The 2713 Coney Island Avenue office of Mission Settlement (Source: Google Maps)

First he denied the charges. Then he claimed he was a victim. Now former Rasputin owner Michael Levitis has come clean, admitting to scamming nearly $2.2 million from more than 1,200 cash-strapped victims who turned to him for help.

Levitis (Source: Facebook)

Levitis and the debt-relief company he ran, Mission Settlement Agency, pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court yesterday to fraud charges, admitting to his role as the scheme’s mastermind.

“Michael Levitis and his company, Mission Settlement Agency, preyed on the desperation of financially struggling people across the country. Today’s guilty pleas ensure that the defendants who falsely offer debt relief, telling their victims a pack of lies in order to line their own pockets, will be held to account,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in a statement.

As part of the plea deal announced yesterday, Levitis agreed to forfeit $2.2 million to the government to pay back victims. He faces between seven and 11 years in prison when he’s sentenced this August.

Levitis and three others were cuffed in May 2013 for operating a debt settlement company that prosecutors said took millions of dollars in fees for services never rendered.

Mission Settlement claimed to help customers struggling with credit card and bank debt by helping them reach settlements that could cut the amount owed. But while Mission collected payments from their indebted clients, they never paid down their debts. From mid-2009 to March 2013, more than 2,200 customers paid nearly $14 million, of which only $4.4 million went to creditors, according to the criminal complaint.

Rasputin was padlocked in May 2013.

The company kept $6.6 million for itself as fees. As many as 1,200 of the clients paid $2.2 million in fees without “a single penny” reaching their creditors.

Prosecutors said Levitis took the money and used it to live a luxurious lifestyle, paying down his own debts on Raputin Restaurant (2670 Coney Island Avenue), lease two luxury cars, and paid off his mother’s credit card bills.

He also misled clients, with the company claiming in sales pitches that he was affiliated with the federal government and a leading credit bureau, none of which was true, according to prosecutors.

The others involved in the scheme all turned tail and pleaded guilty in August 2013, with at least one of them ratting out his former boss as the mastermind.

“I followed instructions from Michael,” Mission’s former vice president of sales, Denis Kurlyand, told the Daily News after the plea deal.

Levitis’ home at 1001 Oriental Boulevard. Prosecutors seized it to repay his victims. (Source: Google Maps)

Levitis stood fast, though, insisting on his innocence and said he was a victim of government neglect. He pleaded not guilty and claimed that he had attempted to tip off authorities to malfeasance by “rogue employees,” but that his warnings fell on deaf ears.

After his arrest, prosecutors filed papers to seize approximately 40 bank accounts connected to Levitis, as well as Rasputin Restaurant and two properties he owns in Manhattan Beach.

It’s the second time in four years that he’s been in hot water.

Back in 2010, Levitis was charged with lying to federal agents after he got caught up in a bribery case involving former State Senator Carl Kruger.

Levitis told a fellow nightclub owner, who was secretly recording the conversation for the FBI, that he had an inside line to the state pol, and could assist him with a liquor license issue if he steered thousands of dollars to Kruger – with a kickback for Levitis’ role in setting it up.

As the case moved forward, Levitis’ claim that he had influence in Kruger’s office began to unravel, and Levitis, who is also an attorney, later pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents, sentenced to three years probation and fined $15,000.

In April 2013, Levitis was also hit with a six month suspension of his license to practice law – retroactive to January 2012 – for his role in the case.

Levitis, who along with his wife Marina and mother Eva – who owned Mission Settlement on paper – were  co-stars of Russian Dolls, a failed Lifetime reality series canceled less than two months after its premiere.

The case against Levitis and Mission is being hailed as historic, as it’s the first criminal referral from the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an agency established after passage of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in 2010. The CFPB is also bringing civil charges against Mission, Levitis and others.

Levitis may still face criminal tax violations, according to the plea deal.

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  • SickofThem

    Russian bastard. Send his sorry ass back to the mother country and put him away there. Putting him away here would be like him going to a country club compared to what he should actually face.

    • Alex

      Time to take your medication, man.

      • Ivan Russky

        I guess you don’t like to hear the truth

        • Citizen Jane

          What truth would that be? If you have information that the FBI doesn’t, why don’t you share it with them.

  • Alex

    The reason for all the rants on this blog over the last few days is that some posters psychotic medication already ran out. We, as regular readers, have to wait till the 1st of the month and things will go back to normal.

    • Illya Tushyitchsky

      Including yourself Alex!!

  • I am Sam

    ‘Victim of government neglect’. What the heck does that mean? Well, one more down, who knows how many to go.

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  • Anna

    This guy’s a major loser. Who the hell risks their life like this to have a flashy car and house? typical old-school russian materialist mentality..

    • A

      From my experience with Russians in Brooklyn (older and younger) everything is about power, decadence, one-upping each other/showing off, and materialism.

      The flashy new condos, luxury cars, ‘higher culture’ (fur coats, brand name everything, caviar, etc.).

      I hope that’s the old school Russian mentality you refer to or maybe it’s just Brooklyn? Perhaps Russians in other places are different?

      • RealityCheck

        Based on my personal experience, Russians, at least the ones I have seen here in Florida, seem to be a very pretentious group. There are men who spend top dollar to fly to Russia and the Ukraine on romance tours. Their desire is to meet a Russian woman to marry. Better them than me.

  • Marina :-)

    I am glad he is in trouble. His stupid wife’s show off is about to stop.

    • Judge

      I agree. he ripped off innocent clients. Let him spend the rest of his days in jail !

  • stupid Eva :-)

    His stupid kids will wear fake prada when he will be in prison ! maximum sentence in prison for him please :-)

  • Guest

    Where did my original post go?

  • danny

    i love how this immigrated “russian basatard” made more money than any of you who were born in this country

  • TheSkeptic

    When,or has he been sentenced? That Russian realty show made me laugh. That Blond Diana, Anastasia, and a few other who I cannot name. It was all about the glitz and glamour. No real substance.