He decided to open another, Foxy Lounge, then two more, La Rouche and Cabaret Miami.
But the Latvian government did not like the strip-club scene, so authorities shut it down.
Simchuk’s clubs were reborn as lounges. “I told the managers, take poles, take poles out,” Simchuk said in one awkwardly funny moment during his testimony.
Prosecutor Michael Thakur thought he heard Simchuk say “take the bottles out.”
“Poles,” Simchuk repeated.
“Poles?” said Thakur.
“Poles,’’ Simchuk said. “... Sorry for my English.”
From that point on, Simchuk said, he was in the business of deploying bar girls.
“The girls from now on are going to go to the disco bars and pick up the customers, bring them to the club ... and make them buy expensive bottles of champagne,” Simchuk said. He said he also made the prices “high” and the lettering on the menu “very little” so the patrons could not read it. Another trick: His bartenders would pour vodka into customers’ beers to make them more drunk.
But by 2008, the Latvian police closed his clubs because so many customers were demanding “charge backs,” or refunds, on their bar bills. An attempt to replicate the clubs in neighboring Estonia fizzled, and he returned to the States.
Simchuk said he opened Caviar Bar with the help of Pavlenko, who ran the credit card operations, and Stars Lounge with the assistance of Albert Takhalov, who also managed the card transactions. His wife, Kristina, worked as a bartender, and Feldman was an investor who had met Simchuk through the Sunny Isles Beach community, home to many Russian immigrants.
Sort of like Hefner
Simchuk said Feldman, a minority investor, liked hanging out with the women because they made him feel like Hugh Hefner.
He imported many of the same bar girls, including Turcina, a 25-year-old Latvian native.
Turcina, who has pleaded guilty, described Simchuk as a menacing boss who would threaten to fire the women at his clubs in Latvia if they didn’t have sex with him. “They were scared to lose the job, so they were sleeping with him,” she said. Turcina also said he exerted that same control and fear over the B-girls here.
In his testimony, Simchuk acknowledged having an insatiable appetite for sex.
Takhalov’s defense attorney, Albert Levin, attacked Simchuk as a habitual liar with connections to the St. Petersburg mob who made up stories in an effort to reduce a potential 20-year prison sentence. Sentencing is pending. Myles Malman, defense attorney for Feldman, pointed out that Simchuk initially told the feds he broke his leg in a slip-and-fall on ice, and only later said it was snapped in an encounter with thugs.
During his testimony, Simchuk was asked if the women were instructed on what to say to lure the men into the clubs.
“They knew already,” Simchuk testified proudly. “They are professional liars.”