FilAm ex-actor and athlete David Bunevacz gets 17 years in US jail over investment scam, told to pay $35 M to victims

FIL-AM David Buenavacz, a former actor and athlete

By Claire Morales True
LOS ANGELES – Former Philippine team and University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) decathlete turned TV personality David Joseph Bunevacz has been sentenced by the United States District Court to 210 months or 17 years and six months in prison in connection with investment scam charges.
US District Judge Dale S. Fischer also ordered Bunevacz to pay $35,267,851 in restitution to his investment scam victims.
Judge Fischer said Bunevacz continued with his scheme even while serving probation for a state court conviction. “Not even a criminal conviction and the threat of jail convinced [Bunevacz] to become a law-abiding citizen,” he said.
Earlier in July, Bunevacz, 53, of Calabasas, California, who has been in federal custody since his arrest on April 5, pleaded guilty to one count of securities fraud and one count of wire fraud, crimes that carry a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison,according to the US Justice Department.

According to his plea agreement, going back to 2010, Bunevacz created several business entities – including Holy Smokes Holdings LLC and Caesarbrutus LLC – that he claimed were involved in the cannabis industry and the sale of vape pens containing cannabis products such as CBD oil and THC.

The justice department said Bunevacz falsely told at least one investor he had a longstanding 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 court documents. Bunevacz also provided investors with forged documents – such as bank statements, invoices and purchase orders – to support his claims of the businesses’ success and the need for investor funds.
Instead of using the funds to finance business operations, Bunevacz misappropriated the vast 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.

To create the false appearance that his companies were engaged in legitimate business activities, Bunevacz registered various shell companies, including several with names similar or identical to those of legitimate cannabis businesses. To conceal his control of these shell companies and the bank accounts associated with them, Bunevacz listed other individuals, including his stepdaughter, as the corporate officers of the shell companies.

Bunevacz’s blog touts his success as a former decathlete who competed for the Philippines, and his wife and daughter appeared in a reality television show. Despite Bunevacz’s promotion of his background, Bunevacz took efforts to conceal negative information from investors, such as his 2017 felony conviction for the unlawful sale of securities, according to an affidavit submitted in support of the criminal complaint.

After one investor uncovered a lawsuit against Bunevacz, Bunevacz 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.

Operating through his cannabis companies, Bunevacz raised between approximately $37,166,737 and $45,068,227 from more than 10 victim-investors. He admitted to causing losses of at least $28,409,112, according to the justice department.
Bunevacz declined to make statements in court but his lawyer requested that he be given an 87-month sentence, saying that he was diagnosed with advanced heart failure and had not seen a cardiologist since his arrest last April 5.

The court, however, did not grant Bunevacz’ lawyer’s request to shorten the jail sentence due to his client’s health condition.

Bunevacz is set to serve his sentence at a California state prison.

More than a dozen victims were present in court, and six spoke during the sentencing hearing, ABS-CBN reported.

Throughout each testimony, Bunavacz did not look at or acknowledged any of the victims as described their personal and businesses relationships with him.

They told the court that their families became close to the Bunevacz family, and he would eventually convince them to invest into cannabis-related businesses.

In some cases victims would use their own companies and life savings to fund their investments, according the reports.

It was gathered that Bunavacz had victimized at least 100 people, and claimed that he would not be rehabilitated in prison, citing a 2017 felony conviction for the unlawful sale of securities which he had received probation for.