A con man who posed as a thriving sports drink entrepreneur in order to fleece victims out of $7 million while living at the lavish Ritz-Carlton Residences in downtown Los Angeles was sentenced Monday to more than seven years behind bars.
Khemraj Dave Hardat “defrauded the people he cultivated as friends,” causing “mental and emotional distress” to victims who were talked into wiring him millions of dollars, U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer said from the bench.
“The victims lost their hopes and dreams while the defendant lived a luxurious life,” the judge said.
As Fischer sentenced him to 87 months in federal prison and ordered $6.4 million in restitution, Hardat staggered and appeared to faint, falling backwards from where he was standing. U.S. marshals caught him, placed him in a chair and the judge continued.
Hardat pleaded guilty in April to five federal wire fraud counts, each carrying a possible maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison. However, in exchange for the guilty plea, federal prosecutors recommended that Hardat be sentenced to less than 10 years behind bars.
The 50-year-old Canadian national, who has been living in the Los Angeles area for 10 years on an expired tourist visa, was arrested in November and denied bail.
According to documents filed in Los Angeles federal court, Hardat conned at least seven victims into wiring him at least $7 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 rich 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.
After Hardat said that he had remorse for his actions, victims stood in the courtroom and told Fischer the extent of their losses.
“This was premeditated,” one man testified. “First, he asked me for $150,000 and I agreed. Then he asked for $250,000, which was everything I could come up with, including my home equity.”
Another victim told the judge that Hardat befriended him and then conned him out of his retirement savings, promising large returns for his so-called investment.
“Never in my wildest dreams could I imagine someone would do that to another person,” the man said.
Fischer also ordered Hardat to serve three years of supervised release after he is released from prison and indicated that deportation to Canada was likely.
“He’s only sorry he got caught,” the judge said. “I don’t believe a word of what he says — it’s just another con.”