An Australian bigshot, who once partied with stars like Snoop Dogg, is facing extradition to the Big Apple over an alleged multi-million dollar texting scam, according to local reports.
Russian-born self-made millionaire Zhenya Tsvetnenko is facing up to 60 years in jail if he’s extradited and convicted for his alleged role in an “auto-subscribing scheme” that fleeced cellphone users out of nearly $200 million between 2011 and 2013, according to The Sunday Times.
The 39-year-old dad was charged in Manhattan federal court in 2016 with wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering — but the extradition arrest proceedings only began recently.
He’s accused of taking part in a scam that automatically charged cellphone users a $13 monthly fee for text messages that contained horoscopes, trivia and celebrity news — even if they’d never subscribed to the service.
The US Attorney’s Office said that cash was used to “fund a lavish lifestyle of expensive vacations and gambling” for Tsvetnenko and seven others involved.
Tsvetnenko went from college dropout to one of the richest men in Western Australia after inventing a computer program to automatically send SMS messages. In 2005, he launched an SMS Gateway service out of his bedroom and was raking in more than $4 million a month in less than two years, the newspaper reported.
The entrepreneur and his wife Lydia soon became known as the “Posh and Becks” of the Perth social scene, driving around in his-and-hers Lamborghini. Tsvetnenko even reportedly flew his wife to Hollywood for her 29th birthday, where rapper Snoop Dogg performed. The next year, he threw her a Las Vegas-themed 30th, that rapper Flo Rida reportedly flew in for.
But Tsvetnenko, who was arrested Dec. 20, denies 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 newspaper from behind bars at Hakea prison, via his spokeswoman Evelyn Duffy.
“I am not guilty of the alleged offences.”
Tsvetnenko will appear in Perth Magistrates Court Tuesday to hear whether he’ll be extradited.