Southern Brooklyn

Rasputin Owner, Kruger Croney Sentenced And Fined

Michael Levitis Marina Levitis Rasputin Brighton Beach Show
Michael and Marina Levitis (Source: James Edstrom)

Rasputin (2670 Coney Island Avenue) co-owner Michael Levitis was sentenced to three years probation and fined $15,000 for lying to FBI agents about a bribe intended for State Senator Carl Kruger.

Levitis was arrested last summer for his alleged role as an intermediary between business owners wanting help from the politician, and was recorded telling another restaurateur that he needed to throw a fundraiser in Kruger’s behalf in return for assistance on an official business inspection. The businessman agreed to give Levitis $3,000, with $2,000 going to pay off Jason Koppel, Kruger’s chief of staff and campaign treasurer. He plead guilty in February and faced a maximum of six months in prison.

The sentencing comes about a week before Levitis’ debut on Russian Dolls, the Brighton Beach reality series dubbed the Russian Jersey Shore. Sheepshead Bites was the first to reveal that Levitis and his wife, Marina, would be a central character in the show, a fact that is giving pause to some Russian leaders.

The New York Post is pointing to the couple as one of the more embarrassing aspects of the show:

The most cringe-worthy moment in the first episode of “Russian Dolls” doesn’t come from a sexual escapade, however. It comes from blonde Marina Levitis, co-owner of a nightclub, who cruelly mocks her mother-in-law Eva for taking part in a talent contest for grandmothers. “Stupid thing went on forever,” Marina sneers, adding: “It was never-ending torture.”

Eva, 56, later goes on to win first prize for the most talented grandma — even though her family deserts her at the scene. Raisa Chernina, organizer of the contest, says of Marina, “She pretends to be in high society. She is nobody. She is nobody.” (SEE UPDATE BELOW)

Of course, Chernina did actually sign a release to be featured on the show. “Unfortunately,” she explains, “we have people like this, they are existing. I was embarrassed.”

As for Carl Kruger, he may have dodged prosecution in the case involving Levitis, but he’s been having problems of his own. He was hit with a slew of corruption charges in March, threatening to end his political career and put him behind bars. He has pleaded not guilty, along with seven other defendants, in what federal prosecutors describe as a “broad-based bribery racket” that saw the state senator paid to peddle the interests of real estate and health care execs. It was recently revealed that the pol may have funneled some of his bribes through a hospice center he had a stake in. Feds brought official charges against Kruger shortly after Levitis took a plea deal, lending some credence to observers’ suspicion that Levitis turned evidence against the state senator.

UPDATE (5:26 p.m.): Raisa Chernina, quoted above by the New York Post, got in touch with us to say that the above was a misquote by the New York Post. In actuality, she said, she was quoting a line from the show said by Marina about her mother-in-law. Apologies for any confusion.

Comment policy


  1. Its already begun, the show hasn’t even aired yet and it is already distracting from actual news.
    Yes, yes, I realize that it’s no surprise that Levitis was charged and that maybe this may not be such a serious news item after all, but I just don’t think that Marina’s or Raisa’s comments have anything to do with this story.
    I am excitedly awaiting the premier, and will certainly be watching, but is it really necessary to infuse it into posts that are almost completely unrelated?

  2. think a lot of people are gonna be watching,  just for shits and giggles, just to see what kind of a POS this will be,.

  3. You expect better from the New York Post?

    But perhaps it didn’t need inclusion in this article. After all, Sheepshead Bites is a classier operation.

  4. The Post didn’t conflate the two stories. We did. But that’s because the stories have been weaving in and out of each other since they started. Levitis is a central character in both the show and the case, and Kruger injected himself into the show as well, by signing his name to a letter opposing it (probably knowing full well who would star in it). There’s also the question of which is the bigger story: in our community, Russian Dolls seems to be the bigger of the two stories, and this coming just before its debut has implications, as all the naval gazing of what it means to be Russian just begins to kick off. 

    Perhaps you don’t agree. Or perhaps it wasn’t executed as well as it could’ve been. But I firmly believe, beneath the surface, these two items are very much interconnected.

  5. Apology accepted. =P

    Now I’m just excited for the first Open Thread Monday after this show airs.

  6. I want to know if the probation deal includes him testifying against Kruger. This guy is living the life stealing, cheating, bribing pols, lying to the feds, getting a tv show and a little slap on the wrist. I guess its ok hes ratting on a politician and not his friends right.     

  7. In the context that you have explained it makes sense to me. I haven’t been following the reality show stories that closely. So my own perspective on this is incomplete.

  8. He almost certainly is going to testify against Kruger, otherwise he’d be facing a jail sentence. Also, he could at some time in the future get his law license back if the US Attorney and judge explain to the NY state bar that he fully cooperated. His attorney, Jeffrey Lichtman, is very good.If he thought for a second Levitis had a triable defense he would not be pleading guilty.  

  9. For unknown / new actors/actresses, I think that is great money.  No way I’d turn my nose up at it.  If any of them become more famous, they’ll make more.  Mr and Mrs Levitis don’t need the money anyway.

  10. Have a major hate for the New York Post (ny national enquirer) a Brooklyn based animal rescue group held a benefit recently, the press snuck in for free- and we let them..anyways the only thing they could seem to print was a slam on Marty Markowitz who was there supporting us as he always does..thanks Marty, and Senator Eric Adams! We love ya!

Comments are closed.