Broward Fla May 7 2012 He’s on probation for practicing law without a license. He’s charged with carrying a foreign diplomat’s passport. He got a badge from a Broward hospital identifying him as a doctor and clergyman. His second wife believed he was a rabbi.
But David Vyner only has one true profession: con artist, according to the Broward sheriff’s detective who spent months piecing together the Armenian immigrant’s life in South Florida.
“One day he becomes a lawyer. One day he becomes a doctor. One day he becomes a rabbi,” said Detective John Calabro. “He has delusions of grandeur.”
Vyner, 36, is back in the Broward County Jail after authorities alleged he committed grand theft in his latest incarnation. He’s accused of taking $1,050 from someone who believed Vyner was connected with the Russian Embassy and could push through the renewal of a Russian passport, according to court records.
The Hollywood resident is being held without bond, and immigration authorities have placed a detainer on him with the possibility of deportation looming. Vyner has been in such a situation before, though, and walked out of lockup. When he was arrested April 30 in the latest case, he already was on probation from Broward Circuit Court, awaiting federal trial in Washington, D.C., in an identity theft case and had a pending immigration case as well.
There also is an active arrest warrant out for him from Newfoundland, Canada, where he is facing 20 criminal tax charges.
“It makes my blood boil just to hear his name,” said Myles Malman, an attorney who represents a couple, Sergey and Tatiana Ponyatovsky, who told authorities they lost more than $250,000 to Vyner. “He’s like a man of 1,000 faces and 1,000 names. He constantly changes his identity to fit the moment.”
Vyner convinced the Ponyatovskys that he was an attorney who could help them with immigration issues, Malman said. The couple, like all of Vyner’s alleged victims, were from South Florida’s burgeoning Russian community, court records show.
“He’s an ethnic predator,” Malman said. “He plays on the Russian community, advertising in Russian in Russian publications. Of the people he preys upon, some don’t speak or read English well and others are distrustful of non-Russian speakers.”
Vyner also somehow managed to get an ID badge from Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood that identified him as an “MD” and “clergy,” court records show. He’s smiling in the ID photo with a stethoscope around his neck.
There are no indications in the court documents how long he had the badge.
In response to the Sun Sentinel’s questions, Memorial Regional Hospital issued a statement.
“To maintain the safety and security of our campus, we will not discuss Mr. Vyner’s former relationship with the hospital,” wrote spokeswoman Kerting Baldwin. “What is important to note is that no staff or patients were affected. Our security department took the necessary actions to handle this case and worked with law enforcement to bring Mr. Vyner to justice. Since the incident, the hospital has instituted additional security measures for all staff and volunteers who serve here, and these measures have further strengthened the screening process.”
Vyner testified at a February 2011 hearing that he got a medical degree in Russia and also has been to rabbinical school. He said he ran a business that did translations and travel reservations.
But his first wife said in a sworn statement that he was never a licensed attorney or doctor anywhere. His second wife said in a deposition that he convinced her he was a rabbi, but that she now believes he was only “pretending to be very religious.”
Vyner has gone by a variety of names through the years, including Bagrat Ambartsoumian, Pekrat Vayner and Bagrat Mochkarovsky, according to more than 500 pages of court documents, sworn statements and court transcripts reviewed by the Sun Sentinel.
Besides the variety of names and occupations, official records indicate he was married to his first wife and second wife at the same time. He obtained a Clark County, Nev., marriage certificate with his second wife in 2004, but the divorce from his first wife wasn’t finalized in Broward County until 2006, according to court documents.
Vyner has said he isn’t a bigamist because he had received an annulment from the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan, where he wed his first wife, court records show. His second wife now has divorce proceedings pending against him. Both women declined to be interviewed by the Sun Sentinel and asked not to be identified in any articles.
Vyner has testified he fled from Armenia because he had been the victim of a “long, long history of persecution.” He arrived in Newfoundland in 1998 where his attempt to apply for political asylum was denied.
His first wife said in a sworn statement that in September 2001, her husband told her they needed to leave Canada as soon as possible and that they traveled to South Florida. Canadian authorities allege he defrauded that country’s equivalent of the Internal Revenue Service of more than $324,000 from August 2000 to September 2001.
While in Newfoundland, Vyner wrongly claimed he was an attorney and represented Russian refugees in immigration proceedings, his first wife said in an October 2008 sworn statement.
Authorities alleged Vyner continued to claim to be an attorney in South Florida. The Florida Bar investigated him for the unlicensed practice of law in 2005, with him subsequently agreeing not to tell people he was a lawyer.
He did though, with at least six Russian speakers subsequently paying thousands of dollars each to Vyner for immigration help, court records show.
In addition, the Broward Sheriff’s Office began investigating Vyner for forging prescriptions to acquire the powerful painkiller OxyContin.
When Vyner learned in December 2010 that the Broward Sheriff’s Office had obtained an arrest warrant for him for unlicensed practice of law, he fled South Florida with his latest girlfriend, Calabro said. U.S. marshals found him on Dec. 28 in a Washington, D.C., motel.
Vyner had an Albanian diplomatic passport with him, prompting federal authorities to charge him with visa fraud and aggravated identity theft.
He has testified he was in Washington to see a congresswoman to present her with evidence that Broward authorities were framing him.
In January, Vyner returned to South Florida to face criminal charges related to the unlicensed practice of law and prescription fraud. He ended up spending about six months in jail until he cut a deal in Broward Circuit Court to plead no contest to 10 felonies, including four counts of unlicensed practice of law. He agreed to serve five years’ probation.
After his plea, he was sent back to Washington for the identity theft case and still had an immigration hold on him, facing possible deportation. The judge handling Vyner’s federal case concluded he was not a flight risk. The immigration detainer was lifted by an ICE supervisor, according to Broward authorities.
Within two months, Vyner had opened a new business, Consular Services Agency, on Hallandale Beach Boulevard and started advertising in Russian publications, according to court records. He offered to help obtain Russian passports and acquire Russian citizenship for children born in the United States.
Calabro said a man with dual U.S.-Russian citizenship went to Vyner last month wanting to renew his Russian passport. The man handed over his documents and $1,050 to Vyner, only to return home to do an Internet search and find out about Vyner’s criminal history, court records show.
The man demanded the return of his documents and money but couldn’t get them back, Calabro said. It turns out anyone renewing a Russian passport must do it in person at a consulate and that it only costs $30, court records show.
When Vyner appeared at a probation hearing in Broward Circuit Court on April 30, he was arrested on a grand theft charge related to the recent client. The federal identity theft case against him is also pending.
Calabro said that when Vyner was arrested last week, he guaranteed the detective he would be out of jail soon.
Calabro’s response: “I suppose then I’ll have to catch you again.”
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