A South Beach bling king indicted on fraud charges in Ohio was accused in a federal court of scamming several Miami Heat players and other South Florida residents out of $8 million.
Haider Zafar, 35, took money from former Heat forward Mike Miller and unnamed teammates, promising investment returns that he never delivered, according to J. Andrew Fine, a Florida lawyer who testified Thursday on behalf of some of those investors.
An attorney for the Heat confirmed that some of the organization’s current and former players and personnel got tangled up in an investment scheme, but he declined to discuss the matter further, citing an ongoing investigation.
“We were distressed to learn that the Heat and members of the Heat family were victimized by an elaborate fraud,” Heat attorney Alan H. Fein said in a statement to the Miami Herald. “We remain in constant contact with the appropriate federal authorities investigating this fraud and its perpetrators.”
Zafar is “fantastically good at separating people from their money,” Fine said to The Dispatch after Zafar’s hearing this week in Columbus, Ohio. Attempts to reach Fine by phone and email were unsuccessful Friday.
Zafar’s attorney, Samuel Shamansky, said he would not speculate on whether Fine or others are planning legal action against Zafar in South Florida.
“I would be the village idiot if I commented on that,” Shamansky said.
Fine’s accusations came during a detention hearing for Zafar on federal charges unrelated to the Heat.
A grand jury indicted Zafar in June on 135 counts of fraud and money-laundering stemming from an alleged $10 million real-estate scheme that Zafar purportedly carried out on a Washington, D.C., businessman. Zafar pleaded not guilty to the charges.
On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Edmund Sargus determined Zafar to be a flight risk and ordered him jailed without bond while he awaits trial in November.
Prosecutors called Fine to the witness stand to help persuade Sargus not to allow Zafar free on bond. Fine testified that when he questioned Zafar about what happened to the money Zafar received from Miller and other Heat and South Florida investors, Zafar told him, “They can’t touch me in Pakistan,” The Dispatch reported.
When Internal Revenue Service agents arrested Zafar in May in Ohio, they found him with an expired Pakistani passport, a handgun, 40 bullets, and a Louis Vuitton bag stuffed with more than $10,000. Zafar is a native of Pakistan who is a legal U.S. resident but not a naturalized citizen.
To counter Fine’s testimony against Zafar on Thursday, Shamansky called a character witness from Broward, Alex LeCount, described by Shamansky as a friend and business associate of Zafar’s.
“He testified persuasively that, based on his previous interactions with my client in South Florida, he found him to be an upstanding, model citizen,” Shamansky said.
LeCount told the court that he was in the entertainment industry and knew Zafar from “clubs,” and said he’d be willing to put up his home as collateral to help with Zafar’s bond, if granted. LeCount previously ran Miami hip-hop music label Xela Entertainment with friend and business partner Alex Harris, who was gunned down in 2003 in front of a Morningside barbershop co-owned by former Heat player Alonzo Mourning.