Kobozev's death linked to Russian mob

Updated: February 25, 2005, 6:44 PM ET
Reuters

NEW YORK -- A fugitive wanted for the 1995 murder of professional Russian-born boxer Sergei Kobozev, whose bones were later found in a suburban New Jersey backyard, has been arrested and was presented in federal court on Friday.

Natan Gozman, whom authorities say is a member of the Russian mob, pleaded not guilty to the charges during a brief hearing in Manhattan federal court. He was ordered held without bail.

Prosecutors said Gozman was arrested Thursday afternoon in Poland and was then flown to New York.

He had been indicted in 2000 on racketeering charges that included the kidnapping and murder of Kobozev, a Russian emigre who vanished from Brooklyn in 1995.

At the time of his disappearance, the 31-year-old Kobozev was a U.S. Boxing Association cruiserweight champion. He was only months away from what would have been his biggest bout: a $100,000 shot at the World Boxing Council's cruiserweight title.

He was a former member of the Soviet national boxing team and had immigrated to the United States in 1990.

Federal agents discovered his remains in March 1999 while digging in the Livingston, N.J., backyard of a high-ranking member of a Russian organized crime group, prosecutors said.

The indictment alleged that Gozman, who was charged along with two other defendants, killed the boxer to increase his position in a Russian organized crime group known as "Tatarin's Brigade" or "Bratva," which prosecutors said is Russian for brotherhood or good fellows.

The Brigade operated in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and other locations, prosecutors said.

Kobozev's remains were found after a team of nearly two dozen chemists, dentists and engineers spent several days digging through soil in the New Jersey backyard based on a tip received by the FBI. The U.S. Embassy in Moscow was then enlisted to obtain the boxer's dental and medical X-rays.