Authorities say a group of Eastern European beauties and their handlers ran a massive scheme to bilk businessmen and tourists out of thousands by luring them to private South Beach clubs for costly booze.
Prosecutors have charged 17 people in the alleged scheme to defraud which was broken up by the FBI, Miami Beach Police and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
According to a criminal affidavit, the scheme was organized by South Beach club owners who brought women to Miami from Eastern Europe to work as "Bar Girls" or "B-Girls."
The B-Girls allegedly went to legitimate clubs and lured the businessmen and tourists to private clubs where the booze fix was in. The unsuspecting victims were charged exorbitant prices for bottles of alcohol, including as much as $5,000 for a bottle of champagne.
With the liquor flowing, the B-Girls allegedly ordered bottles of wine and champagne and charged them to the victims' credit cards. Charges were often unsigned, unauthorized or signatures were forged, the feds say.
When victims disputed the charges, the suspects either threatened to have them arrested or gave photos of the victims in the club to credit card companies as proof of purchases.
"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."
Authorities say 88 victims have been identified. At least one was charged as much as $43,000 in the scheme. Feds say the B-Girls generally got a 20 percent take of the exorbitant bills while club owners got 10 percent.
The Feds list six clubs allegedly owned and operated by defendants, four of which have since closed. Steel Toast, at 758 Washington Avenue, and the Tangia Club, at 841 Washington Avenue are still in operation.
Sixteen of the 17 defendants were arrested Tuesday night, including alleged organizers Albert Takhalov, 29, Svetlana Coghlan, 41, Isaac Feldman, 50, Stanislav Pavlenko, 39, Fady Kaldas, 35, and Siavash Zargari, 46. 44-year-old Alec Simchuk, remains at large.