Beauty queen accused of interior design fraud by hotel mogul

The magnate claims former Miss Sweden Sofia Joelsson deployed a network of shell companies and inside vendors

A couple who hired a former Miss Sweden to decorate their opulent property in the Bahamas is accusing the one-time beauty queen of interior design fraud.

As first reported by Law360, hotel magnate Henry Silverman and his wife Karen Silverman have filed a suit against interior designer Sofia Joelsson in Florida federal court. With a registered net worth of $300 million, Henry Silverman has at one point controlled hotel brands Howard Johnson’s Ramada, Super 8 and Travelodge.

According to the complaint, Joelsson defrauded them out of millions of dollars by overcharging clients through a network of shell companies and inside vendors.

@SoJoDesign | Twitter

“This enterprise is still in operation and still preying on new victims and has now extended out of Joelsson’s base in Florida to the Bahamas,” Silverboys LLC, the company owned by the Silvermans, said in a statement about the case. “It will continue until it is stopped by the legal system.”

Joelsson, who won the title of Miss Sweden in 1997, runs a Miami-based interior design studio called SOJO. According to her professional bios, she moved to the United States more than a decade ago in order to pursue a career in interior design. She has been working for the Silvermans’ Paradise Beach property since 2014. The Silvermans say they hired her both to decorate and help assess the fraud from a former team of contractors.

The lawsuit calls Joelsson a “penthouse queen” of South Beach and claims that she misled them to believe that SOJO was a licensed interior design firm when it wasn’t.

The Silvermans are asking for at least $7 million in damages based on alleged violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and Florida Deceptive and Unfair Practices Act. They further claim that Joelsson would arrange for contractors to give overinflated invoices and then launder the funds through various real estate purchases while keeping several sets of records for each transaction to defraud tax authorities.

Joelsson did not immediately return Inman’s request for comment. Now that the complaint has been officially filed in court, a trial date will be set to determine whether Joelsson committed the actions of which she is accused.

Email Veronika Bondarenko