A former UCLA decathlete who also competed with the Philippines national team was arrested Tuesday on a federal charge alleging he raised more than $37 million from investors who were falsely told their funds would be used to finance companies marketing cannabis vape pens.
David Bunevacz, 53, of Calabasas, was charged with a single federal wire fraud count, and is expected to make his initial appearance Tuesday afternoon in Los Angeles federal court, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The charge carries a sentence of up to 20 years behind bars.
Bunevacz solicited investments in various businesses — CB Holding Group Corp. and CaesarBrutus LLC, among others — that he claimed were involved in the sale of vape pens containing cannabis products such as CBD oil and THC, according to an affidavit filed with the complaint.
Prosecutors allege Bunevacz falsely told at least one investor he had a long-standing relationship with a Chinese manufacturer of disposable vape pens and he obtained “raw pesticide-free oil” that was sent to a “lab that infuses the flavors into the oil with our proprietary custom process that renders the vape flavoring smooth and discrete,” according to the complaint.
Bunevacz also provided investors with forged documents, including bank statements, invoices and purchase orders, to support his claims of the businesses’ success and the need for investor funds, the complaint alleges.
Instead of using the funds to finance business operations, Bunevacz allegedly misappropriated the majority of the funds to pay for his own opulent lifestyle, “including a luxurious house in Calabasas, Las Vegas trips, jewelry, designer handbags, a lavish birthday party for his daughter, and horses,” according to the affidavit.
He allegedly spent $8,143,500 at casinos, paid $218,700 to an event planner in connection with the birthday party, and bought a horse for $330,000. Some investor funds were allegedly used to repay earlier investors in a manner consistent with a Ponzi scheme, according to federal prosecutors.
Bunevacz’s blog touts his success as a former decathlete who competed for the Philippines, and said his wife and daughter appeared in a reality television show, according to the affidavit.
The investigation allegedly revealed Bunevacz took efforts to conceal negative information from investors, such as his 2017 felony conviction for the unlawful sale of securities, according to the affidavit.
After one investor uncovered a civil lawsuit against Bunevacz, the defendant allegedly emailed a counterfeit version of the settlement agreement to falsely make it appear that he had been paid $325,000 as part of a settlement. In reality, it was Bunevacz who had agreed to pay $325,000 to settle the claim, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Prosecutors believe that Bunevacz caused his victims to suffer losses of at least $28.4 million, and possibly as much as $35 million. The investigation is ongoing.