Small-town health aide was big-time mob as­so­ciate

Woman duped Schoharie County cou­ple — as she served re­puted crime king­pin

Albany Times Union - Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - By Robert Gavin Gil­boa

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

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