A 50-year-old Canadian pleaded guilty to five wire fraud charges on Monday for running a Ponzi scheme while pretending to be a successful businessman with ties to NBA stars like Stephen Curry and Shaquille O’Neal, federal prosecutors said. According to the Justice Department, Khemraj Dave Hardat posed as a successful entrepreneur in the “performance beverage and water-bottling industries” between 2014 and 2018 to lure in investors. Hardat allegedly claimed O’Neal was one of his business partners, and said Curry would be endorsing one of his company’s products. According to the DOJ, he also doctored images of his bank account statements to make him appear more wealthy than he really was, faked advanced education degrees, and pretended to have connections with the CEO of PepsiCo and computer entrepreneur Michael Dell.
Hardat allegedly took investors’ money and used it to pay for his rent in Los Angeles’ Ritz-Carlton Residences, pay for his children’s private school tuition, pay off debts, and buy luxury vehicles. He also allegedly used the money he collected, totaling $5 million, to pay some of his previous investors. Hardat is scheduled for a August 12 sentencing hearing and faces up to 100 years in prison.