Official: Suspect in FBI sting pleads guilty in court

One of seven people charged in a coast-to-coast FBI operation pleaded guilty in a California courtroom Tuesday, according to officials.

Abraham Simmons, spokesman for U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, told News13 Peter Scalise will be sentenced on May 31.

“He pleaded open, which means that there was not much – there’s nothing in writing – and it’s just his agreement to plead guilty to the charges against him in the indictment,” Simmons explained.

Investigators arrested and charged Scalise with rackettering conspiracy, substantive racketeering, conspiracy to commit money laundering and 118 counts of substantive money laundering. The charges against Scalise, according to Haag, carry a maximum sentence of 2,420 years in prison.

In addition to Scalise, Vladimir Handl, Michael Rose, David Gaither, Richard Leyland, Edwin Hetherton and Paul Fink were indicted in the same operation for allegedly using business to operate what officials call an “elaborate money laundering scheme.”

“According to the indictment, Handl and Rose, along with their associates Scalise and Gaither, conspired to conduct the affairs of an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering involving money laundering, bank fraud and drug trafficking,” officials stated in an official press release.

Officials allege the men knowingly accepted more than $2.3 million they believed either had been fraudulently diverted from a bankruptcy court proceeding or constituted proceeds from drug trafficking, and then laundered the money through their businesses. Officials allege the actions occurred between 2011 and 2015, and involved Rose’s Gold Clubs.

“The indictment further alleges that as part of their laundering scheme, the defendants created fraudulent invoices, contracts and other business records to make it appear that the money they received and cleaned was for legitimate business transactions,” officials continued.

Investigators arrested and charged the six other men with the following:

Handl: Racketeering conspiracy, substantive racketeering, conspiracy to commit money laundering, 118 counts of substantive money laundering and conspiring to possess cocaine with intent to distribute. The charges against Handl carry a maximum sentence of 2,440 years in prison.

Rose: Racketeering conspiracy, substantive racketeering, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and 105 counts of substantive money laundering. The charges against Rose carry a maximum sentence of 2,160 years in prison.

Gaither: Racketeering conspiracy. The charge against Gaither carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.

Fink: Conspiring to possess cocaine with intent to distribute. The charge against Fink carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Leyland and Hetherton, according to officials, are charged in their own money laundering conspiracy. In addition to the conspiracy charge, Leyland is charged with four counts of substantive money laundering. Hetherton is charged with three counts of substantive money laundering. Both Leyland and Hetherton are also charged with theft of United States property.

The charges against Leyland and Hetherton carry a maximum sentence of 110 and 90 years in prison, respectively.

In March, Rose, Handl, Gather and Fink all pleaded not guilty to the charges in a California courtroom.

An indictment unsealed describes Handl and Rose as businessmen in Myrtle Beach whose interests included restaurants, night clubs, and strip clubs in several states.

“Handl operated and controlled businesses such as VIP Group, LLC, International VH, LLC, and Heat Lounge, LLC, while Rose operated and controlled defendant PML Clubs, Inc., along with Explosive Clubs, Inc., Nightclub and Restaurant Services, LLC, Legacy Entertainment, East Coast Restaurant & Nightclubs, and Micro Management Group, LLC,” an official press release stated. ” Rose, through PML Clubs, Inc., operated several strip clubs in South Carolina, Delaware, and New Hampshire under the name “The Gold Club.” Rose, through PML Clubs, Inc., also licensed the use of the name “The Gold Club” to franchisees throughout the United States.”

Officials say the indictments allege crimes have been committed, but maintains all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Officials say PML Clubs, Inc., could face a maximum fine of $250,000 for each of two racketeering-related charges, and $500,000 for each count of the 106 money laundering-related charges against it.

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