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Millionaire who flashed life online faces 60-year sentence after charge of fleecing $196million

From Hollywood to holding cell: Australian millionaire who flashed his glamorous lifestyle online faces 60-year prison sentence after being charged with fleecing Americans out of $196million in scam

  • Internet mogul who flashed his lavish lifestyle online could face 60 years in jail 
  • The Perth millionaire found success by inventing automated SMS services
  • He is worth an estimated $100 million and was married to a fashion designer
  • The 39-year-old was arrested by the AFP at glamorous apartment in December 
  • US authorities allege he was involved in a scheme that swindled $196 million 

An internet mogul who spent $1 million on his wedding and flew his wife overseas to party with Snoop Dogg could be facing 60 years behind bars for one of the biggest  alleged telecommunication scams in US legal history.

While Perth millionaire Zhenya Tsvetnenko lived a life of luxury, US authorities were digging into his alleged involvement in the alleged text-messaging scam.

The 39-year-old was arrested by Australian Federal Police at his river front apartment on December 20.

While Perth millionaire Zhenya Tsvetnenko (pictured) lived a life of luxury, US authorities were digging into his alleged involvement in a text-messaging scam

The 39-year-old was arrested by Australian Federal Police at his river front apartment on December 20 (pictured left with then-wife Lydia and Snoop Dogg)

The 39-year-old was arrested by Australian Federal Police at his river front apartment on December 20 (pictured left with then-wife Lydia and Snoop Dogg)

According to The Sunday Times, the Russian-born internet mogul has since spent the last 39 days at Hakea prison. 

The AFP acted on an extradition arrest warrant from authorities in the US, who allege Mr Tsvetnenko was involved in the plot that swindled $196 million from mobile phone customers.

The alleged scheme defrauded people by charging them extra for ‘premium’ text messages without their permission.  

While users typically ignored or deleted the messages, these consumers were billed for the services at a rate of $13 per month, even though they never ordered them, prosecutors claim. 

The 39-year-old was first made aware of the allegations in July 2016 and has heavily denied them.

‘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,’ Mr Tsvetnenko said.

‘I am not guilty of the alleged offences.’ 

The US Attorney’s Southern District Office of New York charged the 39-year-old with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud, one count of wire fraud, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, in 2016. 

The 39-year-old was first made aware of the allegations in July 2016 and has heavily denied them

The 39-year-old was first made aware of the allegations in July 2016 and has heavily denied them

He married fashion designer Lydia Tsvernenko (pictured right) - Lydia Gaugg when they met - and the couple were dubbed the 'Posh and Becks' of Perth's social scene

He married fashion designer Lydia Tsvernenko (pictured right) – Lydia Gaugg when they met – and the couple were dubbed the ‘Posh and Becks’ of Perth’s social scene

Despite the charges being laid in 2016, proceedings for the extradition arrest warrant weren’t completed until recently.

Each charge carries a maximum 20-year sentence, meaning he could be looking at up to 60 years in prison. 

Denying the allegations, Mr Tsvetnenko said he put all of his success down to hard work.

‘I’ve got nothing to hide. I’ve never tried to deceive anyone. I’m basically an open book,’ he said. 

Mr Tsvetnenko is worth an estimated $100 million and sits in the top ten of Australia’s richest people under 40.

Ms Tsvetnenko arrived in a horse-drawn carriage at the pair's $1 million wedding before splitting after ten years in 2018

Ms Tsvetnenko arrived in a horse-drawn carriage at the pair’s $1 million wedding before splitting after ten years in 2018

Starting off as a university drop-out, he worked through his nights devising a computer program that delivers SMS messages automatically.

In less than two years he was earning more than $4 million a month, and in three years he became Western Australia’s richest young man.

He then married fashion designer Lydia Tsvernenko – Lydia Gaugg when they met – and the couple were dubbed the ‘Posh and Becks’ of Perth’s social scene.

Ms Tsvetnenko arrived in a horse-drawn carriage at her $1 million wedding and posed for photographs with rapper Snoop Dogg after flying to Hollywood for her 29th birthday.

The pair were married for ten years before splitting in 2018. 

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