LOS ANGELES – An immigrant with alleged ties to the Russian mob pleaded guilty Thursday to helping orchestrate a deadly kidnapping plot targeting wealthy businessmen whose bodies were found in a Northern California reservoir.
Ainar Altmanis, 42, of the Sherman Oaks area, pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of conspiracy to commit hostage-taking and three counts of hostage-taking resulting in death.
Prosecutors indicated they would ask a federal judge to sentence Altmanis, who has been cooperating with investigators, to a maximum of life in prison and have him pay restitution to the victims’ families. If convicted, Altmanis could have received the death penalty. A sentencing date was set for June 2, 2003.
Altmanis, a Latvian national, stood quietly in court, his hands shackled as he listened through a Russian interpreter to the prosecutor reading from a court document that detailed the kidnappings and killings.
Altmanis was among a group of at least four men with roots in the former Soviet Union who are suspected of holding wealthy Los Angeles-area residents for ransom, then killing them. The others have been identified as Iouri Mikhel, 37, and Jurijus Kadamovas, 35, both of the Encino area, and Petro Krylov, 29, of West Hollywood.