Anthony Gignac wore expensive suits, drove a 2016 Ferrari California with diplomatic plates, and boasted to anyone who would listen that he was a Saudi prince looking for big-time investment possibilities for his father, the king.
But behind that opulent life was a sham that Gignac, who was born in Colombia, had been perpetrating since the 1990s and across the United States —including Miami in 1993 and 1994, when he left behind huge debts in Bal Harbour, Cocowalk and Coral Gables.
Gignac, who often calls himself Sultan Bin Khalid Al Saud, had kept a low profile for the past decade but returned to Miami in 2017 and tried to pass himself off as a Saudi royal and diplomat in order to defraud area business people out of money, properties and other valuables, according to a federal grand jury indictment in Miami.
The indictment alleges that he met from March to November with representatives from a couple of Miami-Dade companies to discuss a multimillion dollar investment to buy a hotel.
An accomplice, Carl Marden Williamson, played an important role in the meetings and was also charged with impersonating a foreign diplomat and conspiring to commit a crime against the United States.
To maintain the facade, Williamson bought a false diplomatic license plate on eBay on June 4, according to the indictment. Gignac then showed off his car with the fraudulent plates to several business people from a company identified only as “Company T.A.”
Gignac also invited the business people to his alleged penthouse on Fisher Island, where the front door had a sign that read “Sultan.” During the visit, he showed the potential investors alleged documents from the Bank of Dubai showing he had $600 million available.
Williamson also demanded that “Company T.A.” buy Gignac a gift valued at more than $50,000 “because the ‘sultan's’ honor had been questioned,” according to the indictment. The gift was bought and delivered to Gignac on the same day, Aug. 13.
FROM COLOMBIA TO MICHIGAN
The Miami case was only the most recent chapter in the more than 20 years of fraudulent schemes by Gignac, who was adopted by a U.S. couple from Michigan along with his brother Daniel.
The Ohio newspaper The Blade reported in 2008 that the brothers wound up in a Bogotá orphanage after their biological father allegedly killed a younger brother because he could not afford to feed all of them. The report makes no mention of the mother.
The brothers were raised in Michigan and soon began to sharpen their skills at fraud, according to the newspaper. Anthony told schoolmates that his mother owned the famed Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island and that his father was actor Dom DeLuise — both lies.
Court documents from a 2008 case in Michigan showed Anthony Gignac first ran afoul of the law in 1991, when he passed himself off as a Saudi prince and defrauded a hotel and several other companies in that state of approximately $10,000.
THE GRAND LIFE IN MIAMI-DADE
By 1993, he was living a truly princely life as a guest at the Grand Bay Hotel in Coconut Grove, once a luxury base for Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren and Prince.
Gignac used the identity of a California man to obtain credit cards, claiming he had lost the old ones, according to an el Nuevo Herald report from that time. Even though the name on the cards was different, the man who called himself “Prince Khaled” was driven around in limousines, left $20 tips and repeatedly declared, “put it on my tab.”
Police uncovered the scheme when Gignac was beaten and robbed by two men he had invited to his Grand Bay penthouse for a party on Dec. 30 1993.
While the police were investigating the crime, one of the officers decided to notify the Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington. The reply shocked him. “Khaled who?”
Gignac fled to Chicago before police could nab him for cheating Grand Bay out of $27,000 and Saks Fifth Avenue out of $51,175. He was arrested there and extradited to South Florida, but even as he awaited trial he persuaded his lawyer that he was a Saudi royal, and the attorney arranged his bail in August 1994.
Once on the street again, Gignac went straight to an American Express office in Coral Gables and asked for a Platinum card — which at the time had a credit line of $200 million — to replace one he claimed had been stolen.
American Express employees doubted his story when Gignac could not provide the date of birth for the real Saudi prince, but gave him the card when he screamed that his father the king would be furious with the way he was being treated.
Card in hand, Gignac went shopping. He bought two luxury watches and an emerald and diamond bracelet for $22,210 at Mayor's jewelry on Miracle Mile and a suede leather shirt in Coconut Grove for $3,190.
He disappeared again but was arrested again in Palm Beach in 1996. A judge set his bail at $5,000. Gignac paid it and fled again, this time to Michigan.
CATCH ME IF YOU CAN
He was arrested in Michigan the following month on charges stemming from the 1991 frauds and a $16,000 scam against Syracuse University in New York with his brother Daniel in 1994 — while he was on the lam from the Miami charges.
In the Syracuse case, “Prince Khaled” and his brother offered a $45 million donation to the university, but first asked for a $16,000 payment to cover the taxes on the donation.
Daniel Gignac was sentenced to serve five months in prison, two years on parole and to return $8,000 to the university.
Anthony Gignac was returned to Florida under an agreement in a Michigan court. He pleaded guilty to fraud by wire, radio or television and was sentenced to four year in prison and three more on parole. He was held at a Palm Beach prison from June 1997 to September 1998, according to Florida prison records.
But while still on parole he was arrested in Orlando in June 2002 on charges of running up $25,000 in purchases and hotels there using an American Express credit card in the name of Prince Kha Alsaud.
Gignac could not post bail on that court case, but in December 2002 he pleaded no contest and was sentenced to time served and was freed.
Less than a month later, he was in Michigan when he obtained a financial transaction device in the name of a real Saudi prince, Khalid bin Mishall Al Saud, and used it to buy a $40,000 watch at a Neiman Marcus store.
He also threatened a Citibank employee who challenged his attempt to withdraw $3.9 million from a fictitious account in the name of the Saudi prince.
Michigan prison records show he was incarcerated from 2004 to 2006, when he was released on probation until 2009. He also pleaded guilty in October 2006 to charges of attempted bank fraud and claiming to be a foreign diplomat, court documents show.
Gignac appealed the bank fraud charge in 2008, claiming that prosecutors did not prove he intended to commit fraud and ignored his history of mental ailments. His appeal was denied.
It's not clear what Gignac was doing between that time and when he reappeared in Miami-Dade last year, offering the multimillion dollar hotel business. The grand jury indicted him late last year, and he was arrested in New York on Nov. 20.
He is being held at a detention facility in Oklahoma City, awaiting extradition to Florida to face charges of conspiring to commit a crime against the United States, impersonating a foreign diplomat, misuse of a passport, aggravated identity theft and possession of a firearm by a convicted criminal. He faces a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.
In a LinkedIn account, a “Sultan bin M al-saud” claims he's studying for a Juris Doctor degree in international relations and affairs at Harvard University, from where he already obtained a masters in business administration in 2007.
Follow Johanna A. Álvarez on Twitter: @jalvarez8.