Karlis Vitols, 29, Miami Springs, Florida, pleaded guilty this morning to obtaining $1,000 or more but less than $20,000 by false pretenses in the 33rd Circuit Court. Vitols will be sentenced on Sept. 14. The crime is punishable by up to five years in prison.
Vitols’ plea was entered with the assistance of a Latvian translator as he is a citizen of Latvia. Charlevoix County Sheriff’s Office arrested Vitols in Miami, Florida as he was preparing to board a plane to leave the country.
In his guilty plea, Vitols acknowledged that money had been transferred into a bank account in his name that was part of a fraud or scam. According to an affidavit filed by police, a Charlevoix County resident agreed to purchase a classic car online through a website that was purportedly of a car dealership located in Kansas. In fact, the dealership had closed a year earlier and was no longer in business.
The victim wire transferred over $18,000 into an account as directed by the “dealership” and the money was received by Vitols. The victim did not receive his vehicle, but rather numerous excuses for delay. He called the Charlevoix County Sheriff’s Office.
“This was a result of great police work by Detectives Ben Speigl and Mike Wheat,” Charlevoix County Prosecuting Attorney Allen Telgenhof said. “They broke down the scheme and found that not only had our Charlevoix County person been victimized, but a number of people across the country had been taken as well.”
“The detectives shared information with law enforcement agencies from other states and the FBI and as a result there will be other prosecutions in other jurisdictions as well. If not for the work of the Charlevoix County Sheriff’s Office, this defendant would have fled the country. We are very fortunate for a county our size to have detectives of this caliber and a sheriff who supports prosecution of crimes that may involve traveling to other states for investigation and arrest.”
On July 24, 2018, the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York announced they had indicated 25 defendants, including Vitols, with wire fraud and money laundering with the toll of their crimes totaling more than $4.5 million.” (https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdny/pr/25-defendants-charged-manhattan-federal-court-multimillion-dollar-wire-fraud-and-money). The other individuals are from Kazakhstan, Azerbijan, Georgia, Ukraine, Russia and Turkey.
Vitols has a co-defendant, Matiss Puke, who was also arrested in Florida by the Charlevoix County Sheriff’s Office. Puke is charged with false pretenses and using a computer to commit a crime. Puke was also listed in the federal indictment referenced above.