Guilty plea set in $7.5 million Miami Heat fraud
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A man charged with a multimillion-dollar investment scam involving three former Miami Heat players and the team itself wants to take responsibility for his actions and move on, his attorney said ahead of an expected plea deal.
The government alleges that Haider Zafar defrauded players Mike Miller, James Jones and Rashard Lewis in 2013 by promising to invest $7.5 million in various business opportunities. Instead, prosecutors say, Zafar kept the money and used some of it to buy a $1 million, three-season Heat ticket package.
Zafar faces five wire fraud charges that each carry maximum 20-year prison sentences.
That case is being consolidated with another against Zafar in Columbus, where a federal judge set a plea hearing for the Miami Heat case for Thursday.
Zafar, currently in Franklin County Jail, is pleading guilty to the Miami Heat allegations to accept responsibility and become a productive citizen again, his attorney, Sam Shamanksy, said Wednesday.
"He's not interested in litigation in Miami, he's interested in making all the parties whole and accepting whatever punishment is appropriate," Shamansky said.
In Miami, Zafar portrayed himself as a member of a wealthy and influential Pakistani family that operated several hotels, textile plants and oil businesses, according to an indictment in Florida earlier this year. He claimed he lived in a penthouse in The Essex house in New York, but also had residences at upscale addresses in Miami, the indictment said.
In a separate case in Ohio, a 135-count indictment filed last year described a scheme under which Zafar allegedly swindled a Washington, D.C., businessman out of $10 million between 2008 and 2010.
Zafar was accused of claiming that his uncle headed the defense department in Pakistan and thus had inside information about land sales to the government, an IRS agent testified in court.
Zafar persuaded his fraud victim to provide $10 million to buy parcels of land which he said could be resold to the government at an inflated price, according to the agent's testimony at a February hearing where Zafar pleaded guilty to wire fraud, money laundering and tax evasion charges.