October 2, 2014 / 8:59 PM / 4 years ago

Con artist pleads guilty in Miami Heat fraud case

MIAMI Fla. (Reuters) - A Miami man accused of bilking $7.5 million from investors and scamming a million-dollar package of tickets from the Miami Heat basketball franchise pleaded guilty to wire fraud on Thursday in federal court in Ohio, according to a judicial official.

Haider Zafar, 36, faces up to 20 years in prison for each of the five counts of wire fraud to which he pleaded guilty, as well as more than $1 million in fines, for a scam entangling several National Basketball Association players.

The terms of his agreement were not immediately available.

Court records indicate that Zafar, using a false identity, portrayed himself as a member of a wealthy Pakistani family operating several luxury hotels, including the Marriott in Islamabad.

Zafar also claimed he lived in a penthouse in New York City, and had other residences in high-end buildings there and in Miami.

In late 2012, Zafar used false identity to arrange a deal with a Heat ticketing executive to receive basketball tickets for three seasons worth more than $1 million.

He then obtained $7.5 million from investors in early 2013, claiming the money would be put toward a lucrative business opportunity. He used the funds to pay off the tickets and make other purchases, prosecutors said.

Among the investors caught up in the scam, according to the Miami Herald, were three players then with the Miami Heat: Mike Miller, Rashard Lewis and James Jones.

Zafar’s attorney, Samuel Shamansky, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Zafar is also awaiting sentencing on an unrelated 135-count indictment from 2013 involving a money-laundering scheme used to buy luxury watches and high-end sports cars.

He pleaded guilty to 30 of the charges in late February and is due to be sentenced in November, according to court records.

Editing by Letitia Stein and Mohammad Zargham

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