Body identified in Russian mob probe

The Associated Press
Wednesday March 20, 2002

SACRAMENTO — A bound, strangled body pulled from a Sierra foothill lake last fall was identified Tuesday as that of a Los Angeles-area real estate developer. 

Authorities believe Meyer Muscatel was one of multiple victims of a Los Angeles-area Russian mafia group that has dumped Muscatel and at least four others into New Melones Lake near Modesto in the Central Valley. 

A fifth body — apparently that of a woman — was pulled from the lake Tuesday night, said FBI spokesman Nick Rossi. It is the fourth body recovered from the lake since Sunday, but the first female. 

Muscatel’s body was found floating in the lake Oct. 18, hands bound and a plastic bag over its head. The 58-year-old Sherman Oaks homebuilder disappeared Oct. 11 after telling his family he was going to a business meeting. 

Muscatel’s Calaveras County death certificate says he was “smothered by the hands of another.” His throat and lower face were crushed, the death certificate says, though some injury could have been caused by hitting the water.