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Man pleads guilty to arranging attacks

TAMPA — The middleman in a plot to attack a Sarasota couple at their son-in-law's request pleaded guilty Monday to his role in recruiting and transporting a hit man.

Larik Cholak, 37, of Sarasota, pleaded guilty in federal court to traveling across state lines with intent to kill, injure and harass another person. According to a plea agreement, Cholak faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.

"Mr. Cholak is cooperating with the government," said defense attorney George Tragos. "He knows what he did was wrong, and he's trying to make it right."

In court records, prosecutors said Cholak contacted Edmon Vardanyan, 24, of Tampa, to attack Grigori and Galina Komissarchuk, Russian immigrants who live in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Sarasota.

Cholak did so, prosecutors said, at the request of his friend Alex Shevgert, 52, the Komissarchuks' son-in-law. Between September 2006 and April 2007, the Komissarchuks were attacked on at least three occasions, including in the parking lot outside a Brooklyn-area Home Depot and in their Sarasota home. The couple suffered serious injuries, including fractured skulls.

Prosecutors said Shevgert refused for a while to move out of the Komissarchuks' Sarasota home and retaliated against his in-laws when they stopped spotting him money for businesses, after they gave him $100,000 for a down payment on a house.

Court records show that Cholak and Vardanyan traveled from Tampa to the New York area in September 2006 and surveilled the Komissarchuks. Prosecutors said Cholak drove a rented van used to follow Grigori Komissarchuk to Home Depot, where Vardanyan attacked him in the parking lot.

At Shevgert's request, Cholak later contacted Vardanyan for another attack on the Komissarchuks but Cholak refused to participate, courts records show.

Shevgert and Vardanyan have both been arrested and charged in the scheme. Another man, Sergey Zub, is scheduled to plead guilty on Thursday for his role in driving a vehicle during one of the alleged attacks.

Kevin Graham can be reached at kgraham@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3433.

Man pleads guilty to arranging attacks 10/27/08 [Last modified: Friday, October 31, 2008 6:16pm]
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