He’s been called the “poster boy for the American Dream” — and for good reason. An immigrant kid from Brooklyn, he became general manager of a Nobody Beats the Wiz electronics store at 17. The business journal Inc. crowned his credit card processing business the fastest-growing company in America. And when that venture, Unified Payments, was bought out, the corporation that acquired it, Net Element, made him its CEO.
But he has also been arrested on a charge of mortgage fraud — the charge dropped and later expunged. He’s been sued at least seven times for breach of contract, including by his own lawyer. Since he took over, his new company has lost over 98 percent of its share value and for a time faced delisting from the Nasdaq.
He’s brushed up in close proximity to a rogue’s gallery of South Florida’s most infamous financial fraudsters from the former Soviet Union, without ever getting in trouble with the law himself — save for the arrest that was wiped clean. These include husband-and-wife land-development scammers Victor and Natalie Wolf and the roguish perpetrators of the “B-girls scam,” in which drunk men in Miami Beach were hustled out of thousands of dollars in credit card charges at the Caviar Bar and other Russian-themed drinking holes. And a friend and fellow Soviet emigré, Felix Filenger, who was sentenced to six and a half years for organizing a massive insurance fraud ring.
His name is Oleg Firer. He is a classic Miami success story. And now he has a new and impressive title, “Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary,” after being named envoy to Moscow — oddly enough from the island nation of Grenada, which is more than 1,500 miles from his home in the Eastern Shores section of North Miami Beach. He became friends with the son of Grenada’s prime minister.
In the Caribbean, he is branching out into cryptocurrency and a technology called blockchain, a digital ledger used to record transactions across many computers. And he has been accused by a news organization of helping the Russians gain a stronger foothold in the islands, even grabbing hold of Grenada’s nutmeg industry, generating the headline “Is Grenada’s iconic nutmeg production now in Russian Hands?”
It’s been a long, strange journey for Firer, named one of 40 under 40 by the South Florida Business Journal in 2016 (he’s now 41) and one of its 150 “power leaders” the year after that. He can point to a string of flattering profiles, from Forbes (one of “Five Incredible Entrepreneurs”) to Poder (“Most influential people in Miami”) and Smart Business Magazine (“How Oleg Firer built America’s Fastest Growing Company”).
“Oleg is a brilliant man,” said Dayan Martinez, head of investor relations at Net Element, Firer’s main company, and manager at several of Firer’s other companies.
“A very kindhearted person,” said Rabbi Zalman Lipskar of The Shul in Bal Harbour.
He’s part of the colorful tapestry of South Florida’s large, entrepreneurial Soviet diaspora, many of whom, like Firer, wound up in Florida by way of Brooklyn.
* PART TWO "HOUSE OF WOLFS" COMING SOON
** Five investors (Victims) from the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago have filed financial fraud complaints against Arthur Gehl and Chris Andre Koch
Contributed by Andrei Slavenkov - Financial Crime Consultant
Compliments of Miami Herald
Chronicles of Monte Friesner - Financial Crime Analyst