- By Eliot Kleinberg Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
While Tamara Filippova sat in her house in Siberia, her son-in-law in Palm Beach Gardens used her name to create a real estate world that defrauded her of more than $8 million, her lawyers say in a federal lawsuit filed this week.
The 21-count, 158-page suit against Ilia Mogilevsky, which cites the federal Civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), claims “a pattern of rackeetering activity” by Mogilevsky since 2007 “which has caused millions of dollars of losses to not only plaintiff but to others.”
It says Mogilevsky “has a long history and persistence for committing real estate frauds.”
The lawsuit also asks for injunctions to keep him from disposing of scores of contested properties in Palm Beach County and across South Florida.
The filing is the latest legal trouble for both Mogilevsky, 40, and his wife Natalia, 39. On Nov. 11, she was arrested, charged with biting her husband’s wrist in front of the couple’s children, ages 12 and 3, at their BallenIsles Country Club home. The domestic battery charges are pending. The couple, immigrants from Russia, had filed for divorce nine days earlier, on Nov. 2.
The previous year, the two had settled a Palm Beach County Circuit Court lawsuit by Gustav “Gus” Renny, himself a frequent investor and entrepreneur.
Renny, who’d been a partner with Ilia in a nightclub at 251 Sunrise Ave. in Palm Beach, was also a partner with the couple and relatives in at least 49 Florida corporations, most of them set up to flip South Florida real estate. Renny claimed that Ilia Mogilevsky hid most or all of 500-plus transactions from oversight, stiffing him out of what should have been 50 percent of profits. The couple later countersued Renny.
Gary Rosen, attorney for the mother-in-law, said Thursday he intends to forwarded his findings to the U.S. Attorney for possible criminal investigations.
While Filippova’s suit lists her daughter Natalia as a defendant, and alleges she helped her husband mislead her mother, Rosen said that Natalia “was duped by Ilia.”
And Stuart Kaplan, who represents Natalia in her domestic battery case, said she plans to countersue him in federal court, “now that we see the breadth of this alleged fraudulent activity.”
No local criminal charges ever have been filed against either Ilia or Natalia Mogilevsky as a result of any of the real estate dealings.
The new federal lawsuit repeats many allegations made both by Renny’s lawsuit and by Natalia Mogilevsky’s divorce filing. In it, she said she was a stay-at-home mom, at the insistence of her husband, who “has been secretive about his income, financial dealing, assets and liabilities.” She alleged Ilia “misappropriated, dissipated, hypothecated, secreted and/or removed funds and or assets.”
At the Nov. 12 bond hearing on the domestic battery arrest, attorney Kaplan told the judge the two fought because the husband had taken Natalia’s cellphones, obtained bank account passwords from them and cleaned out the couple’s accounts of $110,000.
Rosen said Tamara Filippova, whose husband had been a very successful businessman, and who visits the United States every few years, had been persuaded to invest in American properties. Palm Beach County property records show the mother-in-law as the buyer of the couple’s home in December 2013, at $2.05 million, and that she transferred it in April 2014 to a partnership of herself and Natalia.
Rosen said Filippova would wire money to her American bank accounts from her home in Irkutsk, Russia, and from Israel. The daughter then would use her power of attorney to buy properties for the mother. He said Ilia “was never supposed to own anything.” But, he alleged, Ilia accessed corporate records and changed all of them to make himself the owner.
The suit also claims Mogilevsky or his corporations defaulted on several mortgages, both before and after he began using his mother-in-law’s money, which caused banks to lose tens of thousands of dollars.
Mogilevsky filed in 2010 for federal bankrupcty protection, claiming assets of about $1 million and liabilities of the same. The filing was closed in April 2011. The new lawsuit claims Mogilevsky lied about his assets to the trustee to settle the case.
Rosen, of Palm Beach Gardens, said that after the November divorce filing, Ilia folded many of the Florida entities into two shell companies in Wyoming, because that state’s corporate laws made it easier to hide the corporations and their transactions from his wife and others.
The lawsuit alleges Ilia also forged Natalia’s signature on numerous documents transferring ownership to him, and then got associates to notarize or witness the fraudulent signatures.
It names Shlomo Ben Ishak, who Rosen identified as Ilia’s father and who lives in Israel. The suit said Ben Ishak was a partner with Ilia on some real estate entities.
It lists Frank Cavallino, a Palm Beach County friend of Ilia’s, who it says fraudulently clamed to have witnessed Natalia’s signature on a document transferring a property to her husband.
It makes the same allegation against Ilia’s former office manager, Erikah Bertoloti, of West Palm Beach, whom the suit calls “a paramour” of Ilia.
The suit lists four others in Palm Beach County that it says took part in notarizing fake documents: Kristin Demeritt and Stephanie Reeves, and the Leslie Robert Evans law firm and attorney Jason Evans.
Ben Ishak, contacted in Israel, said in broken English he did not know about the federal lawsuit. Reeves declined comment, as did both Bertoloti and her lawyer. The others did not return calls made to them or their lawyers.
The suit also names a “Jane Doe #1,” an attorney it does not identify but who it claims took part in the fraud. It does not elaborate.
Calls to phone numbers for Ilia Mogilevsky either were not returned or the number was disconnected. Attorney Doug Duncan, who has represented Ilia Mogilevsky in the past, and Mark Luttier, Ilia’s divorce attorney, did not return calls. Krista Barth, who’s representing Natalia in the divorce, said it wouldn’t be appropriate to comment on the divorce, and that she’s not involved in the federal lawsuit.