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Thread: Zhenya Tsvetnenko allegedly part of one of the biggest telecommunications scams

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    Zhenya Tsvetnenko allegedly part of one of the biggest telecommunications scams

    Zhenya Tsvetnenko was living the life that dreams are made of — fast cars, lavish parties, a swanky home, Hollywood friends and a glamorous wife.

    But it was a dream built on lies and deceit, according to the US Department of Justice.

    Now the Russian-born Perth internet millionaire, whose real name is Eugeni, has swapped his designer suits and riverfront pad for prison greens and a tiny cell at Hakea prison, 19km south of Perth.

    And he’s staring down the barrel of a maximum 60-year prison sentence, if extradited and convicted, for allegedly taking part in one of the biggest telecommunications scams in US legal history.

    Mr Tsvetnenko has spent 39 days in Hakea, including Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

    The Sunday Times can reveal the 39-year-old was arrested by the Australian Federal Police at his luxurious river front apartment in the Raffles complex in the riverside suburb of Applecross, in the early hours of December 20, 2018

    The police were acting on an extradition arrest warrant relating to Mr Tsvetnenko’s alleged involvement in a multimillion-dollar text-messaging scam, which fleeced more than $196 million from mobile phone customers across the US.

    Mr Tsvetnenko is denying the allegations.

    “In July 2016, I learnt I had been accused of and charged with committing criminal offences in 2012 and 2013, in the United States of America,” he told The Sunday Times from behind bars, via his media representative Evelyn Duffy, yesterday.

    “I am not guilty of the alleged offences.”

    His circumstances are in stark contrast to his former rock-star life.

    He debuted on the BRW Young Rich List in 2009, aged 29, with a fortune of $107 million and in the top 10 of Australia’s richest people under 40.

    He had double the wealth of Hollywood stars on the list such as Hugh Jackman and Cate Blanchett.

    Mr Tsvetnenko’s rise read like a Hollywood film script.

    He migrated from Russia to Australia with his parents in 1992, aged 12. His parents, biochemists Yuri and Elena Tsvetnenko, found jobs at Curtin University.

    Mr Tsvetnenko’s meteoric rise saw him go from university drop-out, with only $200 in his bank account, to WA’s richest young man in only three years.

    His big break came when he worked nights devising a computer program capable of delivering SMS messages automatically.

    In 2005, he launched an SMS Gateway service from his bedroom in Canning Vale, while living on two-minute noodles and his wife’s wage.

    In less than two years he was turning over more than $4 million a month. Mr Tsvetnenko’s fortune soared thanks to his Australian premium SMS business, which delivered alerts about the weather, cheap petrol, horoscopes and IQ tests.

    He and his wife Lydia, who drove his-and-hers Lamborghinis, were the “Posh and Becks” of the Perth social scene and threw money around like confetti. She was Lydia Gaugg when they met at Paramount nightclub in 2002.

    Their $600,000 wedding in 2008 was a real-life fairytale, complete with a horse-drawn carriage. And their lavish parties are the stuff of legend.

    Mr Tsvetnenko flew his wife to Hollywood for her 29th birthday and US rapper Snoop Dogg performed for her. The entrepreneur threw his wife a $250,000 Las Vegas-themed 30th birthday party at North Fremantle’s upmarket Salt Restaurant at Port Beach in 2009.

    US rapper Flo Rida flew in for their Grecian-themed fundraiser Party like the Gods, held on the observation deck at Fraser’s Restaurant in Kings Park in 2010, complete with Greek warriors, mermaids, live statues, Zeus and Medusa.

    Mr Tsvetnenko’s 2010 surprise 30th birthday bash featured ice sculptures of his Lamborghini and Ferrari, and a birthday cake emblazoned with his face on a $US100 bill.

    The entrepreneur arrived to his favourite song, Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer.

    Such was his wealth that in 2009 he told The West Australian: “I’ve made so much money so quick that I haven’t had time to count it. It sounds funny but it’s just too hard.”

    He said he put his success down to hard work. “I’ve got nothing to hide. I’ve never tried to deceive anyone. I’m basically an open book,” he said.

    Mr Tsvetnenko appeared in Perth Magistrates Court the same day as his arrest, represented by lawyer Rishi Kashyap from Equus Chambers.

    He was remanded in custody at Hakea prison, where he remains.

    Mr Tsvetnenko faced a bail application hearing at Perth Magistrates Court last week.

    The decision was reserved until Tuesday.

    The US Attorney’s Southern District Office of New York charged Mr Tsvetnenko with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud, one count of wire fraud, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, in 2016.

    But extradition arrest warrant proceedings against him didn’t begin until recently. Each count carries a maximum 20-year jail sentence.

    Whereas he once rubbed shoulders with Hollywood stars and music moguls, Mr Tsvetnenko is residing with the likes of accused Claremont serial killer Bradley Robert Edwards in Hakea prison.

    It’s a volatile environment, where Mr Tsvetnenko is holed up with many prisoners suffering drug withdrawals and mental health issues. His arrest came at the end of a tumultuous year, which saw him split with his wife of 10 years.

    Mr Tsvetnenko’s Subiaco bar Voyeur, which he co-owns with Adultshop.com founder Malcolm Day, was targeted by arsonists twice in one week last month.

    The total damage was estimated at $350,000.

    CCTV footage showed three men dousing the inside of the bar with an accelerant before setting the floor on fire.

    Australia can accept a provisional arrest request from the US because it is an extradition country under the Extradition Act.

    Mr Tsvetnenko will only be granted bail if there are special circumstances that justify his release.

    Authorities in the US have between 46 and 60 days from when Mr Tsvetnenko was arrested to make an extradition request to Australia.

    If an extradition request is not received within that time, Mr Tsvetnenko can apply to a magistrate to be released from custody or “discharged of the recognisances on which bail was granted”.

    The Southern District of New York US Attorney’s Office alleges that Mr Tsvetnenko took part in “auto-subscribing”, the practice of charging customers for unsolicited premium text messages from April 2012 to about mid-2013.

    It is alleged users were charged about $13 a month for content including horoscopes, celebrity gossip and trivia.

    The amount was allegedly automatically included in their phone bills.

    The US Department of Justice alleged Mr Tsvetnenko had seven co-conspirators in the scheme.

    Prosecutors said the scheme was headed by Dampier-born Darcy Wedd, the chief operating officer of Mobile Messenger, which is an American aggregation company in the mobile phone industry.

    He was also a movie producer involved with actors including Susan Sarandon, Courteney Cox and Sharon Stone.

    Wedd was sentenced in Manhattan Federal Court to a 10-year jail term plus three years of supervised release, in April last year. Mobile Messenger worked with content providers such as Tatto Media which sent consumers the unwanted text messages.

    Tatto Media was operated by co-conspirator Lin Miao who told the court, during Webb’s trial in December 2017, they copied some of their best content from Mr Tsvetnenko.

    The US Department of Justice and Australian Federal Police have been contacted for comment.

    Lydia Tsvetnenko declined to comment yesterday.
    stb2 likes this.

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    @starrdust possibly an IRS scammer who offered you millions. You don't mess with Acid Queen


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