Filipino American ex-decathlete and actor David Bunevacz was sentenced to jail for 210 months or over 17 years by a California court, for scamming over a hundred investors in his supposed cannabis-related business via a pyramiding scheme.
According to the United States Attorney's Office of the Central District of California report, Bunevacz agreed to plead guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of securities fraud. The maximum penalty he was originally facing was 240 months or 20 years.
He was arrested in April and has been in federal custody since then.
The 53-year-old was also ordered to pay his victims about $35 million (over P2 billion) in restitution.
Court documents said Bunevacz's scheme dates back in 2010, during which he created business entities supposedly involved in the marijuana industry. He said his companies—including CB Holding Group Corp. and Caesarbrutus LLC—were selling disposable vape pens containing cannabis products.
California has legalized its medicinal and recreational use, although strictly regulated.
Bunevacz told investors he had a "long-standing relationship" with a Chinese manufacturer of vape pens. He said he also obtained “raw pesticide-free oil," sent to a lab that "infuses the flavors into the oil with our proprietary custom process that renders the vape flavoring smooth and discrete.”
He reportedly raised about $37 million and $45 million (P2 billion and P2.5 billion) from over 100 investors. Some of the victims used their own companies and life savings to fund Bunevacz.
But Bunevacz, according to the court, misappropriated the majority of the funds to finance his opulent lifestyle. These include a luxurious house in Calabasas, trips to Las Vegas, purchases of jewelry, designer handbags, and horses, as well as a lavish birthday party for his daughter.
To support his claims and attract more investors, he forged documents like bank statements, invoices, and purchase orders.
He also registered various shell companies and listed as corporate officers those with names similar or identical to legitimate cannabis businesses. He also included the name of his very own stepdaughter as corporate officer.
To make his image more appealing, Bunevacz through his blog also highlighted his status as a former decathlete; his wife, ex-model and actress Jessica Rodriguez; and their daughter who appeared on reality TV.
He also concealed negative information about him, including his 2017 felony conviction for the unlawful sale of securities which he received probation for.
Even with the probation, a fact he hid from investors, his scams went on as usual.
“Not even a criminal conviction and the threat of jail convinced [Bunevacz] to become a law-abiding citizen," the court said.
Bunevacz is set to serve his sentence in a California state prison that offers medical care. His lawyer said he was diagnosed with advanced heart failure and had not seen a cardiologist since his April arrest.