via the former Soviet Union.
Gaprindashvili’s upstate connection surfaced on June 9, 2017, when her Brooklyn attorney, Lance Lazzaro, asked Judge Forrest to allow her bail conditions to extend to the Gauthier family’s home on South Gilboa Road so she could continue to work as a personal assistant and health aide.
“With respect to my client as far as travel, Judge, she works in the upstate area and would like to expand her ability to travel to work,” Lazzaro said.
Gaprindashvili was free on $200,000 bond, but not for long. A judge detained her in August 2017 after she violated her bail conditions. Gaprindashvili had an expletivelaced spat with someone on Facebook and allegedly made a death threat.
“You never be safe psycho bitch anymore because you started it and I’ll (sic) will finish it. You got it?” she stated. “You (expletive), I’ll take care of you from now on. You suck, don’t you understand that? ... now I’ll tell everyone about you. And those friends of mine, whoever they are, right, they will finish the rest for you.”
Lazzaro told the judge his client never intended to hurt the person, whom he said “repeatedly called Ms. Gaprindashvili fat, which is a very sensitive topic for Ms. Gaprindashvili.”
Lazzaro also told the judge Gaprindashvili was “badly needed” in Gilboa to watch Jerry Gauthier.
“Without her, he fears that his health will fail and he is hesitant to trust another health aide the way that he trusts Ms. Gaprindashvili,” Lazzaro said.
Prosecutors revealed that Gaprindashvili used Gauthier’s phone in Gilboa to communicate with Shulaya, and she moved $60,000 from Gauthier’s bank account into an account for a Las Vegas company controlled by the reputed mob boss.
She took another $45,000 from Gauthier’s account and put it in her own and used his money at Saks Fifth Avenue and various locations in Brighton Beach, Thomas said.
When the FBI visited Gauthier, who had allowed
Gaprindashvili to use his account for his medical expenses, he had no idea she was bilking him.
On Feb. 15, when Gaprindashvili pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, she admitted she betrayed the Gauthiers.
“We used software to connect with the people in Russia in order to operate cheating,” Gaprindashvili told the judge. “I used the credit cards to obtain money and I used my boss’ credit card to pay for the legal fee of one of my co-defendants without their permission. ... I used Mr. Gauthier’s credit cards and bank funds for the slot machines that we were doing casino cheatings as well.”
At the sentencing family and friends made clear their thoughts about Gaprindashvili.
“Jerry and Pat had hired many, many people to work at their resort, and had been good judges of someone’s character,” Ana Martin, a longtime family friend, wrote in a pre-sentencing letter. “Anna appeared qualified for the job and able to take care of Jerry. Pat and Jerry welcomed her in to their home and over time she was treated as part of the family.”
Martin added: “Anna betrayed that trust.”
James Gauthier, the brother of Patricia Gauthier, said he and his brothers had suspected Gaprindashvili was a con artist.
“They trusted her because they needed her to care for Jerry and they paid her a handsome salary,” he said. “My sister Pat and Jerry lived in fear that she would abandon them . ... she had them.”
“Jerry and pat had hired many, many people to work at their resort, and had been good judges of someone’s character. anna appeared qualified for the job and able to take care of Jerry. pat and Jerry welcomed her in to their home and over time she was treated as part of the family. anna betrayed that trust.” — Ana Martin, a longtime Gauthier family friend
rgavin@timesunion. com 518-434-2403