The soon-to-be-disbanded Career Criminal Squad of the Phoenix Police Department has scored another W: The conviction of local cigar czar Dimitri Rozenman for contracting to have the mother of his two children and members of her family murdered.
The jury delivered verdicts of guilty yesterday for Rozenman's murder-for-hire scheme, as well as a criminal damage charge that involved slashing the tires of his ex-wife and his in-laws.
Rozenman paid an initial $5,000 to have his former wife, as well as her father, mother and sister whacked. The total cost of the killings was to be anywhere from $50,000 to $70,000. Rozenman, a naturalized American citizen from Russia, planned to spare his twin three year-old daughters, and following the murders, flee with them to a country that does not have an extradition policy with the United States.
He now faces life in prison for the scheme, and is scheduled to be sentenced April 30.
Members of the Phoenix PD's Career Criminal Squad were directly involved in the takedown of Rozenman last year. The squad of four men and one sergeant was formed in 2008 to deal mainly with violent, street-level crime committed by white supremacists and neo-Nazis.
However, the squad's expertise in undercover investigations has led to them taking on murder-for-hire cases, like the Rozenman case, as well as the case of David Elms, owner of the Internet prostitute-rating site the Erotic Review, who's pleaded guilty of putting out a hit on a former employee.
CCS detectives have also become legendary for breathing life into cold cases, such as the one involving neo-Nazi boot-boy Chad Kerns, now doing 10 years in the state pen for his part in the brutal beat-down of a Hispanic man and the stabbing of a black man. Both hate crimes occurred in 2007, and were perpetrated by skinhead wolf packs led by Kerns.
Despite its successes, the Phoenix PD has inexplicably decided to ax the Career Criminal Squad in a so-called budget-cutting move.
But the budget excuse doesn't quite wash considering the fact that the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has stepped in to pick up some of the squad's overtime and other expenses. A spokesman for the department said they were forced to get rid of the CCS to satisfy the mandates of the Phoenix City Manager's office.
Police higher-ups might want to ask Rozenman's victims how they feel about the squad being disbanded. Rozenman's ex-wife Jana credits the squad with saving the lives of herself and her family.
"If it had not been for the squad, I might not be talking to you right now," she said in a phone interview. "I'm very grateful to them. They've been there for me this whole time, from the very beginning to this day."
She pointed out that her children might have been killed as well, if the plot had gone forward. At the very least, they would have been left motherless.
Members of the squad stayed with the family 24-7 and protected them as the scenario played out. Other CCS detectives executed a sting on Rozenman, using an informant to make Rozenman think his wife and her family had been killed.
Afterward, CCS detectives contacted Rozenman to tell him that his wife and the others had been slain. Rozenman was "emotionless when told of the murders" and denied knowing anyone who would commit such a heinous crime.
The motive? Money and revenge. Jana Rozenman had been awarded a nearly half-million dollar settlement as part of a divorce proceeding. Dimitri Rozenman seethed with anger, hiring an employee of the company to take out his ex and her family.
Rozenman owns several Cigar Warehouses in the Valley, as well as the online cigar retailer TNTCigars.com. According to a 2004 article in Smoke Shop Magazine, Rozenman laid claim to "annual sales in the several million dollar range."
Jana Rozenman stated that the employee who came forward with news of her husband's plot to kill her indicated that her ex-husband had a backup plan. If he, the employee, didn't do the job, Rozenman knew of others who would.
Asked what she thought of the decision to disband the Career Criminal Squad, the young mother of two seemed distraught.
"It's hard to see the reasoning behind it," she said, her children playing in the background. "I have to wonder, how many people will go unpunished because of this?"