A Canadian national pleaded guilty Monday to posing as a thriving sports drink entrepreneur in order to dupe investors out of about $5 million while living at the lavish Ritz-Carlton Residences in downtown Los Angeles.
U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer set an Aug. 12 sentencing date for Khemraj Dave Hardat, who pleaded guilty to five counts of wire fraud, each carrying a possible maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.
In exchange for the guilty plea, prosecutors are recommending that Hardat be sentenced to no more than six years and eight months behind bars. The 50-year-old dfendant has also agreed to pay $4.1 million in restitution, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam P. Schleifer.
Hardat, who has been living in the Los Angeles area for 10 years on an expired tourist visa, was arrested in November and ordered to remain behind bars pending trial.
According to documents filed in Los Angeles federal court, Hardat conned at least seven victims into wiring him a total of over $5 million during the course of about three years. Rather than invest these funds in the businesses Hardat claimed to run, he used the money for personal expenses, or, in the style of a Ponzi scheme, made partial repayments to previous victims.
Prosecutors said Hardat falsely told one victim that NBA stars such as Stephen Curry would be endorsing one of his sports drinks. He also portrayed himself as a man of significant educational and economic achievement, misrepresenting that he had a postgraduate doctoral degree from Yale University and that he had generated hundreds of millions of dollars via deals with PepsiCo and Dr Pepper.
Hardat bolstered the false impression by leading a luxurious lifestyle, which included the rented condominium at the Ritz-Carlton, Lamborghini and Maserati sports cars, a luxury box at Staples Center and his children’s placement at private schools, federal prosecutors said.
At the conclusion of a detention hearing in November, U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael R. Wilner ruled that Hardat was a danger to the community and should not be released to await trial.
“He just talks to people and gets their money,” Wilner said, adding that he could think of no combination of conditions that could be ordered to prevent the defendant from engaging in investment fraud if he was to be released on bail.
Hardat’s scheme was not a one-off crime of opportunity, but a “serious and long-term” operation that involved “grooming” potential victims, Wilner said.
In her unsuccessful bid to have her client granted bail, defense attorney Julia Deixler said she found the government’s argument “unpersuasive.”
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