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Published: Tuesday, 12/31/2013

Plea deal in Ohio fraud case linked to Miami Heat


COLUMBUS — A former Ohio man accused of operating multimillion-dollar frauds that include allegations he cheated Miami Heat basketball players of millions of dollars indicated today that he’ll plead guilty to wire fraud, money laundering and tax evasion charges.

A 135-count indictment filed this year describes a scheme under which Haider Zafar allegedly swindled a Washington, D.C., businessman out of $10 million between 2008 and 2010.

A witness who testified against Zafar in August alleged Zafar also defrauded Heat players, including former forward Mike Miller. The witness, international investment attorney Andrew Fine, said the players and other Florida residents invested $8 million with Zafar.

The players weren’t mentioned in the criminal complaint, but Zafar’s plea deal includes his willingness to resolve a possible federal investigation in Florida. Zafar wants to tie up all loose ends in the cases against him, Zafar’s attorney, Sam Shamansky, said today.

In documents filed today in federal court in Columbus, Zafar agreed to plead guilty to 30 counts and to forfeit $10 million. The U.S. attorney’s office in Columbus declined to comment. No date was scheduled for a judge to accept Zafar’s guilty plea.

A criminal complaint said Zafar, a Pakistan native and legal U.S. resident, used questionable documents to solicit the funds from businessman Patwinder Sidhu for real estate ventures in Pakistan.

The complaint accused Zafar, 36, of telling Sidhu that his uncle was Pakistan’s defense minister and was responsible for buying property for that country’s government. It says Zafar told Sidhu they could buy land in Pakistan and later sell it to the government for a profit.

The Heat has said it remains in contact with the authorities handling the investigation.

Prosecutors allege Zafar used his investor’s money to fuel an opulent life. The indictment mentions purchases of several luxury cars, including a 2009 Rolls-Royce Phantom convertible, diamonds and watches, among other items.

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