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Three Convicted on Fraud and Money Laundering Charges in South Beach ‘B-Girls’ Private Clubs Scheme

This news story was published on December 26, 2012.
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Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida; Michael B. Steinbach, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office; Raymond A. Martinez, Chief, Miami Beach Police Department; and Alysa D. Erichs, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), Miami Field Office, announced the convictions of three individuals following an 11-week jury trial. Stanislav Pavlenko, 41, of Aventura; Isaac Feldman, 51, of Sunny Isles Beach; and Albert Takhalov, 31, of Sunny Isles Beach, were convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349; and conspiracy to commit money laundering, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1956 (h). Pavlenko and Takhalov were also convicted of various substantive wire fraud counts, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343. Additionally, Takhlaov was convicted of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371. Kristina Takhalov pled guilty in the middle of trial to substantive wire fraud counts. Siavash Zargari, 48, of Miami Beach was acquitted.

Last year, a total of 19 defendants were charged in a fraud conspiracy. Twelve defendants pled guilty before trial. One defendant, Andrejs Romanovs, remains a fugitive. Another defendant, Mikhail Rasner, will be tried separately later this year.

According to evidence presented at trial, the defendants were the organizers and investors in a criminal organization, which owned and operated numerous private clubs in South Beach. The organization brought Eastern European women into the United States illegally to work as “Bar Girls” or “B-Girls,” to lure out-of town businessmen and tourists from legitimate South Beach clubs to the defendants’ private clubs.

According to testimony and other evidence presented at trial, the defendants would charge the victims exorbitant prices for bottles of alcohol in as many as six private clubs. After the victims were either drugged without their knowledge or too intoxicated to understand what was happening, the B-Girls would order bottles of wine or champagne, make unauthorized charges on the victims’ credit cards, and sometimes even forge the victims’ signatures. In order to pay the B-Girls who were illegally working, the defendants set up shell companies to conceal profits and salary payments from their criminal enterprise.

The defendants face a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison for each wire fraud related count; five years in prison for conspiracy to defraud the United States Department of Homeland Security in connection with immigration documents; and 20 years in prison for the conspiracy to commit money laundering. Sentencing has not yet been scheduled.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI, the Miami Beach Police Department, and ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Richard D. Gregorie and Michael Thakur and Department of Justice Trial Attorney Clay Porter.

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