An interesting trial got underway in Miami federal court last week. The government accuses four defendants of running a large fraud scheme to scam wealthy male tourists out of hundreds of thousands dollars. Authorities also say the defendants are connected to Russian organized crime.

The FBI says that the group used a team of beautiful women to seduce tourists. Working in pairs, the women sought out male tourists in upscale South Beach hotels and bars. After spotting men who appeared wealthy, the women invited them to purported private clubs. The private clubs allegedly committed large scale fraud and racketeering by using the tourists’ credit cards to rack up enormous charges for drinks and bottles of champagne.

The defendants allegedly leased clubs that were never open to the public-the FBI alleges that the clubs existed only to function as a front for the defendants’ fraudulent scheme. Some court documents indicate that the clubs defrauded tourists of up to $1 million.

According to allegations, the girls made 20 percent commission off of the fraudulent charges and ensnared around 90 tourists. One of the victims was a relatively well-known former weatherman from Philadelphia. A number of the women already pleaded guilty and are likely to testify against these four defendants.

Federal racketeering and fraud cases are complex and often involve a number of different charges. Because the government usually comes to court prepared with detailed evidence to support its allegations, it is very important for defendants to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as it becomes apparent that an FBI investigation is taking place.

Source: CBS Miami, “Trial Begins For Miami Beach Club Owners Linked To Russian Mob,” Oct. 10, 2012

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