Four Miami Area Residents Sentenced for Mann Act and Money Laundering Offenses
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Alysa D. Erichs, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), announce that on July 1, 2015, United States District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga sentenced Istvan Kaszab, 38, and Andrea Avram, 25, of Aventura, Florida, to 27 months’ and 11 months’ imprisonment, respectively, for Mann Act and money laundering offenses, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 2421 and 1956. Judge Altonaga sentenced defendant Szabina Balazs, 21, of Hallandale, Florida to time served (approximately five months’ imprisonment) for violating the Mann Act. As part of the same case, on July 2, 2015, Judge Altonaga sentenced Christian Fiorenza, 51, of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, to 37 months’ imprisonment for Mann Act and money laundering violations. Judge Altonaga said that the sentence imposed was necessary to promote respect for the law and deter the defendant and others from engaging in this type of criminal activity. All defendants pled guilty to the charges at issue.
Between May 2012 and September 2014, the defendants participated in the operation of an escort agency, that is, the Fort Lauderdale Escort Services (“FLES”). FLES recruited adult women from Eastern Europe, predominantly Hungary, to engage in prostitution in the United States. The women were recruited through various advertisements and other means. FLES would assist the women in petitioning for travel to the United States through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (“ESTA”) program. ESTA is an automated system that determines the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (“VWP”).
Once the women were admitted into in the United States, they would immediately begin working as prostitutes for FLES, both locally in South Florida, as well as nationally.FLES would advertise each prostitute’s “services” on FLES’ website.
FLES would arrange the prostitutes’ travel and housing needs in the United States.Each prostitute stayed in the United States, on average, between three months to a year.However, many overstayed their visas.
Each of the defendants played a different role in the conspiracy.Fiorenza was listed as the President of FLES, according to publicly available information on the Florida Division of Corporation’s website sunbiz.org.He also maintained FLES’ website.Kaszab recruited most of the prostitutes from Hungary.
Avram and Balazs began their affiliation with FLES as prostitutes.Avram then began assisting Kaszab in recruiting women from Hungary, arranging client meetings and travel, and facilitating money transfers from her bank account to Hungary, knowing the money came from prostitution earnings.Balazs began assisting Fiorenza with FLES’ operations.Specifically, she would assist in the maintenance of the website, book client meetings and travel, and facilitate money transfers to and from her bank accounts, knowing that the money came from prostitution earnings.
The defendants received a portion, or “cut,” of the monies earned by the prostitutes.Fiorenza received the largest cut, followed by KaszabAvram and Balazs would receive their cut from their male codefendants’ share.
Kaszab and Avram wired funds from the United States to Hungary on a regular basis and purchased several luxurious items from proceeds earned from prostitution, such as Mercedes Benz vehicles and a Breitling timepiece.
Mr. Ferrer commends the investigative efforts of ICE-HSI for their work on this case. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Vanessa S. Johannes and Elina A. Rubin-Smith.
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 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 www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.