A Pakistani man who used to hang out at South Beach clubs was charged Friday with fleecing about $8 million from Miami Heat players Mike Miller, James Jones and Rashard Lewis.
Then Haider Zafar used some of their money to pay for a $1 million three-season ticket package that he had purchased from the Heat in October 2012, according to a Miami federal indictment released Friday.
But the 36-year-old Zafar never fully paid for the luxury package, which included choice Heat seats, perks and other events at the American Airlines Arena.
Heat lawyer Alan Fein said the team was pleased to hear that federal prosecutors were pursuing Zafar.
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“Last year, we were distressed to learn that the Heat and members of the Heat family were victimized by an elaborate fraud,” he said. “We are encouraged that the legal process is taking its course and that justice will be served.”
According to the indictment, Zafar promised the three players, who have since left the team, that he would invest their money in various business opportunities, Instead, prosecutors charge, he pocketed it.
Zafar would introduce himself as Haider Zafar Haswhani, a member of a wealthy and influential Pakistani family that operated several hotels, including the Marriott Hotel bombed in Islamabad, the indictment said. He also claimed the family owned textile plants and oil businesses.
Zafar claimed he lived in a penthouse in The Essex House in New York, but also had residences at The Setai, the Mondrian, and 10 Museum Park, across the street from the American Airlines Arena.
Zafar, charged with five wire fraud offenses, faces up to 20 years in prison on each count.
Zafar, a legal U.S. resident, is already in federal custody on a real estate fraud conviction in Ohio. He pleaded guilty in February in Ohio federal court to multiple charges in an unrelated $10 million land-buying scam.
The scheme ran from 2008 through 2010, but investigators say Zafar spent most of his time in recent years in South Florida. Flush with cash, he traded his sleepy life in suburban Columbus for one of fast cars, throbbing clubs and hip-hop allure in South Beach.
“These [people] would refer to Zafar as the ‘Prince of Dubai,’ as Zafar was always throwing money around down in South Beach,” an IRS agent wrote in a criminal complaint against Zafar.