Former Dublin Resident Sentenced in $10.1 Million Real Estate Scam, Falsely Obtaining $3.5 Million from Victims Associated with Miami Heat
COLUMBUS—Haider Zafar, 36, formerly of Dublin, Ohio, was sentenced in U.S. District Court to to 72 months in prison, three years of supervised released, and was ordered to pay $15,723,034 in restitution, of which $2,083,565 is payable to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) upon his convictions for committing a $10.1 million fraud scheme involving false representations about investments in Pakistani real estate, and for fraudulently obtaining $3,524,469 from seven victims associated with the Miami Heat professional basketball franchise.
Carter M. Stewart, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Kathy A. Enstrom, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Criminal Investigation, Cincinnati Field Office, George L. Piro, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Division, and U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer, Southern District of Florida, announced the sentence handed down today by U.S. District Judge Edmund A. Sargus Jr.
Zafar was indicted on the Pakistani real estate fraud in the Southern District of Ohio. He pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court in Columbus on February 27, 2014 to 19 counts of wire fraud, seven counts of money laundering, one count of filing a false federal income tax return and three counts of failing to file federal income tax returns contained in the Columbus indictment.
Zafar’s case that involved victims associated with the Miami Heat originally was filed in the Southern District of Florida, but was transferred to the Southern District of Ohio. He pleaded guilty in the district court in Columbus on October 2, 2014 to the five counts of wire fraud charged in the Miami case.
According to Ohio court documents, Zafar, who resided in both Dublin and in south Florida, told the primary victim of his real estate scheme that Zafar’s uncle was the Minister of Defence of Pakistan and was responsible for acquiring land on behalf of the Pakistani government. Zafar told the victim his uncle would inform him of land the Pakistani government intended to purchase. He recruited the victim to be his partner in purchasing such land before the Pakistani government did, saying they would then sell the land to the government at a greatly inflated price. Between January 2008 and February 2010, Zafar prompted his victim to wire $10,115,000 into accounts controlled by Zafar. “Zafar knew he was not going to use the money he took from the victim to purchase real estate, but rather intended to use the money to purchase jewelry, exotic automobiles, and otherwise live a lavish lifestyle,” Assistant U.S. Dale E. Williams, Jr. told the court.
According to his Florida indictment, Zafar would falsely portray himself to his victims as Haider Zafar Haswhani, a member of a wealthy and influential Pakistani family that operated several hotels, textile plants and oil businesses. He claimed he lived in a penthouse in New York City and also had residences in upscale hotels and apartment complexes around the nation.
Using this false persona, Zafar approached a Miami Heat sales executive and fraudulently obtained a Miami Heat premium three-season ticket package, which cost $1,055,000, with a promise to pay in the near future. He used the scheme to approach several investors, promising them various investment opportunities that were in fact fraudulent. He ultimately obtained in excess of $3,500,000 from his Miami fraud scheme.
Zafar reported a taxable income of zero on his 2007 federal income tax return, omitting $221,500 in taxable income. Zafar also earned more than $10 million from fraud his scheme between 2008 and 2010, but did not file income tax returns.
IRS Special Agents arrested Zafar at Port Columbus Airport on May 25, 2013. He has been in custody since his arrest.
Under terms of the Ohio plea agreement, Zafar will file income tax returns and pay taxes for 2007 through 2010. He also agreed to a forfeiture money judgment of $10,115,000.
In the Southern District of Ohio case, Zafar was sentenced to 72 months in prison, three years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay $12,198,565 in restitution, of which $2,083,565 is payable to the IRS.
In the Southern District of Florida case, Zafar was sentenced to 46 months in prison, three years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay $3,542,469 in restitution.
Both of these sentences are to be served concurrently.
“Investment fraud is like a ‘house of cards,’” said Kathy A. Enstrom, Acting Special Agent in Charge, IRS, Criminal Investigation. “The underlying structure can fall apart at any time and leave many investors in financial ruin.”
U.S. Attorney Stewart acknowledged the investigation by special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation Division and the assistance of the FBI office in Miami, Florida as well as Assistant United States Attorneys Dale E. Williams Jr. of Columbus and Luis M. Perez of Miami, who represented the United States in these cases.