When Natalia Mogilevsky was charged on Veterans Day with biting her husband’s wrist at their BallenIsles Country Club home, it let the world in on a tale of divorce filings, allegations of adultery, corporate spying and financial double-dealing, all nested together like the figures inside a Russian Matryoshka doll.
The Palm Beach Gardens woman appeared the next morning in front of a judge. Also there, in casual garb, were her private attorney and her husband’s. That the men were two of Palm Beach County’s higher-profile defense lawyers was just the start.
Stuart Kaplan stood next to Natalia and made a stunning claim: that his client and her husband fought because Ilia Mogilevsky had taken Natalia’s cellphones, obtained bank account passwords from them and cleaned out the couple’s accounts of $110,000.
“There’s an ongoing investigation right now,” Kaplan told The Palm Beach Post on Tuesday. He did not say by whom or otherwise elaborate.
Attorney Doug Duncan, representing Ilia Mogilevsky, did not speak at the hearing. He has not responded to a subsequent request for comment.
The legal matter was not the first for the Mogilevskys. Nor was it the first time they have been in the news.
Ilia Mogilevsky was a part-owner of a Palm Beach night club, and the couple, immigrants from Russia, are connected to dozens of Florida corporations, most of them set up to flip Florida real estate. This year, Ilia bought a condo in a tower near Miami Beach with a familiar name: Trump Tower III.
A former business partner of the Mogilevskys is Gustav “Gus” Renny, himself a frequent investor and entrepreneur. Renny and Ilia Mogilevsky had been owners, with a third partner, of a nightclub at 251 Sunrise Ave. in Palm Beach. Renny said they also were partners in numerous real estate investments.
Two years ago, Renny sued the Mogilevskys, claiming they and their relatives hid some real estate transactions from oversight. And from him. They sued him back.
Palm Beach Gardens police say Natalia bit her husband Saturday in front of their children, ages 12 and 3. The police report said Natalia told officers, “I’m going to be arrested because I bit him a little.”
In court Sunday, the 39-year-old woman was released on her own recognizance, but Judge Gregory Keyser conditioned that on her having no contact with Ilia. When Keyser included, for now, no contact with her children, Natalia buried her face in her hands. It’s not known if either the husband or children were in the courtroom.
Police said neither person had a prior history of domestic violence. What they did have a history of, even if just for nine days, was a divorce filing.
Natalia Mogilevsky’s divorce lawsuit, filed Nov. 2 in Palm Beach County Circuit Court, contends that, at her husband’s insistence, she was a stay-at-home mom. It says Ilia “has been secretive about his income, financial dealing, assets and liabilities.” She alleges Ilia “misappropriated, dissipated, hypothecated, secreted and/or removed funds and or assets.”
She’s not alone. Renny sued in December 2015, naming the couple, their parents and no fewer than 49 corporate entities. The Mogilevskys countersued in January 2016.
Renny contended Ilia transferred 28 properties out of their partnership to stiff Renny out what should have been a 50 percent share of their profits. Lawyers for the Mogilevskys responded that the partnership was “imaginary” and no paperwork supported its existence. They also said Renny had no proof for his claims of fraud.
Local court records show no criminal charges ever were filed against either Mogilevsky.
Renny also contended he caught an office administrator of the partnership pressing her cellphone to his door to record his conversations. He said Ilia told him the woman had said she was just trying to learn the business, not spy on anyone, and Ilia refused to fire her, instead paying her salary out of his own pocket. Renny alleged he later learned the woman was “in an inappropriate relationship” with Ilia and that Ilia had paid her to spy on Renny.
Lawyers for the Mogilevskys responded that Renny had no expectation of privacy in the office.
Renny has had his own legal troubles. In addition to business-related lawsuits and traffic tickets, court records show he was arrested in 2012 and charged with aggravated stalking and violating a domestic-violence injunction. Records show both charges were reduced to misdemeanors. The stalking charge was dropped. In the violation of injunction, adjudication was withheld in exchange for Renny being sentenced to one year of probation.
According to Renny’s lawsuit, when he partnered with Ilia Mogilevsky in 2009, he was embroiled in another lawsuit and recently had filed for bankruptcy protection.
Renny said Ilia warned his bad credit rating would drag down the partnership. He contended Ilia persuaded him to leave his name off everything and set up a corporation in the name of Natalia and her mother, even through they would have no role in the partnership. The mother, in fact lives most of the time in Irkutsk, in southeastern Siberia, Renny’s suit said.
It said Ilia told Renny that Natalia’s mother could be used to take advantage of a lending program for foreign nationals.
“Ilia has repeatedly used his mother-in-law Tamara as a straw person to either hide Ilia’s involvement, protect Ilia from liability, or to hide assets from Ilia’s creditors,” the lawsuit said.
Court records show Ilia himself filed for federal Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in 2010. A 2012 settlement says he abandoned $1 million in assets, paid claimants $319,721, and discharged $1.75 million in claims.
Renny’s lawsuit said the partners bought and sold numerous properties between 2012 and 2014, especially targeting investors from Argentina.
It said Ilia also used the partnership to buy, renovate and decorate his BallenIsles home, paying from his own pocket only the mortgage, taxes and insurance. County property records show the mother-in-law bought the home in December 2013 for $2.05 million and transferred it in April 2014 for $13,325, via a “quit-claim” deed, to a partnership of herself and Natalia.
Renny’s suit claimed said that in the fall of 2015, the two planned to end their partnership, and Ilia presented “sham accounting” to show a net loss, even though records showed most of the 500-plus transactions were done at a profit.
The suit was settled in November 2016. Neither side admitted fault. The Mogilevskys kept two properties, relinquished a third and paid Renny $754,000. Tama Beth Kudman, one of the Mogilevsky lawyers in the Renny lawsuit, declined to comment. Attorneys for Renny did not return a call. Neither did Natalia’s lawyer in the divorce filing.
This year, Ilia created a holding company called Trump Real Estate Investments LLC to buy, for $1.1 million, a three-bedroom condominium on the 12th floor of an oceanfront complex in Sunny Isles Beach, just north of Miami Beach, Palm Beach attorney Les Evans confirmed. He handled the transaction for Mogilevsky.
The condo is called Trump Tower III. Evans said a developer several years ago paid Trump a licensing fee for naming rights.
Staff researcher Melania Mena contributed to this report