Sentencing scheduled in multimillion-dollar Miami Heat fraud
A man who portrayed himself as a member of a wealthy Pakistani family and was often seen driving luxury cars including a Ferrari faces sentencing in a multimillion-dollar investment scam involving three former Miami Heat players and the team itself.
Haider Zafar defrauded players Mike Miller, James Jones and Rashard Lewis in 2013 by promising to invest millions in various business opportunities, according to the government. He also received a $1 million, three-season Heat ticket package he never paid for, the government said.
Zafar pleaded guilty last year in federal court in Columbus to five wire fraud charges that each carry maximum 20-year prison sentences. That case was consolidated with another against Zafar, in which the defendant previously pleaded guilty to swindling a Washington, D.C., businessman out of $10 million between 2008 and 2010.
Judge Edmund Sargus planned to sentence Zafar Thursday afternoon in both cases.
Zafar’s attorney has said his client pleaded guilty to accept responsibility and move forward with his life.
Testimony by an FBI agent portrayed Zafar as a man who talked big as he persuaded the Heat players to give him millions of dollars for investments that never materialized.
Zafar boasted of $35 million in a Swiss bank account and luxury residences in New York City and Miami and was often seen being chauffeured in a yellow Ferrari, a white Bentley and a black Escalade, FBI agent David Fine testified last year.
Zafar persuaded the Miami Heat’s vice president of sales to sell him a premium three-season ticket package for $1 million after explaining about his ”family history and influence,” including ownership of hotels, companies and other business ventures, Fine said.
Zafar convinced Miller to give him $2.6 million, Lewis to give him $4 million and Jones to give him $1.5 million, all for an investment opportunity that Zafar said would ”quickly obtain a significant return.” But rather than reimburse the Miami Heat or three individuals, Zafar used the money ”for his personal use and benefit,” Fine said.