Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Feds Bust South Beach Club Operators in Sexy ‘B-Girls’ Case


 BY JAY WEAVER
jweaver@miamiherald.com

Sexy Eastern European women dubbed “B-Girls” seduced touristy businessmen at a half-dozen South Beach nightclubs, generating hundreds of thousands of dollars in fraudulent charges on their credit cards for expensive bottles of champagne and other booze without their knowledge, federal authorities said Wednesday.

Early Wednesday, FBI agents arrested 17 men and women, mostly from South Florida and Eastern European countries. The club operators allegedly hired the women as “Bar Girls” to lure as many as 88 visiting businessmen into the Washington Avenue clubs to rack up the charges on their credit cards — sometimes by forging signatures on receipts, according to an FBI criminal affidavit.

One victim was charged $43,000 on his credit card, the affidavit said. One bottle of champagne cost $5,000.
In return, the B-Girls pocketed 20 percent of what they brought in and the private club managers kept 10 percent of the take, the affidavit said.

The FBI carried out the undercover investigation by deploying an agent who was able to infiltrate the alleged crime ring by posing as a “corrupt police officer working off-duty” as a bouncer or doorman.

The Miami Beach clubs implicated in the alleged year-long racket are: Caviar Bar, 643 Washington Ave.; Stars Lounge, 643 Washington Ave.; Club Moreno, 1341 Washington Ave.; Nowhere Bar, 653 Washington Ave.; Steel Toast, 758 Washington Ave.; and Tangia Club, 841 Washington Ave.

The 17 defendants who operated the clubs are charged with wire fraud, prosecutors said. They are scheduled to have their first appearances in Miami federal court Wednesday afternoon.

“This scheme used women from Eastern Europe to lure and defraud out-of-state businessmen and tourists,” U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer said in a statement. “This scheme preyed on our tourists and gave our tourism industry a black eye.”

Added FBI special agent in charge John Gillies: “The dismantlement and disruption of this organized crime group reaffirms the FBI’s and our law enforcement partners’ commitment to remove organized crime from our neighborhoods.”

Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Miami Beach Police Department assisted in the probe, which is ongoing, authorities said.