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4 Busted in Orphan-Swindling Ring

Investigators have charged four men with stealing 130 million rubles ($4.1 million) in Gazprom shares that had been set aside for disabled orphans in Tatarstan, Interfax reported Tuesday.

The suspects — Ilyas Salimgareyev, 47; Linur Kochnev, 33; Gennady Nazin, 31; and Albert Yevdokimov, a 31-year-old notary — were charged in a Kazan district court with shaking down the beneficiaries and forcing them to sign over the shares.

The orphans — who suffer from Down syndrome and other disorders — were allocated the shares under a government program in the early 1990s when the company was privatized, and were allowed to take control of them when they turned 18.

Between 2006 and 2009, the suspected swindlers, who had procured a list of those eligible for the program, approached 22 victims, told them their shares had little value, and convinced them to hand them over, prosecutors said.

Each victim lost 6 million rubles to 10 million rubles, officials said.

If convicted, the suspects face up to 15 years in prison, according to ProKazan.ru.

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