Los Angeles – – Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Chief of Police Bill Bratton and Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley, announced today the first arrests in a 24-month investigation, dubbed " Operation White Lace," which targeted one of the largest prostitution rings in Los Angeles history. The newly created Organized Crime Division of the District Attorney’s Office presented the case before the Los Angeles County Grand Jury. Indictments were subsequently issued against six of the ringleaders for conspiracy, pimping, pandering, and money laundering. The ring-leaders, consist of six Russians (four are nationals and two naturalized U.S. citizens), who employed smuggled female Russian nationals, and earned an estimated five to eight million dollars during 22 months of illegal activities in the greater Los Angeles and Beverly Hills areas.
The LAPD’s Organized Crime and Vice Division (OCVD) began the investigation in November 2000, as a result of an advertisement in the Yellow Pages under the heading, "Escort Services." On October 25, 2001, based on information gleaned from the initial investigation and several subsequent undercover operations, search warrants were served at 18 locations. Evidence recovered from the locations in Hollywood, West Hollywood, Marina Del Rey, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Beverly Hills, Valley Village, and Los Angeles exposed how the ring evolved and how the illegal enterprise was conducted.
Rimma Fetissova, 42 years old, and her 22-year-old daughter arrived in Los Angeles in the late 1990s from the Ukraine. In February 1999, "Russian Fortuna Tours, Inc.," falsely posing as a travel agency, was incorporated with the California Department of Corporations. Soon thereafter, they spent tens of thousands of dollars on advertising in foreign language and local newspapers, several different editions of the Yellow Pages, and a number of Internet company websites, doing business as "Exclusive Girls Escort," European Blonds," "European Delight Escorts," and "Russian Fortuna Web Tours." None of the services of Russian Fortuna Tours, Inc., involved travel.
The indictments include 42 year-old Rimma Fetissova, of the Ukraine, 55 year-old Lev Levas and his 38 year-old son Mark Levas, both naturalized U.S. citizens from Latvia, 37 year-old Iryna Vladimirovna Kovalenko from the Ukraine, and 24 year-old Elena Piyanzina from Magnitagorsk, Russia.
On November 21, 2002, OCVD detectives, assisted by California Department of Justice personnel, arrested Rimma Fetissova in San Francisco. On November 22, 2002, OCVD detectives arrested Iryna Kovalenko in San Marcos, California, Elena Piyanzina in the San Fernando Valley, and Mark Levas in downtown Los Angeles. On November 27, 2002 Lev Levas surrendered himself to the court.
Los Angeles Police Department Chief of Police Bill Bratton announced that this case is a first for the LAPD in that it is the first time that the LAPD has brought "money laundering" charges in a prostitution investigation. The money laundering charge carries a maximum sentence of up to four years in state prison. The suspects were arraigned today in Division 100 and the indictments were unsealed.
Elena Fetissova remains at large. Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of Elena Fetissova is asked to contact Deetctive Keith Haight, Organized Crime and Vice Division, at 213-473-7659. On weekends and during off-hours, please call the 24-Hour toll free number at Detective Information Desk, 1-800-LAWFULL, 1-800-529-3855.