Isaac Feldman raises a glass of champagne and sneers at the camera. The Russian émigré, a pudgy 49-year-old with pockmarked skin and thinning brown hair, wears a black suit as he hams through a monologue in a conference room shaded by heavy red curtains.

"I do eet for the money," he says, his thick accent stretching short i's into long e's. "You shouldn't be surprised. I loooove money. I love money more than the things eet can buy."

He stares for a moment at the fizzing drink in his right hand and then continues with a sinister grin: "There is only one thing I love more: other people's money."

Feldman uploaded the video to YouTube in March 2010, but his words — dialogue taken from the Danny DeVito film Other People's Money — seem prophetic today.

Federal prosecutors indicted Feldman and 14 other Eastern Europeans last Friday with engineering one of the most spectacular frauds in the Magic City's long history of strange crimes. They allegedly set up six Potemkin nightclubs in South Beach and employed a squad of young Estonian and Latvian beauties to lure well-off male tourists inside. Bartenders then pillaged their credit cards for up to $43,000, including $5,000 for cheap bottles of champagne.

Feldman was, in a way, the star of the show — the most public figure involved in the scam, which made headlines from Vancouver to Moscow. A former Russian-language radio show host, wealthy real estate agent, and aspiring actor who had appeared on Burn Notice and America's Most Wanted, he had raised thousands of dollars last fall in a bid for the City of Sunny Isles Beach Commission. Feldman also spoke four languages, flew planes, and studied karate.

So how in the name of Putin did he end up in a Russian gang scamming tourists in SoBe?

"He didn't seem like the conniving criminal type," says Paul Yavis, his campaign manager. "He's a fun-loving guy that's really plugged into the Russian community here."

Feldman left the motherland for Israel, where he studied electronics and Hebrew at a military school, and then landed in South Florida in the mid-'80s. His timing was great. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Moscow's new oligarchs began looking for warmer, safer places to invest. Sunny Isles Beach became Little Moscow.

He founded a firm, ERA Nations Realty, that by the mid-'90s had eight agents who spoke fluent Russian. Soon he was selling millions in condos every year. He apparently didn't ask much about the source of his clients' wealth. "Things are fast and loose over there," Feldman told the Miami Herald in 1996, referring to the new Russia. "That some people operate by not paying taxes and duties and paying some bribes, yes, that could be."

Feldman also ran a Russian-American cultural center and hosted a Russian-language radio show on 1080 AM. After Sunny Isles incorporated in 1997, Feldman won an appointment to advise Mayor Norman Edelcup about community activities.

He also joined the Screen Actors Guild. This side career started with TV spots for his realty company and moved into Russian-language infomercials and gigs in low-budget films. He eventually even earned bit parts on two episodes of Burn Notice, once playing a befuddled bank manager taken hostage.

Feldman and his wife Inna divorced in 2000, splitting custody of their two daughters, Diana and Michelle. He remarried five years later to a pretty Israeli named Raisa Jakobov. Later that year, the couple bought a 4,344-square-foot, $1.2 million, six-bedroom house in Sunny Isles.

When Feldman decided last summer to join a three-way race for an open commission seat, no one seemed shocked. He raised $8,100, tapping some big names including RK Management, a realty company owned by Miami Heat limited partner Raanan Katz. He printed ads in Russian and plastered red-white-and-blue signs around town. In the November vote, he nabbed 26 percent but fell short of a runoff. "We will win the next elections!" he promised on his Facebook page.

But behind the scenes — far from the campaign trail, the acting gigs, and the enthusiastic smile — Feldman's life was falling apart. In 2007, Raisa filed for divorce. In a mediated settlement, Feldman agreed to give his second ex-wife a 2005 Lexus, a stash of paintings, and $190,000.

His business, meanwhile, seems to have tanked in the global recession. Shady rubles were no longer falling from the sky. The condo market crashed.

Feldman stopped paying the mortgage on his mansion — which was $400,000 underwater anyway. In January 2009, a bank moved to foreclose. Wachovia sued him for more than $160,000 after he stopped paying on another loan. Raisa, too, filed suit when he didn't fork over the divorce settlement. In September 2009, he filed for bankruptcy.

By the following February, Feldman was desperate. In court papers, he said Raisa's settlement should be voided because he had "suffered severe financial reversals." His realty company was shuttered, he said, and he'd soon lose his home.

Feldman, by all accounts, was a proud man. He had bragged to Yavis about turning $6 million in commissions. "He thought extremely highly of himself," says Julia Rossina, marketing director of Florida Russian Magazine, based in Aventura.

And through his work, he might have known Russians with less savory connections. Could he have been looking for a quick way out of his troubles? "I wouldn't be surprised if these guys came to him and said, 'Hey, help us out and we can get you out of this mess,'" Yavis says.

Whatever the motive, Feldman's secret underworld life apparently began unraveling last September.

That's when a local cop — posing undercover as a corrupt officer working as a bouncer — spotted Feldman inside an anonymous-looking club near Washington Avenue and Sixth Street called Stars Lounge. The place, the cop had found, wasn't really a bar at all. Sure, it was stocked with bottles of liquor, but many were purchased for five or six bucks at a local CVS. It had lights, tables, and bartenders, but the man running the joint, a 29-year-old from Aventura named Albert Takhalov, had very specific instructions for his bouncer.

Only one kind of customer was allowed in: single men accompanied by glamorous women, whom a federal indictment calls Takhalov's "B-girls." They were a team of hot Eastern European women sent out to prowl nearby hotels and bars. They'd been carefully trained at clubs in Estonia to spot their marks: single tourists wearing nice watches or expensive shoes.

One such sucker was a traveler from Texas whom prosecutors call "K.W." On October 12, he was hanging out at the Delano Hotel when two girls who said they were from Finland started drinking with him. They persuaded him to accompany them to Stars Lounge, where he soon felt strangely drunk. The next morning, he woke up at the Delano with a splitting headache and no memory of how he'd gotten back to the hotel. He checked his account and found Stars had charged him more than $3,000.

Dozens of tourists were similarly scammed by the B-girls and the men who set up the fake clubs where they worked, prosecutors say.

Feldman's precise role isn't spelled out in the 41-page indictment filed April 15, but the undercover cop had no doubt the realtor was helping the schemers. He repeatedly saw Feldman with Takhalov at Stars Lounge, and on September 16, he listened as the two men talked about credit card machines. The credit companies recently had canceled their accounts because of fraud complaints.

A woman named Svetlana Coughlan told the cop that Feldman had recruited her to cook the bar's books, and Takhalov said he'd brought in Feldman as co-owner of Stars. Feldman even asked the undercover agent to run background checks on the B-girls — emphasizing he shouldn't use official Miami Beach channels.

On April 5, FBI agents swarmed Feldman's small condo in a three-story building in Bal Harbour. He, along with the 14 others, is charged with felony fraud. Through his attorney, Myles Malman, Feldman declined to comment. "He has pleaded not guilty and maintains his innocence," Malman says.

In Sunny Isles, his friends and family are still trying to figure out what happened.

"He is a good friend, a good father, and a very good person," Raisa Feldman says in an email from Haifa, Israel, where she lives now. "I guess he was in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Yavis, though, wonders if he should have seen something else. "Not many people can make $6 million in a year and be totally legit," he says. "Who really knows what's in someone else's heart?"

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35 comments
Shorty1234567
Shorty1234567

Isaac is a great loving man !!!!!!! Hes far from what this media is saying about him they just dont know the isaac that everyone knows ! "The loving kind hearted isaac that would give his family and friends the world" Just because this stupid media is talking nonsense so everybody wants to go by what the media has to say only isaac's TRUE friends and his family has his support 100% ! All u other as we call it "FAKE" friends need to move on with ur life because isaac needs positive energy ! U need to becarful who ur "friends" with u cant trust anybody only yourself. Hes the kindest person in the world that just wants good for everybody! Pray for him and show ur suport he will make it through this horrible case! LOVE YOU!!! <3 We are all here for you! Like they say dont "Judge a book by its cover".

Shorty1234567
Shorty1234567

u know what fuk u ! bastard !!! u cant say isaac is guilty were u there?? nooo u just hear what this stupid media has to say!!!!!!!!! ok get your facts right !! How u know isaac knew about this?? were u behind him the whole time?? DUMMASS! People like u need to go to jail for "hate" i swear isaac is a great and loving man he would never do this in his life all he did was give everyone everything he had he would never commit something like this if u knew isaac u know what i mean !!!!! He will win this terrible thing and and all of u will feel stupid.....ISAAC IS A GREAT MAN WITH A BIG LOVING HEART HE DOESINT DESIRVE THIS!!!!!!!

Shorty1234567
Shorty1234567

Thats right i agree with you 100 percent!!!!!!

Nuno Bojar
Nuno Bojar

Now that I know that SoBe stands for South Beach, I will stop purchasing their products.

Michael Wind
Michael Wind

felman was a well connected person with russian mob,if you forensik on his real estate business then you will find them....

Shorty1234567
Shorty1234567

r u serious?????? ur a complete idiot!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Isaac is a great man only dealing with great people !!! never was he invovled in this crazy shit anyone that knew isaac knows he would have done anything for anybody he never let anyone pay a dime when he took them out hes a kind hearted person! u need to close ur mouth because u dont know what ur talking about.

Classaction3
Classaction3

hey did feldman line up some of his bimbos to say nice things about him? nice try but u r not fooling anyone

Shorty1234567
Shorty1234567

Did he line up some bimbos to say nice things about him???? Are u an idiot?? U defently dont know isaac !!!! Hes a loving caring man with a big heart he would do anything for anyone hes the last person that needs this shit! so u can stop hating and go do something better with ur life....

TRUTH
TRUTH

This guy is a crook. No doubt his buisiness partners are too, but this isn' t the only scam he's had... i hear also an "investor" in a russian massage parlor. Cmon! If u didnt know he was durty ur a idiot... if u did.. you must be durty too.

Shorty1234567
Shorty1234567

ur a moron!! u defently dont know isaac! hes a loving and caring man with a big heart all he did was help people around him !!!!!

Shorty1234567
Shorty1234567

A crook??? r u serious??? ur just a dummazz u dont know isaac then! Isaac never in his life would do such a thing! Everyone that knew isaac knows that he would always take people out not let them pay he would always pay n hes a crook??? shame on u too even open ur mouth and say something like that! u need to close your mouth u werent there all u here is about what this media has to say !

Dimitry
Dimitry

WHO TAKES THIS PAPER SERIOUSLY? NEWTIMES IS INTENDED FOR PAIN PILL ADDICTS , PROSTITUTES & OTHER SCAMS.

Painting an ugly picture takes less effort, doesnt it?

Issac good luck brother

carter j burke
carter j burke

The Russian "business community" is what we can expect if the conservatives get the laissez-faire, unregulated, untaxed Ayn Randian Libertarian environment they want. Nothing personal, you understand, It's just business.

Fitness Malishka
Fitness Malishka

I don't know the person who wrote this BS article. But I know Isaac for 10 years, he is my good friend, hardworking person, great father, very kind and nice person. He does not live in mansion! lol it's a regular middle income house. Yes, people have financial problems these days, who does not? Thank's to government!!! Isaac just made stupid decision by associating himself with few russian crooks. He was investor only and I don't believe he knew what was happenning. If you ever had a business partner in your life, you would know what I am talking about... Isaac is a good person!!!

Shorty1234567
Shorty1234567

Agreed isaac is an exellent person all he did was help everyone around him !

Ccmfx1
Ccmfx1

Isaac is a bullshit artist and a scam maker he will get 5 to 10 years for this case my crystal ball says so

Shorty1234567
Shorty1234567

Ur just a negative and cruel person ! isaac is a caring and loving man if you knew him u would know what im talking about all he did was HELP EVERYBODY AROUND HIM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So close ur mouth because u dont know what ur talking about ! stupid people ...

yokolee
yokolee

Issac I hope you loooove the prison, eet will loooove your ass

Shorty1234567
Shorty1234567

ur just a stupid dummazz !! ur words are pathetic ! i hope karma gets u back ;) Isaac is a loving and caring man he will win this crazy thing and i will come back to this page and laugh in ur face!!!! ISAAC IS INNOCENT ! HE HAS A BIG HEART ALL HE DID WAS HELP EVERYONE AROUND HIM! and you are just a negitive person that he and all of us need to stay away from ONLY POSITIVE ENERGY! thank you .. haha dummsss!

Jf32ws
Jf32ws

I commend the local undercover cop for the great job. Nice police work.

Jf32ws
Jf32ws

Funny, my 30-year old niece, who is a lawyer with a MBA, whose father is a wealthy businessman and diplomat in Brazil, couldn't get an American Visa to spend money in the US with the rest of the family, during a holiday. After she had been in the US twice already. Now answer me, how these bankrupt Eurotrash get a Visa? Latvia and Estonia? I know what why, as soon as the Americans see or hear an European, they immediately assume they're bfd. Go ahead, give Visa to crooks, instead. No, better yet, work your tails off to pay welfare to 30 million illegals.

Hank
Hank

Latvia And Estonia are members of the European Union and they don't have to get a visa to visit the USA, they come the same as the British, French and Germans. The Russian are a greater threat to the world now than when it was the Soviet Union.

Florida Resident
Florida Resident

Honestly this was happening to all kinds of people and the fact of the matter is that it's wrong!!

Maybe he should have really looked into who he was associating with seeing as society will group you with whomever your around most frequently.

Cut the sympathy card crap its lame!!

He knew what was going on and having stayed around it makes him just as guilty if not more.

My friends were hit by this exact same group in January when they were down for a tournament and watching them go through that experience and not knowing what happened to them on a Saturday because they had been drugged and left to fend for themselves late Friday was really bad.

They are guilty!! They got caught!! They should all get jailed or deported screw em' that is not what we need here!!

Robdunakin
Robdunakin

way to go Tim! I got to this article via Yahoo!

Michael Wind
Michael Wind

now lets see who he did business with pull all his deals and you will discover what is the deal,all the flipping thats been done in the last 7 years and who these people are and give this man imunity to rat all the bad people out after all now everybody will be togheter in jail,and this man can live in arizona under a new name,the buses are coming for them,its just a matter of time,sunny isles beach and bal harbour have hundreds of illegal businesses and corrupt people in the.....

Shoosha97
Shoosha97

What a shame to media! I don't know where this "writer" got this BS. Isaac is one of the nices people among Russian community. I know him for more than 16 years. Great family man, good realtor, always willing to help people. Shame on you, Mr.-never-be-Hemingway!

Samantha
Samantha

Hello people!!! What happened to being innocent until proven guilty? It seems easier to mess up a person's life because he is well known in the community. Isaac is known for his good heart and generosity. He is well known in the Russian and Sunny Isles community, and the fact is that there is NOTHING bad that can be said about him!!!!!Very smart on behalf of the editor to write terrible things about a person he doesn'nt even know? Shame on him! Why didn't he ask around Sunny Isles about Issac Feldman? what about the Russian immigrants who come to Isaac for support and guidence for FREE on a regular basis???

kurtnmia
kurtnmia

Cubans pull same types of why aren't they in jail?

Porvo
Porvo

Perhaps the Cubans are smarter

 Kevin
Kevin

It's who you know, how much money is involved, and WHO is involved. Cuban's, Italian's, Mexican's , Russian's and so many other cultures do the same thing. It gives our people a disgustig stereotype for others to point at us. We should see these things as a group of people and not as a race. They don't speak or act for me or you, who have more important things on our minds than how to to something stupid.

InternetForCuba
InternetForCuba

So does every other clever bloke... Don't play the finger pointing game.

opinion1
opinion1

What a shocker. A Russian fraudSTAR living in Sunny Isles Beach. Gee, I wonder how many of the Russians living there have a LEGITIMATE source of income? Maybe....ZERO!

opinion1
opinion1

What a shocker. A Russian fraudSTAR living in Sunny Isles Beach. Gee, I wonder how many of the Russians living there have a LEGITIMATE source of income? Maybe....ZERO!

Vl2100
Vl2100

I am Russian and live in Sunny Isles. All Russians I know are hard workers! Most of them well better educated than you are and this is the reason why they make more money than you do. So, don't be jelous, just try harder.

 
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