Russian in hacking probe linked to alt-right stock fraud
Pavel ‘Red Eye’ Vrublevsky, a Russian businessman under investigation in the FBI’s probe of Russian hacking in the 2016 Presidential election, shared a business address in John Gotti’s former stronghold of Howard Beach, Queens with a company led by a Tampa Mobster convicted in the “alt-right” stock fraud ring run by Sarasota’s own Andrew Badolato, business partner and Breitbart collaborator of Trump advisor Steve Bannon.
In 2003-2004, Pavel Vrublevsky’s RE Partners LLC listed its business address as 158-49 90th St, a single family residence in Howard Beach the Russians shared with a company involved in pornography and cyber crime, Blue Moon Group Inc..
Got a ‘high sign’ to ‘back up a truck’
During the time in question Blue Moon Group was a subsidiary of Genesisintermedia, a company being used by notorious Saudi arms dealer and ‘fixer’ Adnan Khashoggi to pull off a massive $300 million stock fraud.
The resulting scandal, known as STOCKWALK, grew to become the biggest brokerage bankruptcy in American history at that time, and a sheepish German Deutsche Bank was forced to pay a record $278 million penalty to avoid criminal prosecution in the U.S.
When not under indictment Saudi wheeler-dealer Khashoggi winters in Palm Beach, one of Donald Trump’s original “Palm Beach homies,” and is similarly fabulous. The men have been friends and associates for decades. When Khashoggi needed cash, he sold Trump his magnificent yacht at a bargain-basement price.
It’s a rich stew: a hacker with ties to Russian security and organized crime; an American Mobster involved with an alt-right stock fraudster business partner of Steve Bannon; a Saudi fixer and friend of The Donald with decades-long roots in American scandal.
They belong to a charmed circle of people that fiscal watchdogs seem to have given the ‘high sign’ to “back up a truck.”
Hacker, Cyberspy, & Snitch ‘Working Off a Beef’
Pavel Vrublevsky’s name first hit the news when the Russian election hacking scandal took off in September of last year when the United States accused a Russian citizen named Vladimir Fomenko of committing a cyber attack on electoral systems in Arizona and Illinois. The attack was carried out from servers Fomenko rented from a Dutch company controlled by Vrublevsky.
More recently Vrublevsky found himself at the heart of the mysterious cyber-treason purge currently roiling Moscow. He is said to have fingered three top Russian cyber-security officials as disloyal to the Kremlin. The men were arrested in dramatic fashion in December; one was dragged out of a meeting with a bag over his head.
His relationships with high-ranking Russian officials were laid out in “Spam Nation,” a recent book by cybersecurity expert Brian Krebs, who places him in the dead center of the current international scandal involving the hacking of U.S. state electoral boards in Arizona and Illinois, the sacking of Russia’s top cybercrime investigators, and efforts to plug the leaks of unflattering data on Russia’s most powerful politicians.
Vrublevsky’s growing notoriety led to closer scrutiny by cyber security researchers, one of whom discovered that his RE (for Red Eye) & Partners LLC shared more than just a business address with American Mob host Mike Muzio.
Muzio was profiled in recent investigative reporting in this space, so the researcher got in touch.
“I’m seen, therefore I am.”
Vrublevsky and the Russians had provided hosting services and payment processing for porn sites and phishing scams, he said, for Muzio’s Blue Moon crew, which ran a number of porn websites, including an inglorious site in Tampa called VoyeurDorm.com.
Voyeurdorm.com’s “value proposition” included rigging a so-called “dorm” with forty cameras, and filming the supposed co-eds who lived there twenty-four hours a day, for the edification of anyone with $34. a month.
It achieved a certain fame when the site’s deep-pocketed backers filed and then won a federal lawsuit preventing the city of Tampa from closing down, for being an adult business in a residential neighborhood, the girls’ “dorm.”
It was after this victory that some say the “adult” component of the web truly took flight.
Business at VoyeurDorm.com must have really been booming, because in January 2003 Muzio’s Blue Moon Group Inc., supposedly in the music industry, issued a press release touting major purchases.
An “epic day enhancing corporate value”
Had they signed a hot new band? Opened their own recording studio? Not exactly. They announced they’d bought Elvis’ old piano. For $685,000.
“Blue Moon Group Inc. (OTC Bulletin Board: BMOO) based in Howard Beach, NY. has announced they have acquired Elvis Presley’s Grand Piano, as well as other collectible mint condition musical assets including: Presley’s 1966 Gibson electric guitar, his red shirt from the movie “Spinout,” and a RCA portable tube radio given to Elvis by RCA in 1955. Blue Moon also bought both Bo Diddley’s Thunderbird guitar and Stevie Ray Vaughan’s stratocaster guitar in a deal which the release stated “was appraised at between $1.2 and $1.3 million dollars.”
“Mike Muzio, President of Blue Moon Group, Inc. said, “My background is on Wall Street and today, running a music company is strictly business and entertainment combined. A sound American company like BMOO has to have assets to insure its stockholders security of investment. This is an epic day for the company; the acquisition represents Blue Moon music group’s company image and enhances corporate value in a unique fashion.”
Blue Moon’s glee was short-lived. At least for investors.
Tampa Mob meets the alt-Right
Andy Badolato’s penchant for serial stock fraud and his partnership with Steve Bannon came to light when his Sarasota pad became the hasty replacement for a vacant house in Miami where London’s Guardian newspaper revealed Bannon was registered to vote.
“That Casey Key home puts Steve Bannon on Main Street here in downtown Sarasota,” reported the Sarasota Herald Tribune.
“Andy Badolato, owner of the $1.4 million home, is named “VP Marketing and Business Development of Victory Film Group as well as Associate Producer of Bannon’s ‘The Undefeated,” in a press release which quotes Glenn Bracken Evans, Victory Film Group co-founder. The other co-founder? Steve Bannon.”
Badolato’s sudden notoriety led to investigative reporting in this space documenting particulars of his partnership with Bannon in a series of dubiously-legal ventures, during his astonishing decade-long career of unpunished stock fraud.
Alt-right beachcomber and serial stock fraudster Andrew Badolato’s various public companies all floundered like unwanted babies exposed to die on a cliff…
especially his partnerships with Mike Muzio.
Muzio belongs to what was once Santo Trafficante’s Tampa Mob, which author and keen local observer Scott Deitche dubbed the Cigar Store Mafia. Muzio even owned a cigar store.
Part of the proceeds from Badolato’s alt-right stock fraud ring was used to buy interests in a nightclub, as well as a cigar business, according to the indictment charging Muzio with conspiracy to commit securities fraud and money laundering.
International Business Ventures hits the rocks
Andy Badolato and Mike Muzio were partners and joined forces to successfully steer a company they controlled called International Business Ventures Group (IBVG) onto the rocks after a brief but troubled business life.
The company was forced to face problems most new concerns never encounter. The simultaneous incarceration of company officers, for example, when Muzio and two other company officers went to prison at the same time. Abner Alabre of Miramar pled guilty to conspiracy to commit securities fraud. Brian Taglieri of Jupiter and Ronnie Bass Jr. of Miramar pled guilty to the same charge.
Federal authorities said the three, along with Mike Muzio. ran a Ponzi scheme that that promised investors up to a 100 percent return in just 90 days, defrauding Haitian-American investors of more than $6 million.
Muzio conned clients into purchasing stock in International Business Ventures Group by lying about the company’s success and manipulating the market to make it appear as if the company was actively trading.
“The purpose of the scheme was for the defendants and their accomplices to unjustly enrich themselves by misappropriating money from the investors for their personal use by means of materially false and fraudulent misrepresentations and omissions.”
In August 2006 Muio had been convicted in New York State Court of grand larceny and was serving probation when arrested for the IBVG stock fraud, for which he was sentenced to 13 years in prison.
Curiously, Badolato, the Senior Vice President of Corporate Finance, remained free. Suspicions that Badolato has a hall pass from the FBI were widespread.
“Confidential Informants” an invitation to corruption?
Pavel Vrublevsky and Andy Badolato share crucial similarities. One example: the same suspicions voiced about Badolato swirl around Vrublevsky. He, too, is said, in criminal parlance, to be “working off a beef.”
When Vrublevsky found himself convicted of unrelated charges, cybersecurity expert Brian Krebs suspected the suspicious circumstances under which he received an early release from prison involved going to work undercover for the Russian government.
Indeed, to anyone contemplating leaking information hostile to Putin’s Kremlin regarding possible Russian hacking of the U.S. Presidential election, the thought of someone putting a bag over your head and frog-marching you away in front of your co-workers to cold-as-ice Lubyanka prison seems designed to urge interested parties into—at the very least—giving the matter further thought.
Vrublevsky’s accusations have apparently had a chilling effect in Moscow. Today he exhibits the confidence of a man assured of political protection, and guaranteed freedom from local law enforcement. He vehemently denies knowledge or association with Russian hacking, in any form, of the U.S. presidential election.
Then where do rumors of his involvement originate? Vrublevsky maintained he made enemies of people in high places in Russia. That explanation, observers note, hardly squares with being let out of prison early.
No “I” in TEAM
Mike Muzio, Andy Badolato, and Pavel Vrublevsky each belong to an intentionally-unnamed network, in whose (anonymous) name they beavered away, at least until their names came to light once too often, cogs in the gears of transnational organized crime.
Mike Muzio, for example, ran porn sites and ripped off investors on behalf of the Tampa Mob. Although he’s incorporated dozens and dozens of companies in Florida, it seems unlikely— certainly not from his mug shot—that he’s just an over-enthusiastic entrepreneur. A partial list of companies he’s incorporated includes:
D3 ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING LLC; BUSINESS CENTERS INTERNATIONAL, BLUE MOON RECORDS GROUP, INC, BODY LIFE SCIENCES, INC., ELS INTERNATIONAL GROUND TRANSPORTATION, INC., E-VIEW THIS.COM, INC.I.C.S.A. MANAGEMENT CORPORATION, K & M MARKETING ENTERPRISES INC.; MUZIO’S COLLECTION AGENCY, INC., MIAMI FASHION CONNECTION; BMOO ACQUISITIONS; FLORIDA PAIN AND INJURY, CASA HAVANA, MLA HOLDINGS, FINE ART & CIGARS, WORLD BOXING NETWORK, NO-SWEAT SPORTSWEAR, CIGARS GONE WILD INC., WALL STREET DAILY PRESS
He’s not an amateur, but a professional fraudster. He’s been involved in 26 civil cases. He’s filed for bankruptcy numerous times: in 1993, 1998, and 2002. And he’s appealed civil judgments and criminal convictions to the U.S. Court of Appeals on four separate occasions.
These networks richly merit being tagged “a continuing criminal conspiracy;” a phrase used often by Federal prosecutors, except in cases when—seemingly inexplicably—they are not.
Among the criminal enterprises these unnamed networks engage in most often—the bread-and-butter plays for when they really need a two-point conversion—are financial fraud—already described here—and drug trafficking.
Example: Three of Andy Badolato’s business partners— Jonathan Curshen & Michael Muzio, today in federal prison for their roles in organized crime, as well as the recently-deceased Frank Musolino, were involved in the drug trafficking organization (or DTO, in the DEA’s ever-changing terminology) based in St. Petersburg, Florida that owned a DC-9 busted in the Yucatan in the biggest drug seizure on an airplane in Mexican history. Authorities discovered 5.5 tons of cocaine.
The drug trafficking organization was being run by the same man who owned Mike Muzio’s Blue Moon Group.
His name, of course, is Adnan Khashoggi.