Officials charge 17, including women from Latvia, in Florida ‘B-girl’ fraud

Seventeen men and women—including some from Latvia and Estonia—have been charged in Miami Beach, Fla., in what U.S. authorities say was an elaborate scheme to bilk rich male patrons of private night clubs by getting them to pay exorbitant prices for drinks.

At least 88 tourists became victims of the scheme that involved Eastern European “bar girls” or “B-girls” luring them to private clubs, according to the criminal complaint filed April 6 in U.S. District Court in Miami. Once in the clubs, the men were tricked into paying dramatically inflated prices for drinks.

In one case, a victim had to pay USD 5,000 for a bottle of champagne. In another, a man from Philadelphia was defrauded of USD 43,000, which included him waking up in his hotel room with an unknown painting he apparently had purchased the night before.

“This is done by either having the female co-conspirators order multiple bottles of wine and champagne without the victim’s knowledge, misleading male victims about the price of alcohol, forging the victim’s signatures on credit card receipts, or processing unauthorized charges on the victim’s credit cards,” according to the criminal complaint.

In an early morning raid on clubs in Miami’s South Beach district, authorities arrested 16 alleged conspirators and “B-girls.” The alleged ringleader, 44-year-old Alec Simchuk of Hallandale Beach, Fla., is believed to have fled the United States.

Listed with Simchuk as conspirators and investors in the criminal organization that ran the scheme are Svetlana Coghlan, 41, of Hollywood, Fla.; Isaac Feldman, 50, of Sunny Isles Beach, Fla.; Fady Kaldas, 35, of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.; Stanislav Pavlenko, 39, of Sunny Isles Beach, Fla.; Albert Takhalov, 29, of Aventura, Fla.; and Siavash Zargari, 46, of Miami Beach.

Federal authories built their case against the defendants by using a local undercover agent who posed as a corrupt police officer and infiltrated the organization, gaining the trust of the conspirators and the “B-girls,” according to the complaint. Other undercover agents posed as victims.

The organization, according to the complaint, opened at least six South Beach clubs, obtained liquor and business licenses, and acquired merchant account and credit card terminals to be used in the clubs.

The conspirators also are alleged to have organized the “B-girls” to come to the U.S., slipping them through the Visa Waiver Program by claiming that the women were not coming to work or to engage in criminal activity. Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania were admitted to the program in November 2008, meaning citizens of those countries no longer have to obtain a visa to visit America.

The women are said to have been trained in Eastern Europe to work the fraud scheme.

In Miami, the women would work in pairs, hunting for the victims in other clubs, usually between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

“B-Girls’ ideal targets are wealthy males, preferably tourists or traveling businessmen due to the low probability that they will come back into the club once they have discovered the money charged to their account,” according to the criminal complaint. “Expensive watches or shoes, amongst other factors, are used to identify such targets.”

The women would lure their fraud victims to one of the clubs run by the conspirators. Once there, they would work with the bartender to trick the men into buying expensive drinks.

Defendants named as “B-girls” in the complaint are Victorija Artemjeva, 21, of Latvia; Irina Domkova, 22, of Estonia; Anna Kilimatova, 25, of Latvia; Valeria Matsova, 22, of Estonia; Anastassia Mikrukova, 32, of Estonia; Agnese Rudaka, 22, of Latvia; Kristina Takhalov, 29, of Miami Beach; Marina Turcina, 24, of Latvia; Anastassia Usakova, 25, of Estonia; and Julija Vinogradova, 22, of Latvia.

Artemjeva, according to the complaint, had worked for Simchuk in Estonia. Three other women were planning to work a club Simchuk was opening in Prague.

According to the complaint, the pair of “B-girls” would get about 20 percent of the victim’s bill, while the bartenders or managers would get 10 percent. The rest of the bill would go to the criminal organization.

Problems continue in Rīga

The alleged scheme is reminiscent of similar frauds reported against foreign clients in a number of bars, clubs and lounges in Rīga, Latvia’s capital city.

U.S. and officials from other countries have complained for several years to the Latvian government about the problem. In a November 2008 “warden message,” the U.S. Embassy in Rīga warned travelers to stay clear of bars, clubs and lounges that have been reported to overcharge for drinks.

The warning was updated last month.

“There have been a number of additional reports recently of foreign tourists being charged extortionate prices for drinks in bars,” according to embassy’s message posted on its website. “Some have then been assaulted, threatened or forced to withdraw money from an ATM to pay for the bill.”

The embassy names 10 establishments that are off limits to its staff and their families. Almost all of the businesses are located within the popular Old Town district.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

10 thoughts on “Officials charge 17, including women from Latvia, in Florida ‘B-girl’ fraud

  1. Maybe, just maybe the U.S. government will finally understand that this equal oppertunity rifraf of providing citizenship to Russians, approx. 300,000 who are none citizens and are now living in Latvia and the amount does not even include those who are none citizens but who live in Estonia and Lithuania is nothing more then ‘DUNG
    HEAP’ (if I spelled that correct). If one uses ‘KOPF’ then one will understand that many of the 300,000 plus, want to use the Baltic States as a take off point to the west. Now the west gets a taste of their kind of business but who gets the blame? Correct, the Balts do.

  2. I’m Latvian and I can tell you that NONE of the people indicted have Latvian names. Most of the names that I recognize are Russian. This incident is telling of the kind of stuff Latvians (as well as Estonians and Lithuanians) have to contend with from the people of Russian decent who are still living in Latvia.

  3. Let’s not get too high and almighty about this Latvian vs Russian thing. There are good and bad within all nationalities. Agnese Rudaka sounds Latvian to me. More difficult to determine the nationality of Anna or Julija. Russian surnames, Latvian or Russian first names. Could be Russian or could have parents from a mixed marriage.

  4. P.S. And then we have Angelika Gavare, from Latvia, definitely Latvian unless her mother is another nationality, accused of a particularly gruesome murder in Australia.

  5. I actually disagree with Alfred and Ivars, the core leadership of the gang seems to be not Russian but … Jewish, so actually the Jews make Balts look bad. Russian are just Jewish paws in this evil combination ;) Well, I guess I can freely make this joke because my mum is Latvian while father is Jewish, nice multicultural Baltic mixture by the way. So, the whole story could of been understood with a completely different turn, of course, if there was a little bit of creativity involved… Well, however, the real and more serious point has been made earlier by Viesturs – you can’t really extrapolate that the whole Russian community is criminal because there is a bunch of Russians with Latvian citizenship have been involved in criminal activities overseas. In my opinion, it’s nonsense, if not ignorance. This type of argument is similar to what the anti-Latvian voices in Russia love to convey about the members of Latvian Legion, saying that they are all criminals because they were the part of the SS units. Does it hold truth? Certainly not.

  6. Mr.KF I can’t believe what you have revieled to me and to the world about yourself. I must say you are very outspoken. As for Mr. Zarins I do agree with your analysis of names and I will throw in Marina Turcina which is a Latvian name. Well what I have learned in the past is true. Latviets, Krievs vai Juds, naves prieksa viss viens suds (compost heap). Da.

  7. Ivar, while this specific case seems to have more Russian sounding names than Latvian ones, there are plenty of full blooded Latvian hookers, escorts, strippers and scammerettes out there. Both in Latvia, and abroad.

  8. Residents of Russian descent are forced to do this because of the lack of opportunity due to institutional discrimination in Latvia, i.e. very, very hard to get a good job.

  9. Lets make a deal Mr. Parkinson. Since there is institutional discrimination in Latvia (majority owned or governed by former Soviet, now capitalist oligarchs) why don’t the majority of Russians just leave Latvia and go back to their motherland? They should very easily find jobs with all the new construction, minning and oil companies of Russia. Just let these discriminant Latvians live in their own homeland and have them face their own faith. With that there will be less conflict. It’s so easy. But wait. Latvia as well as Estonia and Lithuania are next to the Baltic Sea which is an outlet to the west. How stupid. Forgive me.

  10. First, paldies to SL, KF, Mr. Parkinson, and Mr. Zarins for being the voices of reason. Second, there’s an important point missing from the discussion: These women, these opportunists – Latvian, Russian, whoever, are giving a bad name to all women, by acting like this. But how did they get the idea? How did they learn this would make them money? This is the same old crap that women have been taught by the images that are all around us, by the messages we get from commercials, advertising, from Hollywood, and from MEN: that women are to be considered sex objects. And that we’re disposable if we’re not good looking or sexy or (gasp) getting older. Young girls are hearing these messages loud and clear and are not only dressing in sexy clothes at younger and younger ages, they are also feeling the pressure to look and act a certain way; that you need to dress and act like this in order to be accepted or get attention. Because of this, they also can easily learn how to manipulate men as a way to make a living and a way to feel good about themselves. So don’t blame the Jews or the Russians; blame sexism, blame the idiot Kardashians, blame Hollywood, the fashion industry, the music industry, advertising (hello car commericals?!) and blame the men that are involved in this whole thing, too. The women were not alone in this scheme. And let’s be honest, those men in the clubs weren’t helpless victims either – who were they there to see? Hmm? Who perpetuates these scenarios in bars and all the other clubs, strip clubs, etc.? Who keeps them in business? Does Riga have any strip clubs? How about the U.S.? Why is that? Who keeps them in business? The whole cycle is offensive. Don’t just blame the women and don’t blame just one country. B) While I understand your angst about Russians in Latvia to a point, let’s finally take a break and leave the Russian and Jewish insults out for a change and focus on being good human beings ourselves. Kudos to you Mr. Parkinson and Mr. Zarins for using objectivity here instead of slamming an entire culture, religion, or nationality. Mr. B, you complain about discrimination in Latvia and yet what are you doing yourself right here? You really think it’s so easy for people to get jobs in Russia? Where are the facts to back that up? It’s not easy to get a job anywhere. And would you want to live in a country ruled by Vladimir Putin? Let’s not let our own perceptions cloud the realities of others.

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