Flush with cash from his alleged multimillion-dollar real estate scheme, Pakistan native Haider Zafar ditched his sleepy life in suburban Ohio for one of fast cars, throbbing clubs and hip-hop allure in South Florida.
He liked to rent fancy rides, including one he still owes money for: a Cadillac Escalade that got lit up in a 2008 drive-by shooting that killed a budding Opa-locka rapper.
He liked to travel with security, keeping an armed guard by his side at all times. Zafar’s bodyguard shot two people during a confrontation with Zafar at the posh Carpaccio restaurant in the Bal Harbour Shops in 2011.
And he liked to party in style, racking up a $180,000 unpaid tab at the Fontainebleau hotel and its LIV nightclub that resulted in fraud charges for Zafar in 2011 and an out-of-court settlement.
Zafar again is facing fraud charges, but this time for much more money than the cost of a hotel suite and bottle service. Federal investigators say Zafar bilked a Washington, D.C.-area, businessman out of about $10 million over the course of two years.
Zafar, who is a legal U.S. resident but not a naturalized citizen, spent the money on luxury cars, diamond jewelry and South Beach excesses, according to a criminal complaint filed late last month.
“These [people] would refer to Zafar as the ‘Prince of Dubai,’ as Zafar was always throwing money around down in South Beach,” an Internal Revenue Service special agent wrote in the complaint.
Zafar, 35, remains locked up without bond in Ohio as a federal grand jury awaits to hear the charges against him, which include wire fraud, money laundering and tax evasion. Zafar and his estranged wife are residents of Dublin, an upscale suburb of Columbus, even though investigators said Zafar spends most of his time in South Florida.
According to the criminal complaint against Zafar:
The alleged real estate scam began in 2008, when a wealthy, highly educated Washington businessman went looking for overseas investments.
Patwinder Sidhu, 47, who made his fortune by founding and selling a successful IT consulting firm with government contracts, heard about Zafar through Sidhu’s investment banker. The banker told Sidhu that Zafar was worth more than $100 million.
Zafar convinced Sidhu that he had an informant inside the Pakistani government. Zafar said his uncle was the country’s defense minister, responsible for buying land for the government. The plan, Zafar told Sidhu, was for Zafar’s uncle to tip him off on what properties to purchase, then Zafar and Sidhu would sell the land to the Pakistan government for a profit.
It sounded a little like a twist on the “Nigerian letter scam,” a common email-based flimflam, but Sidhu was on board. He wired money to Zafar 178 times in 2008 and 2009, for a total of $9.5 million. Attempts to reach Sidhu for comment were unsuccessful.
Zafar emailed Sidhu to report on the prosperity of their investments, which he claimed made them $182 million. When Sidhu started asking for his cut of the earnings, Zafar stalled with bogus letters purporting to be from the Pakistani defense minister’s office.
What Zafar didn’t mention: His uncle wasn’t a cabinet member, and Sidhu’s money went toward exotic cars and blinged-out jewelry — not foreign investment properties.
Investigators say Zafar spent the money on a black Lamborghini and other high-end autos from Mercedes-Benz, Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin, Lexus and Cadillac. He bought 26 pieces of jewelry from a shop called Diamond Cellar, including a $42,000 watch and a $35,000 diamond.