How Kostyukov and Kruglov of the “caste of house eaters” destroyed the housing and utilities infrastructure in a technopolis with 100,000 inhabitants.
Donato Carrisi, an Italian mystery writer, wrote a novel called ‘The Theory of Evil.’ It tells about people who seemed to live ordinary lives and then suddenly started disappearing. Everyone forgets about them, but a few years later, they suddenly reappear to commit terrible crimes. They are called the Sleepless. There is always one puppeteer behind them, who controls them and leads them through the path of evil. It seems that the Russian “Sleepless” have reached the town of Zhukovsky in the Moscow region. These are the new protégés of Alexander Kostyukov and Evgeny Kruglov, the well-known tandem who withdraw hundreds of millions of budgetary rubles from the Russian housing and public utilities sector. Recently, we have published the article about the theft of more than 200 million rubles ($2.73 mln) in the Selyatino village near Moscow in June and the scam in the Samara public utilities sector last September.
Like any journalistic investigation into embezzlement of budgetary funds, it names a lot of persons and companies and describes affiliated connections. Probably, this article is not the most exciting bedtime reading but the information we have gathered and thoroughly documented is certainly excellent material for journalists who write about the housing and utilities sector. Moreover, it will be interesting not only to the Moscow region but also to investigators, if it sheds light on Mr. Kostyukov and Mr. Kruglov’s actions.
So, what happened in the municipal sector of the aviation science city, just 30 kilometers from Moscow?
“Black” utility services providers
Let's pretend we met a high-ranking official in the course of our investigation, say a deputy of acting head of the Investigative Committee for Moscow region Alexander Starikov, or even Vladimir Belik, the prosecutor of the town of Zhukovsky. We would have asked them questions not only about how Russia fights nepotism and corruption but also about the measures taken against embezzlement of budgetary funds. In 2019, Audit Chamber head Alexei Kudrin talked about the theft of two or three billion rubles from the budget. The Kostyukov-Kruglov tandem accounts for a significant portion of the stolen money. We would have told them the following story.
Last autumn, Zhukovsky residents were snowed under with the letters saying that they must urgently repay the debts of the town's largest management company Teplocentral-ZHKH. The letters were sent by the Credit Security Center debt agency. A well-worn story suggesting a criminal background was told in an answer to the questions from perplexed people, who wondered how they could have run debts if they had always paid their bills. Two years ago, there was a hostile takeover of Teplocentral-ZHKH. A group of people, who had found their way into the Teplocentre municipal enterprise, appointed a certain Maxim Blokhin as their protégé in the management company and filed for bankruptcy. Simultaneously, this team used forged protocols of general meetings of owners, in an attempt to transfer the housing stock to Interregional Management Company (IMC), a new management company. They continued to collect money from the tenants and withdraw it to illegal accounts. The suppliers of heat services and other contractors did not get anything. Predictably, the current and other repairs of the buildings immediately stopped.
In May 2019, the Teplocentral-ZHKH office was closed. In the summer, letters about debts to Teplocentral-ZHKH were poured into the mailboxes of residents on behalf of MosOblEIRTS. The debts differed, from very small to as much as 10,000 rubles ($136.70.) In some cases, they amounted to tens of thousands of rubles. There were two ways to solve the problem: file a request with Unified Information and Payment Center or to talk to the bankruptcy trustee, whose office was found in Bryansk that was located 360 km from Zhukovsky. Letters were sent to totally confused residents until February 2021. Then their flow reduced to a tricle due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The above-mentioned debt agency with the head office in Sergiev Posad, a town in the Moscow region, appeared in September. It bought the debts from Teplocentral-ZHKH in July. A strange situation occurred.
The “caste of house eaters”
Alexander Kostyukov, a well-known swindler in the sector of public utilities, withdrew billions of rubles from the Samara region’s housing and utility infrastructure sector.
The contract on assignment of claims stated that Teplocentral-ZHKH handed over to DA-CKB receivables of owners and tenants of premises in apartment houses on payment for housing and utility services in the amount of 274,305,361.5 rubles ($3.75 mln). At the same time, “there was no information on whether the debtors could meet their liabilities. Moreover, the debts of 274.3 million rubles were bought by the winning bidder for only ... 12.3 million rubles ($168,142). The contract seemed suspicious from the very beginning.
External manager Blokhin, who urgently landed a new job as an expert for the Management of Apartment Building magazine, and arbitration manager Valery Guslyakov washed their hands of the debt crisis. Suppliers are still waiting for the money, but Zhukovsky residents are twice the losers in this situation. Firstly, they lost payments for the current repair. Secondly, they are in debt for the services not rendered and under the threat of prosecution.
The scheme is standard indeed. It worked out more than once in other regions of the country. It looks simple. A group of “black” utility services providers buys management companies, amasses housing stock, and gets money for utility services. Service providers are not paid anything. The money, under the guise of various services, is withdrawn to their accounts, sometimes to tax heaven. Then they declare the management company bankrupt. The bankruptcy manager, a person who is appointed by the main puppeteers from the inner circle, sells the debt to collectors (who are involved in the scheme, otherwise, it is difficult to explain some figures) for a pittance. The collection agency begins to collect the debts in full from the population. They do not care if you have a debt or not, they just send the bills indiscriminately.
This gang used a similar scheme, short of the last link, in Samara (we mentioned it above) and not only there.
So, who are all these people who easily swindled a city with 100,000 inhabitants, and before that, entire regions? Who are the organizers and beneficiaries of these thefts? Apparently, the same people. Let's take a look.
The Rzhev swindler
In May 2018, Zhukovsky media outlets reported that Valentina Apollonova, who previously worked at the Teplocentral-ZHKH management company as deputy CEO replaced Teplocentral CEO Dmitry Sarafannikov. Let's talk about him.
Speaking of Sarafannikov, Zhukovsky journalists emphasized his Moscow origin. However, it is absolutely not true. He had quite another relation to the Russian capital, but we will talk about it a little later.
Sarafannikov appeared as head of the Teplocentral municipal enterprise out of a clear blue sky in July 2016. He got there due to the efforts of Colonel Andrei Voityuk, the then head of the urban district. Judging by the immediacy of the replacement of the leadership of the most important city municipal company, Voityuk had done someone’s bidding. Anatoly Kapichnikov, who had been in charge of the company for many years, wrote his resignation request as Sarafannikov was nervously fidgeting outside the head's office.
Almost nothing is known about the background of Sarafannikov who was born on February 12, 1971. A cursory glance at his career suggests that he did not act independently, and that some puppeteers had apparently promoted him to implement new criminal plans. He came to Zhukovsky from the town of Rzhev in the Tver Region, not from Moscow. He worked as deputy chief engineer of the local EnergoInvest company founded by residents of St. Petersburg, which owned heating networks and 13 boiler houses. In October 2009, he ran for the local city council on behalf of the Zhirinovsky party but was not elected.
By that time this company had been involved in more than one scandal. So, during four (!) years, from 2006 to 2010, its employees overcharged the residents who had installed heat meters by 16(!) times. At the same time, they flatly refused to enter certified and 100% legal equipment in the books. The deceived residents wrote a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In the spring of 2010, Sarafannikov found himself in the middle of a city-wide emergency. The city Commission on Emergency Situations said that heat supply to houses, several schools and kindergartens, was stopped due to the 12.3-million-ruble debt of the city, to be more precise, Energoinvest’s debt to Tverregiongaz and Oblgaz for the supply and transportation of natural gas. It turned out that the money had been transferred to a typical shell company named Housing and Utilities. It was established by the heads of EnergoInvest, a certain Roman Goloyenko and Mr. Sarafannikov (he became its CEO), and registered in the city of Saint Petersburg. Its purpose was to distribute the received funds to suppliers. However, the 13 million ($177,711) he received between May 1 and May 12, 2010, never reached the gas company. They simply disappeared. On the eve of these events, the Goloyenko-Sarafannikov tandem hastily resigned and stopped answering the phone at the same time.
The accomplices disappeared from Rzhev very quickly without leaving a trace. It was another proof that they were both figureheads and stooges in someone else's hands. Here is an important quotation from an interview with Magomed Akberdaev, CEO of the Rzhev-based Teploenergetik:
“Both Sarafannikov and Golovenko, even when they were there, did not decide anything. Financial matters are handled by their masters in St. Petersburg.” This explains who brought Sarafannikov to Zhukovsky six years later.
Sarafannikov was not heard of for six years and his whereabouts were unknown. In 2016, he came to Zhukovsky. Scanty data on RuNet suggests that today he is the founder and CEO of Tekhekspluatatsiya, registered on February 20, 2020, and head of Komfortis, registered on May 7, 2020. The main code of activity of both companies, according to the Russian National Classifier of Types of Economic Activity, is ‘Management of operation of the housing stock for remuneration or on a contractual basis.’ The firm is registered at 20 Vasily Petushkov Str, Building 1, II/17, Moscow.
An extract from the Uniform State Register of Legal Entities (available to the editorial office) says that the second founder of Komfortis is ... Roman Goloyenko. Admittedly, it is no coincidence.
Now let's try to assemble this jigsaw puzzle and recreate the interaction between Sarafannikov, Goloenko, and those unknown leaders who guide their actions. There are no random strangers in such schemes. We should say in advance that Sarafannikov was not even the top executive; in the hierarchy, he was about three tiers below his criminal bosses.
So, there is the Sarafannikov-Goloyenko duet. Let us move on to the most interesting part. Roman Goloyenko (tax identification number 691401787750) is listed as head of five active and bankrupt organizations in the housing and utility services sector. Their names are very important to us. So, in addition to Komfortis, he is listed as head of GUP Moscow Vostochnoe Degunino. In 2015, it ceased to operate as the Sobyanin administration set up the Zhilishchnik company.
Finally, we came to what Roman Goloyenko and his masters would prefer not to talk about. This gentleman is CEO of RT-DOMCOM and DOMCOM 24. The official address of the latter is 95 Osharskaya Str, Room, Office 603, Nizhny Novgorod. Please note the address of RT-DOMCOM: 20 Vasily Petushkov St., building 1, floor/com 1/II/19, Moscow. It is the adjacent room with Komfortis. Is it a coincidence? We don't think so.
Earlier, Roman Goloyenko headed two very interesting organisations: Domkom-Management (based in Moscow) and Communal Service (Naro-Fominsk, Moscow region). All this information is available here.
What is Domkom24? This is a Nizhny Novgorod-based firm, specially created to withdraw money. It is controlled by the parent DomCom Invest company. DomCom Invest was registered in Moscow in 2016. In turn, the owner of this company is a certain Arctic City, which belongs to the Regional Energy Management Company of Alexander Kostyukov. Yes, that very notorious swindler from the housing and utilities sector and head of the “caste of house eaters,” who, together with his partner Evgeny Kruglov, siphons off tens and hundreds of millions of rubles from the regions. The well-known Samara blogger Tahir Baibekov has repeatedly pointed out that Domkom and Kostyukov personally were likely to be “under the wing” of Sergei Chemezov, Rostec CEO. This allows them to “nightmarize” the domestic housing and utilities sector with impunity (so far). We have also written in detail about their activities in the Naro-Fominsk area near Moscow and in the Samara region. Now it is Zhukovsky's turn.
And what about Domkom-Management? This company is affiliated with Mr. Kostyukov, too. At one time, it was headed by his closest associate Mr. Kruglov.
That is, we understand that the Sarafannikov-Domkom-Kostyukov-Kruglov connection is a hard fact. As expected, we have the organizers and beneficiaries on the one hand, and workhorses on the other.
By the way, we have other evidence to prove this connection. Trust #37 Leningradspetsstroy is the founder of RT-DomCom with Goloyenko as CEO. The director of the trust is Sergei Vasiliev who lives in St. Petersburg (remember the words of the Rzhev power engineer?), on Severny Prospect in a 12-story apartment building. There is the Karapuziki kindergarten on the ground floor. Trust #37 is registered at his home address.
Yes, Sergei Vasiliev is one of those masters from St.Petersburg about whom Akberdaev spoke. He is also from Kostyukov's inner circle. In July 2018, he became bankruptcy manager of the Naro-Fominsk fuel-and-energy company. His wife Alevtina became the owner of 50% of shares of Stroimontazhservis in 2017. It is the company which withdrew 23 million rubles ($314,412) of budget money, allocated for the Naro-Fominsk boiler house repairs.
Moreover, Vasiliev served as CEO of Energoseti, registered in the town of Rzhev on December 16, 2008. Evgeny Kruglov was one of the founders of this firm. By accident, of course.
A certain Dmitry Zagainov is CEO of Energoset which does not operate today. Also, he is not the last person in Kostyukov's business. He is CEO of Borok, Polet, etc. There are a total of 13 companies in which Igor Ten, a son of Liliana Ten “accidentally” holds different but quite decent stakes. We will talk about her a little later.
As they say in the famous game, the whole family is here.
But let’s get back to the Moscow region. One can be almost sure that Sarafannikov was “appointed” in the region by the “caste of house eaters” to implement Kostyukov's schemes. The companies and people directly connected with him are not highlighted, and persons who have no negative background or bad reputation are often employed.
How Zhukovsky residents were robbed
So, in the summer of 2016, Dmitry Sarafannikov, who was sent by the Kostyukov-Kruglov tandem to the Moscow region, appeared in the town of Zhukovsky. It should be recalled that he was ushered in the office of the Teplotsentrals municipal utility company by Zhukovsky Mayor Andrei Voityuk. The latter announced that from now on, this person would be CEO of Teplotsentral which was founded by the Zhukovsky city administration. Employees of this enterprise said that ten more people had started working at the firm together with him. They were his guards, associates, and supporters, including Mr. Nikishin and Ms. Sorokina. His predecessor had to quickly step down “of his own accord.”
After getting his bearings, the new CEO and his comrades-in-arms began to implement the basic elements of the plan, apparently prepared in advance. First of all, they estimated the debts piled up over the decade. The estimates were necessary for filing a lawsuit against Teplocentral-ZHKH, the largest managing company in town. Debts have amounted to almost 130 million rubles ($1.78 mln). It is still unknown if they were real or not.
Secondly, they started setting up shell companies to follow up the financial fraud schemes.
On October 5, 2016, Energoset was registered. It was a micro-enterprise with 7 employees.
On April 14, 2017, Teplocentral-Pravo was created. Participants in this company included Teplocentral with a 99-% stake and O.Y. Nikishin, Teplocentral financial manager, with a stake of 1 %. The same Nikishin was appointed CEO of Teplocentral-Pravo. At the same time, a certain Atlantika was established, with Liliana Ten as its head.
Let's be honest: Atlantika was needed by the authors of the scheme not only for Zhukovsky. For those who are not in the know, it was this firm led by Ms. Ten that was simultaneously involved in the criminal scheme that Kostyukov's companies were implementing in the Naro-Fominsk district as we have already mentioned above. In November 2017, 270 million rubles ($3.69 mln) received from the district budget were withdrawn through Atlantika to the accounts of Kostyukov's companies.
It is a well-tuned scheme: there is the one to whom money is owed (Teplocentral with “its” head). There is the victim (debtor, i.e. Teplocentral-ZHKH), a legal entity that can act as the legal successor of Teplocentral in terms of claims (under an assignment agreement), and, finally, a legal entity (Atlantika) that will receive and transfer the funds.
Energoset is used to withdraw funds from overhaul contracts. Looking at the data of these contracts, it is obvious that something is wrong. A micro-enterprise of 7 people has one customer, Teplotsentral. A total of 13 contracts worth 144,813,780 rubles ($2 mln) were awarded on the same day, May 13, 2017. The subject of the contracts is the repair of the permanent heating network on 13 streets of Zhukovsky by a team of seven people, including the CEO. That is not how it works.
Yes, there will be a subcontractor. He will not get all the money but only 50%, because that is how the contract was drawn. Moreover, some parts of the pipes were not replaced, contrary to what the documents said, though these works were paid for. As a result, the subcontractors and repairmen “went into hock” as they became indebted to the suppliers of pipes and other materials and, in addition, earned a few lawsuits against them.
On July 7, 2017, Teplocentral-Pravo stepped in. Teplocentral concluded with it an agreement No. 1 on the assignment of rights (claims) in the amount of 128,951,949 rubles ($1.76 mln) to Teplocentral-ZHKH, thus avoiding a future strike.
Finally, there is the third legal entity. Interregional Management Company (IMC) was registered in the township of Istra on January 15, 2015, with CEO Alexei Filippov. Apparently, it is the kind of company that the authors of such schemes keep in reserve to put into action at the right time. The founder of this firm was a certain Podmoskovie, which is registered in Aprelevka (!) Do you remember the scam with the boiler house, which was pulled by Kostyukov and Co. in 2017? Let's get more details in order not to be accused of groundlessness. And here it is! The founder of Podmoskovie is EIRTS, which, apparently, is affiliated with Evgeny Kruglov, a friend, partner, and associate of Alexander Kostyukov.
So, the invisible main puppeteer who plays the role of the nerve centre of these schemes is in the background here as well. Again, the question is who stands behind Sarafannikov and who in fact is the real owner and beneficiary of this criminal business.
Why do we need IMC? It is obvious. They tried to transfer the housing stock of 300 homes that used to be managed by Teplocentral-ZHKH to this legal entity. This was done very clumsily. During two months, the entrances to the houses were pasted with ads about “holding extraordinary general meetings of owners of premises in apartment buildings in the form of absentee voting on the approval of the decision to choose IMC as the managing organization for the apartment building.” Posters were put up by former employees of the Teplocentral-ZHKH house management company. There was no intelligible answer to the questions of the residents who came to the meetings with the representatives of the company, why these meetings were conducted. The law required that they must be initiated by the residents themselves, rather than a company from Istra. The plan to deceive Zhukovsky residents failed as the contracts, which Kostyukov's people tried to give them, did not meet the requirements of housing and civil legislation, infringing the rights of residential premises owners and imposing on them illegal duties, not envisioned by the norms of current legislation.
So the swindlers suffered a setback, but they did carry their plan through in the situation with debts and courts.
At the end of 2017, Dmitry Sarafannikov, on behalf of the Teplocentral municipal enterprise, initiated civil legal proceedings to declare Teplocentral-ZHKH bankrupt. He and his team, apparently, began to work out the options for partial but not complete withdrawal from business. They needed to step back and regroup. At the same time, they wanted to get all the money without falling under the suspicion of law enforcement and supervisory authorities. In May 2018, due to a belated partial interest of the city authorities in their activities, there was a reshuffle at the Teplocentral municipal enterprise. Sarafannikov promptly resigned. The Teplocentral employees who survived the leadership of the “effective manager” later said that “after Mr. Sarafannikov, it took us a year and a half to restore everything. The boiler was finally overhauled, but we are still fixing flaws.”
However, Sarafannikov's departure was a maneuver, obviously carried out on command from the top. His co-conspirators were still actively working with the courts. On July 16, 2018, the arbitration court ruled on external management of Teplocentral-ZHKH for a period of 18 months. Teplocentral-Pravo appointed Maxim Blokhin as external manager. At the same time, the post of director went to Artur Paretsky who had meetings with the puzzled residents. This strengthened the chances for obtaining the desired millions.
A couple of words about these henchmen of Kostyukov. Maxim Blokhin, a native of Bryansk, was head of 14 organizations. He specialized in bankruptcies. On January 10, 2018, he registered as an individual entrepreneur (IE) in Moscow, designating the general cleaning of buildings as his main economic activity. To be more precise, he was appointed as a whipping boy to communicate with people.
Artur Paretsky from Sarafannikov’s Rzhev team was general manager of several Rzhev management companies from 2008 to 2013. They were involved in scandals over the management of apartment buildings in Rzhev. According to open sources, in February 2013, he was disqualified as the manager of Spasskoye Housing Management by a decision of the Rzhev Magistrate Court on the strength of administrative materials of the State Housing Inspectorate of the Tver Region for improper maintenance and repair of the serviced housing stock. It is also known that Artur Paretsky is a founder of numerous organizations in the field of management and maintenance of the housing stock. In short, another version of Kostyukov's cannon fodder but not a simple one. Paretsky was of great help as he was one of the last members of the gang who remains in office and works openly. He was CEO of Gorenergoset throughout the summer of 2018.
We have to admit that Sarafannikov-Kostyukov's people worked well in the courts. On August 15, 2018, Teplocentral filed a new lawsuit with the Arbitration Court of the Moscow region against Teplocentral-ZhKH, demanding the recovery of additional charges for utility resources supplied from January to July 2016 in the amount of 20 million rubles ($273,401). It said that on June 30, 2016 (that is, just after Sarafannikov's appointment), a contract for heat supply and water heating was concluded. Under the contract, Teplocentral assumed a commitment to supply heat energy toTeplocentral-ZHKH. Teplocentral-ZHKH had to receive the heat energy and pay for it. As the plaintiff explained at a hearing, the heat was indeed supplied, and the money was duly paid for these services between January and July 2016. And then the unexpected happened, “based on 2016 data, the plaintiff made a detailed analysis of the charges for utility resources supplied to the defendant.” According to Teplocentral’s version, the volume of supplied heat during the disputed period had been calculated incorrectly. The debt sum was corrected to 20,063,289 rubles ($274,266). It remains unclear why it was possible to sue for what happened in January-July, if the contract was concluded in June. However, the court did not find this fact embarrassing, probably for some lucrative reasons. It accepted the plaintiff's claims. This time, the case did not work out because the Arbitration Court overturned the decision, and the plaintiff did not object. The arbitration took place in June 2019, when Sarafannikov had already quit the job. However, they had succeeded in obtaining the court decisions to enable them to get 130 million rubles.
By the way, the internal audit of the Teplocentral municipal enterprise found that the 130 million-ruble debt over 10 years was obviously overstated by at least 10 times! That is, the largest management company was intentionally driven to bankruptcy by a municipal enterprise headed by Dmitry Sarafannikov. In fact, it was a standard move in the Kostyukov-Kruglov schemes, a strategic prerequisite, delivered by their criminal “infantry.”
Realizing that the grand scam might fail given the new circumstances, the Sarafannikov-Kostyukov team decided to auction off the debt. According to the Unified Federal Register of the bankruptcy information stated, it amounted to 274,305,361.50 rubles ($3.75 mln.) The debt incurrence period was closed on March 31, 2019 and the starting price was exactly 123,437,412.68 rubles ($1.69 mln.) During the July 16, 2020 bidding, the accounts receivable from tenants decreased to 260,544,718.47 rubles ($3.56 mln.) The winner bought everything for a mere 12,343,741.27 rubles ($168,740.)
We do not understand how it happened. It is possible that the winner, the Center for Credit Security debt agency is linked to Kostyukov in a new scheme. Time will show.
However, one thing is clear. In the town of Zhukovsky in the Moscow region, we have witnessed the implementation of another scheme by the “caste of house eaters,” namely, Kostyukov and Kruglov. It is clear that they will not leave the Moscow region or other provinces, and will try to siphon off the budget for tens and hundreds of millions of rubles over and over again. They will use new algorithms, new tactics, new proxies and new companies. The result will be the same. They will degrade the housing and public utilities infrastructure in the Russian cities exposing it to crises of various degrees of severity.
Judge for yourself. What was Zhukovsky’s takeaway after Kostyukov and Kruglov had implemented their criminal scheme? They caused a huge loss of budget money and damage to city inhabitants:
- the two main assets, i.e., the management companies, were actually stolen;
- accounts receivable that could have been partially collected and used to pay debts to the municipal heat supply organization, were given to a collector almost for nothing. The money collected will be pocketed by Kostyukov and Kruglov;
- the housing stock, which used to bring income and could gradually close debts, was handed over to private business, i.e. the “caste of house eaters.” It’s an extra income for the old tandem, who embezzled money in more than one region of Russia.
Only one thing is unclear. The Federal Security Service and the Investigative Committee detain incumbent and former officials in Udmurtia, Khakassia, the Altai Territory, the Chelyabinsk region, etc., who violate the law in the housing and public utilities sector. Why did the Kostyukov-Kruglov criminal tandem act with impunity for so long? Or do they have too powerful patrons? Abyzov cannot help them now. So, are there others who cover them up?
P.S. While the article was being prepared for publication and the editors were rechecking all data, we heard that former governor of the Ivanovo region Mikhail Men had been detained. It was under him that the duo of Goloyenko and Sarafannikov “worked” in the Ivanovo region which they exploited for several years for the benefit of the “caste of house eaters.” While “working” in Rzhev Roman Goloyenko simultaneously headed Ivanovo’s Housing and Utilities Management Company which became involved in a big scandal. By 2011, six clone companies created by Goloyenko had already been operating in the Ivanovo Region presumably for withdrawing budget money to the accounts of the Kostyukov-Kruglov group of companies. However, this is a subject of our future investigations.
In the meantime, wek.ru will continue to follow the activities of Alexander Kostyukov and his dementors in the Russian housing and public utilities sector.