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6 years for multimillion-dollar fraud, involved NBA team

January 15, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A federal judge handed down a six-year prison sentence Thursday to a man who portrayed himself as a member of a wealthy Pakistani family while running a multimillion-dollar investment scam involving three former Miami Heat players and the team.

Judge Edmund Sargus also ordered Haider Zafar to pay $15.7 million in restitution to his victims and three years supervision after his release. Zafar, 36, a legal U.S. resident, could face deportation to his native Pakistan after leaving prison.

Zafar defrauded former basketball players Mike Miller, James Jones and Rashard Lewis in 2013 by promising to invest millions of dollars in various business opportunities, according to the government. He also received a $1 million, three-season Heat ticket package he never paid for, the government said.

Zafar pleaded guilty last year in federal court to five wire fraud charges that each carry a maximum 20-year prison sentence. That case was consolidated with another against Zafar, in which he previously pleaded guilty to swindling a Washington, D.C., businessman out of $10 million between 2008 and 2010.

Zafar apologized for his actions.

Andrew Fine, a lawyer representing the businessman and the former Heat players, has argued for a longer sentence.

Zafar’s attorney Sam Shamansky argued for a sentence closer to four years, saying Zafar had overcome tremendous personal obstacles, including being left penniless by family members, when he emigrated to the U.S. as a young man. He also said Zafar had struggled with addictions to painkillers after an accident.

Testimony by an FBI agent portrayed Zafar as a man who talked big as he persuaded the former players to give him millions of dollars for investments that never materialized.

Zafar boasted of $35 million in a Swiss bank account and luxury residences in New York City and Miami and was often seen being chauffeured in a yellow Ferrari, a white Bentley and a black Escalade, FBI agent David Fine testified last year.

Zafar convinced Miller to give him $2.6 million, Lewis to give him $4 million and Jones to give him $1.5 million, all for an investment opportunity that Zafar said would “quickly obtain a significant return.” But rather than reimburse the Miami Heat or three individuals, Zafar used the money “for his personal use and benefit,” Fine said.

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