Fifteen Indicted on Fraud and Bribery Charges in South Beach Private Clubs Scheme
|U.S. Attorney’s Office April 15, 2011|
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 Noriega, Chief, Miami Beach Police Department; and Michael Shea, Deputy Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), Miami Field Office, announced the indictment of 15 individuals, charging them with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349; 39 substantive wire fraud counts, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343; one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371; 18 counts of fraud regarding immigration documents, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1546; and one count of bribery of a government official, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 201. These individuals were previously charged by complaint for their involvement in a scheme 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.
Charged in the indictment were Alec Simchuk, 44, of Hallandale; Albert Takhalov, 29, of Aventura; Svetlana Coghlan, 41, of Hollywood; Isaac Feldman, 50, 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; 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. Fifteen of the 16 defendants were arrested on April 5, 2011, at various locations in Miami Beach. Alec Simchuk remains at large and is believed to be located out of the United States.
Defendants Simchuk, Takhalov, Coghlan, Kaldas, 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, Usakova, K. Takhalov, Domkova, Mikrurova, and Rudaka worked as B-Girls or managers at the clubs.
According to the charging documents, the B-Girls arrived in the United States under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Visa Waiver Program (VWP). They falsely stated in their VWP applications that they were not seeking entry into the U.S. to work or commit a crime.
At the private clubs, the defendants would charge the victims exorbitant prices for bottles of alcohol. 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. Typically, B-Girls would keep 20 percent of what they brought in; private club managers would keep 10 percent.
The indictment lists six private clubs allegedly owned and operated by the defendants in South Beach: (1) Caviar Bar, 643 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach (operating from February to May 2010); (2) Stars Lounge, 643 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach (operating from August to October 2010); (3) a room at Club Moreno, at 1341 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach (operating from October to December 2010); (4) a room at Nowhere Bar, 653 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach (operating from late December, 2010 to mid-January 2011); (5) Steel Toast, 758 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach (operating from early January 2011 to the present); and (6) the Tangia Club, 841 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach (operating from late January, 2011 to the present).
If convicted, the defendants face a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison for each wire fraud related count; 10 years in prison for each count of fraud in connection with immigration documents; five years in prison for conspiracy to defraud the United States in connection with immigration documents; and 15 years in prison for the bribery count.
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.
An indictment is only an accusation, and defendants 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 www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.