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Guilty plea in $10 million Ohio fraud case

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)

A former Ohio resident accused of buying $30,000 watches and cars costing more than $100,000 as part of a money laundering scheme that robbed a man of $10 million pleaded guilty Thursday to federal fraud charges.

Haider Zafar's plea came minutes after an IRS agent testified about the extravagant spending - including $145,307 for an Aston-Martin - and linked it to an alleged $10 million real estate fraud in Zafar's native Pakistan.

Zafar has also been linked to alleged fraud against Miami Heat players, including former forward Mike Miller, according to a witness who testified in August.

Authorities wouldn't comment on the allegations related to the team, but Zafar's plea deal includes a willingness to resolve a possible federal investigation in Florida.

If charges are brought in Florida, where Zafar also used to live, they could be heard in Ohio under an agreement between federal authorities in both states, said Dale Williams, an assistant U.S. attorney.

At Thursday's hearing, Zafar pleaded guilty before Judge Edmund Sargus to multiple charges of wire fraud, money laundering and tax evasion. He faces dozens of years in prison at sentencing. No date has been set. Messages were left for Zafar's attorney.

A 135-count indictment filed last year described a scheme under which Zafar swindled a Washington businessman out of $10 million between 2008 and 2010.

Zafar, 36, is accused of claiming that his uncle headed the defense department in Pakistan and thus had inside information about land sales to the government, IRS agent Charles Birch testified Thursday.

Zafar persuaded his fraud victim to provide $10 million to buy parcels of land which he said could be resold to the government ''at a greatly inflated price,'' Birch said.

In 2009, Zafar bought three watches for $13,877, $30,759 and $34,000, Birch said.

In addition to the Aston-Martin, Birch also bought a Lamborghini for $138,000 and a Maserati for $136,978, Birch said.

Zafar also was accused of failing to report $221,500 in taxable income in 2007 and failing to file tax returns between 2008 and 2010 when he earned the $10 million as part of the fraud scheme.

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Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.

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