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Three charged with being Guggenheim fraudsters

Three people have been charged with posing as representatives of the wealthy Guggenheim family in an effort to defraud investors, federal prosecutors announced on Monday.
/ Source: Reuters

Three people have been charged with posing as representatives of the wealthy Guggenheim family in an effort to defraud investors, federal prosecutors announced on Monday.

Catarina Pietra Toumei, 45, David Birnbaum, 67, and Vladimir Zuravel, 45, are accused of falsely claiming affiliation with the Guggenheims to lure wealthy families into fraudulent schemes.

Among such schemes were selling diamonds from a "private collection of the Guggenheim family," a venture to distribute vodka and a $4 billion crude oil deal for a refinery in China.

According to the complaint, Birnbaum and Zuravel introduced themselves to investors as David B. Guggenheim and Vladimir Z. Guggenheim and Toumei called herself Lady Catarina Pietra Toumei.

"The defendants allegedly impersonated one of America's most famous families to fleece potential victims by pitching bogus investments," U.S. Attorney Preet Bhahara said in a statement.

The Guggenheims family is known for its vast fortune that began with mining and smelting, philanthropy and world-class art institutions such as the Solomon R. Guggenheim museum in New York City.

Birnbaum and Zuravel were arrested on Monday morning while Toumei, who resides in California, remains at large.

The three face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison if convicted.