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Has Phoenix PD's Expert Career Criminal Squad Fallen Prey to Office Politics?

RUSSIAN SPRING

Jana Rozenman curls up on a sofa on the patio of her Scottsdale apartment as her 4½-year-old twins watch TV and play with balloons scattered nearby.

She seems at peace, relaxing in the mild spring air, as she recalls the events of the past year, one that's just concluded with the conviction of her ex-husband, Cigar Warehouse owner Dimitri Rozenman, for contracting to have her and her family murdered.

Her ex's motive was money and revenge. Jana Rozenman had been awarded an almost $500,000 lump sum, and $6,000 a month as part of a divorce settlement. Dimitri seethed with hatred and indignation. At one point, he slashed the tires of her family's vehicles and poured sugar in their gas tanks.

Then he turned to an employee at one of his cigar stores, asking that he kill Jana, her parents, and her 17-year-old sister. The employee informed Jana of the plot and told her that Dimitri had told the employee that if he didn't do it, he'd hire others who would.

"Coming from a wild Russian culture," said Jana, 24, "you see it every day back home — someone being killed. Someone being hired to kill, over money or whatever. So I wasn't really surprised."

The demure, blue-eyed ethnic Russian is from Estonia. Her family came to the United States for political asylum, eventually settling in Arizona. She met her ex-husband while she was working as a waitress at a local restaurant.

Nearly 15 years her senior, Dimitri Rozenman was a naturalized American citizen, a Russian Jew who had fled his homeland in the 1980s. He and his new bride would eventually open a chain of discount cigar stores, growing the Cigar Warehouse enterprise to six locations in Arizona and Texas.

Their online business, TNTCigars.com, proved even more lucrative. Jana Rozenman says she's unsure of the total value of the businesses, which remain in her husband's name, but she suspects they are worth several million dollars.

Dimitri paid his employee, who later turned informant, $5,000 up front with the promise of $50,000 to $70,000 on the back end after the deal was done. On February 12, Jana went to the Phoenix Police Department to report what the employee had told her.

Seven days later, after an intense, round-the-clock undercover investigation by the Phoenix PD's Career Criminal Squad, Dimitri Rozenman was in custody, charged with conspiracy to commit murder.

The investigation involved faking a death scene with yellow tape, squad cars, and an ambulance at the home of Jana Rozenman's parents. It was to fool Dimitri if he drove past. Jana and her family were sequestered in a secure location for three days until CCS detectives knew they had enough evidence to convict Dimitri.

There were always at least two members of the squad watching the family. Jana remembers them playing computer games with the twins to put them at ease. She says she was grateful that her children endured little stress during the ordeal.

She has other reasons to be grateful to the CCS, an investigative unit of four detectives and one sergeant that has recently been ordered disbanded by April 5 by PPD higher-ups.

Although Dimitri had reportedly told others that he planned to flee the country with the kids after the killings, to a country with no extradition treaty with the States, Jana believes a far worse fate could have befallen her little ones.

"If somebody was to come and kill me and my family, and my kids would be with me, what would be the chances of them staying alive?" she wonders. "Who wants an unnecessary witness? Even though they're kids. It doesn't matter. It's just easier. Why would you leave kids behind with dead bodies?"

Dimitri Rozenman affirmed her fears when he was approached by CCS detectives for the first time. Rozenman already had been informed via phone by his employee-turned-state's-witness that his wife and her family had been slain.

The cigar czar didn't want to discuss the final payments for the killings over the phone, though his employee — whose calls were recorded by the cops — insisted that the men he'd hired to do the job were itching for their cash.

CCS officers paid an "official" visit to Rozenman to tell him his wife and her family were dead. The cops guarding Jana were able to listen on their radios to the exchange, which was also taped. Rozenman told his interlocutors that he had no idea who would want his wife offed.

Jana overheard one of the detectives listening with her exclaim, "The motherfucker never asked about his children."

It was a telling moment, one that would be replayed on tape during trial.

In the end, the CCS had Rozenman cold. On March 18, the jury took just 2½ hours to find him guilty of the murder-for-hire scheme. His sentencing is set for April 30. He faces possible life in prison.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons