SEVENTEEN INDIVIDUALS CHARGED IN WIRE FRAUD SCHEME INVOLVING PRIVATE SOUTH BEACH CLUBS
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, Carlos E. Noriega, Chief, Miami Beach Police Department, and Anthony V. Mangione, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), Miami Field Office, announced the filing of a criminal complaint against 17 individuals, charging them with conspiring to commit wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349. More specifically, the defendants are charged with conspiring to defraud unwitting out-of-state businessmen and tourists out of thousands of dollars through exorbitant alcohol charges incurred at private South Beach clubs owned and operated by the defendants. The defendants are expected to make their initial appearances in court Wednesday, April 6, 2011 at 2:00 PM.
Charged in the complaint were Alec Simchuk, 44, of Hallandale; Albert Takhalov, 29, of Aventura; Svetlana Coghlan, 41, of Hollywood; Isaac Feldman, 50, of Sunny Isles Beach; Stanislav Pavlenko, 39, of Sunny Isles Beach; Fady Kaldas, 35, of Palm Beach Gardens; Siavash Zargari, 46, of Miami Beach; Marina Turcina, 24, of Latvia; Julija Vinogradova, 22, of Latvia; Anna Kilimatova, 25, of Latvia; Valeria Matsova, 22, of Estonia; Victorija Artemjeva, 21, of Latvia; Anastassia Usakova, 25, of Estonia; Kristina Takhalov, 29, of Miami Beach; Irina Domkova, 22, of Estonia; Anastassia Mikrukova, 32, of Estonia; and Agnese Rudaka, 22, of Latvia. Sixteen of the 17 were arrested last night at various locations in Miami Beach. Defendant Alec Simchuk remains at large and is believed to be out of the country.
According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, defendants Simchuk, Takhalov, Coghlan, Kaldas, Pavlenko, Feldman, and Zargari were the organizers and investors in the criminal organization, which owned and operated numerous private clubs in South Beach. The organization allegedly brought Eastern European women into the United States to work as “Bar Girls” or “B-Girls,” to lure out-of town businessmen and tourists (the victims) from legitimate South Beach clubs to the defendants’ private clubs. The defendants targeted tourists and out-of-town businessmen by their expensive watches or shoes. Defendants Turcina, Vinogradova, Kilimatova, Matsova, Artemjeva, Usakova, K. Takhalov, Domkova, Mikrurova, and Rudaka worked as B-Girls.
At the private clubs, the defendants would charge the victims exorbitant prices for bottles of alcohol, including up to $5,000 for a bottle of champagne. The B-Girls would order bottles of wine or champagne and charge them to the victims’ credit card, sometimes without the victims’ knowledge. The charges were often unsigned, unauthorized, or the victims’ signatures would be forged. When the victims disputed the charges, the defendants either threatened to have the victims arrested at the scene or presented the credit card companies with photographs of the defendants and the B-Girls at the private club as proof of the charge. To date, eighty-eight victims have been identified. One victim was charged $43,000 in the scheme. Typically, B-Girls would keep 20% of what they brought in; private club managers would keep 10%.
U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “This scheme used women from Eastern Europe to lure and defraud out-of-state businessmen and tourists. Our local economy depends, in large part, on tourism. This scheme preyed on our tourists and gave our tourism industry a black eye. We are pleased to have put this ring out of operation.”
“This international organized crime group has victimized tourists and defrauded them of tens of thousands of dollars,” said John V Gillies, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Miami Field Office. “The crimes this group committed have affected our South Florida community and our economy. The dismantlement and disruption of this organized crime group reaffirms the FBI’s and our law enforcement partners’ commitment to remove organized crime from our neighborhoods.”
Carlos E. Noriega, Chief of Police for the Miami Beach Police Department stated, “The Miami Beach Police Department prides itself on building and maintaining excellent partnerships with other local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to combat crime in our city, and anywhere else we are requested to assist outside our jurisdiction. Thanks to the collaborative efforts of the of the law enforcement agencies involved with this extensive investigation, this case was successfully concluded in resounding fashion with the arrests of multiple defendants. Realizing that tourists were the primary targets, this is a huge victory for South Florida tourism industry.”
“The persons charged in this indictment cheated and deceived their customers by charging exorbitant prices for drinks,” said Anthony V. Mangione, Special Agent in Charge of ICE-HSI Miami. “These types of crimes hurt the South Florida tourist industry by preying on businessmen and tourists who may not want to come back and take advantage of all that South Florida has to offer.”
The complaint lists six private clubs allegedly owned and operated by the defendants in South Beach: (1) Caviar Bar, 643 Washington Avenue (operating from February to May 2010); (2) Stars Lounge, 643 Washington Avenue (operating from August to October 2010); (3) a room at Club Moreno, at 1341 Washington Avenue (operating from October to December 2010); (4) Nowhere Bar, 653 Washington Avenue (operating from late December, 2010 to mid-January 2011); (5) Steel Toast, 758 Washington Avenue (operating from early January 2011 to the present); and (6) the Tangia Club, 841 Washington Avenue (operating from late January, 2011 to the present).
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI, the Miami Beach Police Department, and ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph Huynh and Richard D. Gregorie.
A complaint is only an accusation, and defendant are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.