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George Smith Case Surfaces Once Again With a New TwistJanuary 6, 2012 By: Susan Young
Dateline NBC Plans Update
Just when you thought the “George Smith disappearance" story couldn’t get any more weird, London’s daily Mail says the FBI's Russian mafia team is involved in an investigation focused on four young men, including three Russian-Americans from Brooklyn, NY, to determine if they were in any way responsible.
Married just 11 days, George Smith IV, 26, was honeymooning onboard Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas, which was sailing an eastern Mediterranean itinerary. He apparently went overboard somewhere between Greece and Turkey. The body was never found, and no one was ever charged with a crime.
Officials ruled his assumed death an accident, but one tourist's camera captured a large stain, reportedly a blood stain, on a ledge about 20 feet below Smith's cabin balcony the next morning; it was removed by ship personnel, however.
In addition, a bloody handprint was later found along a railing near where the stain had been spotted. The story captivated international and national media attention for months and even years after the incident. Smith's family in Greenwich, Connecticut, strongly believes he was a victim of foul play.
The evening of the incident, Smith’s wife, 25-year-old Jennifer Hagel Smith, was found asleep in a public area of the ship and was escorted back to the cabin she shared with her husband. At that time, Royal Caribbean personnel reported no sign of Smith in the cabin.
Later, Smith’s wife settled out of court with the cruise line for $1.1 million. Smith’s parents later sought to have his wife’s settlement overturned.
As part of that action, the original settlement was increased to $1.3 million, the parents and his wife are now splitting the funds, and Royal Caribbean agreed to release certain documents. That’s what has apparently triggered the additional investigation.
Michael Jones, the Smith family’s lawyer, says some documents released by the cruise line cast suspicion on four young men last seen escorting a drunken Smith back to his stateroom.
Jones told the New York Post that Josh Askin, a San Diego State University student at the time of the disappearance, failed an FBI lie detector test when interviewed about the events of the night Smith disappeared.
Reportedly, Askin also invoked his fifth amendment rights against self-incrimination during a deposition with Jones. But Askin's lawyer denies that his client had anything to do with Smith’s disappearance, and said Askin passed a previous polygraph test.
Askin and Rostislav “Rusty” Kofman and cousins Greg and Zachary Rozenberg were the last people who reportedly saw Smith before he vanished. The latter three are naturalized Russian-American citizens who live in Brooklyn, New York.
On Friday evening, Jan. 6, Dateline NBC will air what it calls an update on the situation.
Agents who want to read the Mail's online story may check this link: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2083145/New-leads-2005-cruise-ship-disappearance-newlywed-George-Smith-IV-FBIs-Russian-mafia-team-joins-investigation.html