Real estate schemes seem to be a dime-a-dozen these days. Ever since the 2007-2008 financial crisis, many people, especially in the United States, have been wary of buying new real estate, specifically when a deal looks too good to be true.
Recently, a real estate scheme in Moscow, Russia, gained worldwide notoriety. Not because of its poor payouts or cheap and easy money making potential, but because the end result for all those involved was the same, dreadful end…
The man who came to the door was charming, though in a rough sort of way. He wasn’t clean shaven, wasn’t wearing the perfect, crisp suit of a businessman, but he was charming all the same. He had come to extend an offer to the elderly woman. She could sell him her apartment at a profit and buy her some new property.
It was a great offer, one that seemed almost too good to be true. This was because it was in fact too good to be true. Though the elderly victim didn’t know it yet, the whole offer was a scam. The reason that the man offering it was so charming was all part of the scam, his associates knew that his power of persuasion had few equals.
The man’s name was Roman Shugaibov. The 34-year-old Russian con artist had been at it for a while. He and his accomplices had successfully persuaded many elderly victims to sell their apartments with the promise of using the proceeds to buy some property for them. This woman was no different and sadly, her fate would be the same.
Chance of a Lifetime
In the victims’ minds, it made sense. If they sold their flats in Moscow, they could buy a smaller place outside the city. The pocket money they saved would help to boost what meager salaries they had. Many of them were also running exceptionally low on their pensions as well. This was the chance of a lifetime.
Before he had crept upon this poor woman’s door, Shugaibov had run the scheme on other people as well. One of them, an elderly man who’d agreed to hand over the lease to his flat, had opened the door some days later to a most unwelcome sight; a murderous Shugaibov, holding a bag in his hands.
Shugaibov then convinced the poor, confused man to come out to his car, at which point he placed a bag over the man’s head and strangled him to death. Once the deed was done, Shugaibov and his partners dug a shallow grave and buried the man’s remains. Then they pocketed the money.
A Bloody End
The scheme was elegant in its simplicity. It was the best kind of plan, brutal and efficient. The people they targeted were vulnerable, many of them elderly and some prone to alcohol abuse. The gang had been careful to case them beforehand, to prevent their looking for any outside counsel before the deal was done.
Over a series of lucrative months, Shugaibov and his gang of unscrupulous “salesmen” managed to parlay their murderous exploits into a number of new homes and quite a bit of stolen money. They would pose as buyers and then others would come back as sellers, legitimizing the whole enterprise in their victim’s minds.
From the very first moment they began the scheme, the gang knew it was ironclad. How could it not be? There were no witnesses, many of the victims’ families were too concerned with their own lives to worry about their now missing elderly relatives. The proceeds from the first murders also allowed them to purchase a bit more legitimacy towards future cons.
The victims were paid in cash for their trouble, which was usually stolen right back as the new “realtors” showed up and turned that money into profit for the elderly victims. The money, of course, was just being funneled back and forth between gang members and so cash made the transaction more secretive.
Shugaibov’s gang, which was allegedly founded in 2013, consisted of seven other men and eight women. Together, the lot of them ended up stealing roughly $430,000 in proceeds. They weren’t found out right away, however, and ended up working their brutal scheme on at least nine different victims.
Arrested and Confessing
Eventually, Roman Shugaibov was arrested and taken into custody. Despite his cool outward exterior, he sang like a bird when questioned. Not only did he confess to the whole scheme and name every single one of his accomplices, he even admitted to how he managed to hide all the bodies in the end.
When he and his fellows had finished the bloody business of buying, the faux real estate agents ended up taking the deceased victims to the local cemetery and burying them in unmarked graves. Which they then masked by taking crosses and flowers off other nearby graves. That way, no one would even bother to ask questions.
Though Shugaibov admitted that they’d killed at least nine, the Moscow police believe that many others might actually have been casualties of the large-scale scheme. Some of them may have been more patsies, and others may have been professionals in the real estate industry they needed to glean information from.
By all accounts, the enterprise was a lucrative one, even split sixteen ways. Shugaibov was more than happy to relay the information to detectives about the money and the scheme as a whole. He was so morbidly candid about the affair that the detectives were slightly shocked when he told them about some of the other victims.
The detectives videotaped the confession. In one of the videos, Shugaibov explained to detectives how he dragged a homeowner out into the street and held him face down in water for about 10 minutes. With that one, he left the body and drove away, but the last revelations of his victims proved the most unsettling.
Worse than Death
In some rare cases, members of the criminal enterprise actually went so far as to bury the victims alive. They wouldn’t even bother killing them first, just tied and gagged them, before tossing them into open graves in official cemeteries. The poor souls would never be found amidst the actual dead.
In the end, the charges against Shugaibov amounted to violations of part 1 and part 2 of Article 210, which refers to creating a criminal community. The others include murder and part 4 of Article 159 referring to large-scale swindling. These articles are documented in the Criminal Code of Russia, which is the prime source of law in the Russian Federation. But Shugaibov’s arrest wouldn’t be the end of the story.
Shugaibov’s so-called “black estate agents,” became a media sensation almost immediately. As for the mastermind himself, he didn’t make it to his day in court. In November of 2018, Shugaibov committed suicide while in prison. It seemed his confident confessions were just more obfuscation of the coward beneath.
No Way Out
Today, the rest of Shugaibov’s accomplices are currently awaiting their own charges. As for Shugaibov, he clearly felt that life in prison was no way to live and chose to take the only other way out available to him. One can’t blame him. After all, as his victims found out, there are some fates worse than death.