OLEG FIRER: CARIBBEAN ISLAND OF GRENADA AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA IMPLICATED WITH A CONFESSED RUSSIAN GANGSTER AND HIS ‘B-GIRLS & IT IS NOT ARTHUR GEHL – GERMAN FRAUDSTER:

OLEG FIRER: CARIBBEAN ISLAND OF GRENADA AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA IMPLICATED WITH A CONFESSED RUSSIAN GANGSTER AND HIS ‘B-GIRLS & IT IS NOT ARTHUR GEHL – GERMAN FRAUDSTER:

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Three years after finding himself tangled up over the Wolfs’ former house, Firer’s name was brought up in federal court in connection with the South Beach bar girl scam organized by an admitted Russian mobster.

 

The bar-girls racket — “B-girls” for short — was a highly organized operation that employed young women recruited from Eastern Europe. Their job was to lure tourists from swank hotels, beckon them to visit seedy, Russian-themed bars and ply them with drinks until some could hardly stand, then trick them into charging thousands of dollars of overpriced booze and caviar on their credit cards. The mastermind was Alec “Oleg” Simchuk, the Russian-born gangster, a naturalized citizen. 

The bar-girls racket — “B-girls” for short — was a highly organized operation that employed young women recruited from Eastern Europe. Their job was to lure tourists from swank hotels, beckon them to visit seedy, Russian-themed bars and ply them with drinks until some could hardly stand, then trick them into charging thousands of dollars of overpriced booze and caviar on their credit cards. The mastermind was Alec “Oleg” Simchuk, the Russian-born gangster, a naturalized citizen. 

A weatherman from Philadelphia recalled meeting up with a group of the “B-girls,” having a few belts and then waking up the next day in his hotel room, fully clothed, his shirt stained with wine. One of the B-girls called and said she had his sunglasses. They met again and it was a replay of the night before. He would eventually get a call from American Express, detailing a two-night tally of $43,712.25, including $2,480 for a painting.

 

 

Credit cards were essential to the B-girl operation. In order for the scammers to get their money, they had to have a credit card processor serve as the middleman between them and the banks of their victims. This processor would open a “merchant account” for the bars, enabling them to accept cards and, in effect, vouching for the legitimacy of the businesses. In return, the processor would receive a percentage fee off of every card swipe — a standard practice in that industry. On the witness stand in the B-girls trial, a man named Stanislav Pavlenko described his role in setting this up.

 

According to Pavlenko’s sworn testimony, he was directing operations at Firer’s venture capital business, Star Capital Fund, while he was setting up the credit card processing for Caviar Bar. Like Net Element and Unified Payments, Star Capital Fund lists its address as the same commercial building, a few blocks from Firer’s house.

 

In his testimony, Pavlenko said he was working in the main suite, 705, when Firer himself directed an assistant, Yuliya Khazak, to help him create the merchant account.

 

“She was assisting me and — at the request of Oleg Firer, the co-chairman of Star Fund [sic]. We were sharing with her the same office and I was passing my special knowledge on [sic] her.”

 

Simchuk, the gangster, testified as to how he owned the Caviar Bar, opening it with the help of Pavlenko, who then helped him establish the credit card account. Evidence indicated that Firer’s assistant submitted letters to American Express defending the fraudulent charges.

As with Victor and Natalia Wolf, Firer was, at first, emphatic in denying that he had ever worked with Pavlenko. 

 

“There’s nothing in this world that could tie me to be a business associate of Stan Pavlenko, at any point in my career or in my life,” Firer said.

 

When the court testimony about his assistant was brought to his attention, Firer called that “hearsay.”

 

Khazak, who was not charged, declined to comment.

 

“It’s not our business to go and police what they sell at that club,” said Firer, who likewise was not charged. “It’s the business of federal and local authorities.”

 

Phillip Parker, founder of industry watchdog website cardpaymentoptions.com, disagreed with that self-assessment, calling it “patently false.”

 

Companies are often held financially accountable by a bank when they run credit cards through a business that is generating fraudulent transactions, Parker said. On occasion, he added, they can even be held legally liable.

 

Firer affirmed that he did know Pavlenko on a personal level. The two were acquainted from their time in Brooklyn. And Firer said when he first moved down to North Miami Beach, Pavlenko was a helpful resource.

 

“He told me about certain places, where to go,” Firer said.

 

Pavlenko was sentenced to six and a half years in the caper, only to later go free because the judge made a mistake in issuing the jury instructions. A condition of his release was that he return to Russia. Another man convicted in the B-girls case, Albert Takhalov, was sentenced to 12 years, but he too saw his conviction thrown out because of the problem with the jury instructions. 

 

Takhalov currently works in the same field he allegedly abused. His company, Discover Data, is a registered agent of Unified Payments — now controlled by Firer’s Net Element.

 

*    According to a reputable resource confirmed that the group is now under investigation by US Law Enforcement since the entrance of Arthur Gehl and his arrest in the Republic of Germany.

 

Contributed by Andrei Slavenkov - Financial Crime Consultant (Netherlands)

Compliments of Miami Herald

Chronicles of Monte Friesner - Financial Crime Analyst (Canada)