Zhenya Tsvetnenko handed eight-year jail term in US for multi-million-dollar text message scam

Perth man Zhenya Tsvetnenko has been sentenced to eight years in a federal US prison for his role in a multi-million-dollar text messaging scam.

The Russian-born former rich-lister and regular fixture of the Perth social scene pled guilty in February after a long and protracted legal battle.

He was originally charged in July 2016 and fought the charges before agreeing to extradition to the US in January.

He personally made $15.4 million from the scam, money he has since paid back.

Tsvetnenko, a tech entrepreneur who came to prominence in Perth in the late 2000sonce had a fortune valued at $107 million.

US District Court Judge Analisa Torres sentenced Tsvetnenko this morning Australian time, giving him jail time in the higher range of what US prosecutors had hoped for.

Tsvetnenko’s lawyers had been pitching for him to be released under time already served, which is almost four years.

Tsvetnenko ‘paying steep price’, US authorities say

According to the US Department of Justice, from 2012 to 2013, Tsvetnenko and his co-conspirators defrauded hundreds of thousands of mobile phone consumers in the United States by placing unauthorised charges on their mobile phone bills.

A man holding a beer with a smiling and staring at the camera.
Tsvetnenko and his co-defendants “made a fortune” through the scam, authorities say.(Supplied: Matt Jelonek )

The practice — known as “auto-subscribing” — saw US consumers billed $US9.99 a month for services such as “horoscopes, celebrity gossip or trivia facts” without their knowledge or consent.

Often the bills would recur monthly unless consumers actively told their phone company they wanted out of the service.

US Department of Justice attorney Damian Williams said Tsvetnenko and his co-defendants “made a fortune” through the scam.

They then laundered the proceeds through shell companies.

“Tsvetnenko is paying a steep price for his mobile scam, as he has already paid back over $15 million in forfeiture, and will now spend 98 months in federal prison,” Mr Williams said.

Tsvetnenko’s lawyer declined to comment when contacted by the ABC.

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