Singapore Resident Charged In Manhattan Federal Court With Fraudulent Pre-IPO Stock Scheme | USAO-SDNY

Audrey Strauss, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Peter C. Fitzhugh, Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”), Philip R. Bartlett, Inspector-in-Charge of the New York Field Division of the United States Postal Inspection Service (“USPIS”), Dermot Shea, Commissioner of the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”), and Joseph Fucito, New York City Sheriff, announced today the unsealing of a criminal Complaint charging SHAMOON RAFIQ, a/k/a “Shamoon Omer Rafiq,” a/k/a “Omar Rafiq,” a/k/a “Omer Rafiq,” a resident of Singapore, with securities fraud, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft for engaging in a scheme in which RAFIQ solicited millions of dollars through his use of false representations offering to sell purported investments in shares of stock in privately held companies that have not yet conducted an initial public offering (“pre-IPO stock”) that he did not actually own, his false impersonation of senior officials of a reputable family office investment firm, and other acts of deception.

U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said:  “As alleged, Shamoon Rafiq exploited investors’ fear of missing out on the potential gains to be earned from investing in companies before they go public, and solicited millions of dollars from investors through brazen lies and deception. Rafiq allegedly elicited millions under the false pretense that he would sell shares of pre-IPO stocks which – unbeknownst to his investors – he did not even own and therefore could not sell.  Furthermore, Rafiq allegedly sent faked emails impersonating senior officials of a reputable family office investment firm that supposedly backed his claims.  I sincerely thank our law enforcement partners for their assistance in charging Rafiq for alleged predatory acts of deceit on his victims.” 

HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Peter C. Fitzhugh said:  “A fraudster with a felony conviction for wire fraud, Rafiq allegedly attempted to fleece investors out of their hard-earned cash by creating the illusion of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to invest victims’ funds into pre-IPO stocks such as Airbnb shares. In reality, no such opportunity existed and Rafiq’ was simply trying to walk off with millions of dollars from Singapore. HSI’s El Dorado Task Force and our partners will continue to work tirelessly to identify, investigate, arrest and prosecute individuals, like Rafiq, who allegedly peddled too good to be true financial opportunities within the U.S. financial markets. Investors should be reminded that unbelievable investment prospects are sometimes just that.”

USPIS Inspector-in-Charge Phillip R, Bartlett said:  “Mr. Rafiq’s alleged scheme is all based on the alleged perfect opportunity for ‘stock’ in a well-known company. The opportunity to own prominent holdings would be a boon to any investor, but in this case there was no stock, just a made up investment scheme to enrich an alleged serial fraudster. Through the collaboration of law enforcement, both domestically and globally, Mr. Rafiq will once again answer for his crimes to defraud investors. A reminder that no one eludes justice forever.”

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said:  “As alleged in this complaint, Shamoon Rafiq preyed on the hopes of innocent victims in elaborate financial swindles. But the joint work of our NYPD investigators and law enforcement partners put an end to these alleged crimes and I commend the United States Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York for bringing this important case.”

If you believe you are a victim of a fraudulent pre-IPO stock scheme perpetrated by SHAMOON RAFIQ or have information about the crimes charged in the Complaint, please call the United States Attorney’s Office at 866-874-8900.

According to the allegations in the Complaint unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:[1]

SHAMOON RAFIQ, a/k/a “Shamoon Omer Rafiq,” a/k/a “Omar Rafiq,” a/k/a “Omer Rafiq,” was born in the Netherlands in 1973 and presently resides in Singapore.  RAFIQ was convicted in 2004 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York for carrying out a wire fraud scheme in which he purported to sell pre-IPO stock in a privately held company that had not yet conducted its initial public offering when, in fact, RAFIQ did not own or have access to such stock.  After serving a 41-month federal prison sentence for that crime, RAFIQ was deported from the United States and eventually relocated to Singapore.

Since at least July 2020, RAFIQ has been engaging in a new scheme from Singapore to defraud victims into paying him millions of dollars for alleged investment interests in various pre-IPO stocks that he does not actually own or control. 

In connection with his new fraud scheme, RAFIQ has fraudulently impersonated two senior officials (“Victim-1” and “Victim-2”) of a prominent family office investment firm (“FamCap”) that manages and invests assets of members of a prominent billionaire family (the “Family”).  In July 2020, RAFIQ caused the creation of a fake FamCap website (the “Fake FamCap Website”) that has automatically routed users to the official FamCap website, and the creation of fake FamCap email addresses for Victim-1 and Victim-2 that closely resemble, but are slightly different from, their official FamCap email addresses (the “Fake FamCap Email Addresses”).  The Fake FamCap Website and Fake FamCap Email Addresses for Victim-1 and Victim-2 were created without their or FamCap’s consent.  The Fake FamCap Email Addresses also included the names of Victim-1 and Victim-2 without their authorization.

In July 2020, RAFIQ began soliciting millions of dollars from investment firms in New York and elsewhere based on false claims that in exchange for their funds, he would sell them investment interests in a purported special purpose investment vehicle called “[Fam] Capital Technology Fund, LLC” that was supposedly managed by FamCap and allegedly owned pre-IPO stock in Airbnb, Inc., among other companies.  For example, as part of this fraudulent scheme, RAFIQ deceived an investment firm based in New York, New York (the “New York Firm”), and one of the firm’s foreign institutional clients (the “Client”) into making agreements under which the Client wired about $9 million in mid-August 2020 into an escrow account in New York for anticipated release to a bank account in Singapore to pay RAFIQ for his purported sale of investment interests in the LLC.

In soliciting this $9 million investment, RAFIQ made a variety of false representations, including the following:

  • RAFIQ falsely claimed that the LLC was managed by FamCap.  In fact, the LLC never existed.

 

  • RAFIQ falsely claimed that the LLC owned pre-IPO shares of Airbnb.  In fact, the LLC did not own and could not have owned such stock because the LLC never existed.

 

  • RAFIQ falsely claimed that Victim-1 and Victim-2 had approved of his sale of his alleged interests in the LLC.  In fact, Victim-1 and Victim-2 do not know RAFIQ and have confirmed that FamCap was never involved in or approved of any such transaction.

During and to further the goals of this fraudulent scheme, RAFIQ also caused the creation and transmission of emails from the Fake FamCap Email Addresses and fake contracts and deal documents purporting to have been signed by Victim-1 or Victim-2 on behalf of FamCap that neither of them approved.  For example, in August 2020, during the course of email communications with the New York Firm and Client concerning RAFIQ’s alleged sale to them of his purported interests in an alleged FamCap-managed LLC that supposedly held Airbnb shares, RAFIQ copied into the email chain the Fake FamCap Email Addresses to create the false impression that FamCap was involved in and approved of the alleged transaction.

In a separate parallel enforcement action, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) has filed civil charges against RAFIQ.        

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RAFIQ, 47, is a resident of Singapore and a citizen of the Netherlands.  RAFIQ has been charged in a three-count Complaint with one count of securities fraud, which carries a maximum potential sentence of 20 years in prison; one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum potential sentence of 20 years in prison; and one count of aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory prison sentence of two years that must be imposed to run consecutively to any other terms of imprisonment.  In addition to potential prison sentences, each of these charges also carries potential financial penalties.  The maximum potential prison sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge. 

RAFIQ remains at large.  The United States looks forward to working with our foreign partners to bring RAFIQ to justice.

Ms. Strauss praised the investigative work of HSI, USPIS, the NYPD and the New York City Sheriff’s Office, and she also thanked the SEC, which conducted a separate parallel investigation, for its assistance.

This case is being handled by this Office’s Securities and Commodities Fraud Task Force.  Assistant United States Attorney Samson Enzer is in charge of the prosecution.

The allegations contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

 


[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Complaint and the description of that charging document set forth herein constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

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