“I was scammed by Takhalov and set up by the FBI,” he said after his acquittal.
In 2010, Miami Beach police and the FBI launched an undercover investigation into the “B-girl” network after customers complained to their credit card companies about the outlandish bar tabs.
Last year, a total of 18 defendants were charged in the fraud conspiracy. Twelve defendants, mostly women, have since pleaded guilty. Almost all have already served short prison sentences.
Standing trial since October: Pavlenko, 41, Takhalov, 31, Zargari, 48, and Feldman, 51, who live in the Aventura, Sunny Isles Beach and Miami Beach areas.
Pavlenko’s lawyer, Roderick Vereen, said he would seek a new trial, alleging that the weatherman lied during his testimony.
Takhalov’s attorney, Albert Levin, said he was “disappointed” in the jury’s verdicts. “Although my client was acquitted on most of the charges, we couldn’t call this a victory.’’
Feldman’s attorney, Myles Malman, expressed the same sentiment, saying his client was a “good and decent man” who was a minority investor in one of Simchuk’s clubs, Stars Lounge. “He was tricked into an investment by a con man whose testimony was one of the most unbelievable I have heard in my 40 years of practicing law,” Malman said.
The three defendants found guilty now face up to 20 years each in prison, though the punishment is likely to be substantially less because of the relatively small losses incurred by their nearly 90 victims. The losses came to between $400,000 and $1 million, with most of the profits going to Simchuk and the other investors and 20 percent to the bar girls.
A fifth defendant, Kristina Takhalov, who worked as a bartender, pleaded guilty during the trial to a few wire-fraud charges.
On Thursday, she was red-faced from crying after the guilty verdicts were read for Albert Takhalov, her husband.