The Transformation of a Soviet Emigré Connected to Miami Beach’s ‘B-Girls’ Scam into Grenada’s Representative in Moscow
He has often been hailed as the “poster boy for the American Dream” with good reason. Starting as an immigrant kid from Brooklyn, he ascended to the role of general manager at a Nobody Beats the Wiz electronics store at the age of 17. His credit card processing business, recognized as the fastest-growing company in America by Inc. magazine, gained acclaim. Upon the acquisition of his venture, Unified Payments, by the corporation Net Element, he assumed the position of CEO.
However, his journey is marked by challenges, including an arrest on mortgage fraud charges – later dropped and expunged. He faced at least seven lawsuits for breach of contract, including one from his own lawyer. Since his leadership, Net Element witnessed a decline of over 98 percent in its share value and, at one point, faced delisting from Nasdaq.
Despite close proximity to infamous financial fraudsters in South Florida’s Soviet diaspora, including land-development scammers Victor and Natalie Wolf and those behind the “B-girls scam,” he has avoided legal consequences, except for the expunged arrest. Additionally, his association with a fellow Soviet emigré, Felix Filenger, who was sentenced for organizing a massive insurance fraud ring, adds to the complexity of his story.
Oleg Firer, a classic Miami success story, now holds the title of “Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary” as the envoy to Moscow, representing Grenada. This peculiar appointment stems from his friendship with the son of Grenada’s prime minister. In the Caribbean, he is exploring ventures in cryptocurrency and blockchain technology, amid accusations of assisting Russians in gaining influence in the region, including involvement in Grenada’s nutmeg industry.
His journey, marked by recognition as one of the “40 under 40” by the South Florida Business Journal in 2016 and inclusion in its “150 power leaders” the following year, is accompanied by flattering profiles in Forbes, Poder, and Smart Business Magazine. Oleg Firer, often described as a brilliant and kindhearted individual, is part of the diverse tapestry of South Florida’s entrepreneurial Soviet diaspora, many of whom, like him, found their way to Florida from Brooklyn.
HOUSE OF WOLFS
Firer’s Miami narrative unfolded just as the stories of Victor and Natalia Wolf were concluding. The Wolfs, like other fraudsters during the South Florida real estate boom, amassed wealth by flipping properties. Operating from their North Miami Beach home on the Intracoastal, hosting investors on a luxury yacht, they sold stakes in developments in Texas and Florida that eventually failed, causing investors and lenders to lose over $20 million. As their scheme collapsed, the Wolfs fled in 2006, transferring the title of their mortgaged house to G & G Property Investments before leaving.
Firer acquired G & G, which then deeded the home to him. However, trouble arose when Firer sought a mortgage on the property. An affidavit by a state attorney investigator accused him of inflating its value by $1 million and misrepresenting $850,000 as an asset instead of the proceeds from a loan. Firer faced two counts of mortgage fraud, and substantial funds were seized, later mostly returned when the charges were dropped. The records, though sealed, have been examined by the Miami Herald.
The multiple mortgages led to a prolonged legal battle over home ownership, ongoing for 12 years. In a bizarre turn, Firer is currently suing himself as a representative of one of his business associates’ companies.
The home, once the center of the Wolfs’ fraudulent activities, retains its external appearance. Four classical statues border the street, thin Ionic columns support the portico, and painted gold lions guard the front door. Firer mentions that he and his family reside there part-time.
Reflecting on acquiring the house, Firer considers it a significant mistake due to its entanglement with the Wolf saga. He expresses bewilderment at being tied to these elusive figures, who remain on the FBI’s most wanted list for white-collar criminals.
When questioned about his knowledge of the Wolfs in an interview with the Herald, Firer denied meeting the infamous pair. However, a 2007 civil suit deposition contradicts this, revealing that Firer did meet Victor Wolf in the summer of 2006. The meeting involved discussing a loan, followed by lunch at a sushi restaurant. Firer, when confronted with the inconsistency, suggested that many people sought loans from him, and Victor Wolf might have been one of them.
A GANGSTER AND HIS ‘B-GIRLS’
Three years after becoming entangled in the Wolfs’ former house situation, Firer’s name surfaced in federal court in connection with the South Beach bar girl scam orchestrated by an admitted Russian mobster named Alec “Oleg” Simchuk.
The “B-girls” operation, a highly organized scam, employed young women recruited from Eastern Europe to lure tourists from upscale hotels. They would coax them into visiting Russian-themed bars, ply them with drinks, and trick them into charging exorbitant amounts on their credit cards for overpriced drinks and caviar. Stanislav Pavlenko, testifying in the B-girls trial, described his role in setting up credit card processing for Caviar Bar while working at Firer’s venture capital business, Star Capital Fund. Pavlenko mentioned that Firer directed an assistant to help him create the merchant account.
Simchuk, the gangster behind Caviar Bar, testified about opening the bar with Pavlenko’s assistance and establishing the credit card account. Evidence suggested that Firer’s assistant submitted letters to American Express defending fraudulent charges.
Initially, Firer vehemently denied working with Pavlenko, calling it “hearsay” when confronted with the court testimony. He affirmed knowing Pavlenko personally, having been acquainted with him since their time in Brooklyn, and mentioned that Pavlenko was a helpful resource when he moved to North Miami Beach.
Pavlenko was sentenced to six and a half years but later released due to a judge’s mistake in issuing jury instructions, with a condition to return to Russia. Another individual convicted in the B-girls case, Albert Takhalov, had his conviction overturned for similar reasons and now operates in the same field he allegedly abused, with his company, Discover Data, registered as an agent of Unified Payments, now controlled by Firer’s Net Element.
When questioned about the situation, Firer stopped responding to inquiries from the Miami Herald. His representative later challenged some aspects of the published story, disputing Pavlenko’s affiliation with Star Capital and denying any involvement in the B-girl scam.
THEIR MAN IN MOSCOW
In the latest chapter of Firer’s journey, he finds himself in Grenada, where he has been serving as ambassador to Russia since 2017.
According to Firer, his initial invitation to the island came from the Grenadian government to explore applications in telemedicine, specifically the use of technology to enable virtual interactions between doctors and patients in the Caribbean.
While in Grenada, he developed a connection with Olinga Mitchell, the son of Prime Minister Keith Mitchell. Firer acquired Grenadian citizenship through his investment in the island, as reported by the news agency Caribbean News Now!
Becoming Grenada’s first ambassador to Russia since the countries resumed diplomatic relations in 2002, Firer had the opportunity to present his credentials to Vladimir Putin, commemorated with a keepsake photograph. His appointment occurred amid concerns raised by some Caribbean journalists and local activists about Russia’s growing influence in the region.
Caribbean News Now!, among those expressing concerns, went so far as to suggest that Firer might be assisting the Russians in gaining control of Grenada’s nutmeg production. This story drew attention, and after its publication, the news agency reported an alleged attempt by a mysterious computer programmer or hacker to offer $5,000 to take down the article from their website. When Caribbean News Now! declined, the programmer reportedly hinted at a potential cyberattack.
After the online publication of this story and weeks of not responding to queries, Firer contacted the media outlet, asserting that his Grenadian citizenship was unrelated to his investments and denying any involvement in nutmeg-related activities.