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Man charged with wire fraud in $1 million Miami Heat ticket scam

By Daniel Wallis

MIAMI (Reuters) - A Miami man has been charged with wire fraud in connection with a scam that yielded millions of dollars from investors and a premium ticket package for the Miami Heat NBA basketball team, prosecutors said on Friday.

An indictment said Haider Zafar, 36, portrayed himself as a member of a wealthy Pakistani family that operates several luxury hotels, including the Marriott in Islamabad, which was bombed in 2008, and other businesses.

It said Zafar claimed he lived in a penthouse in the Essex House in New York City, as well as having residences in other high-end buildings there and in Miami.

Zafar faces up to 20 years in prison on each of five counts of wire fraud in the case, the U.S. attorney's office said. He currently is incarcerated in Ohio awaiting sentencing on federal fraud charges involving a land purchase scheme, the Columbus, Ohio, Dispatch said.

Wifredo Ferrer, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, said in a statement that Zafar had approached a Miami Heat sales executive in October 2012 saying that he wanted to buy a premium three-season ticket package costing more than $1 million.

"He was provided the package in anticipation of later payment," Ferrer said in a statement.

Shortly thereafter, prosecutors allege, Zafar obtained a loan and millions of dollars from investors wanting to put money into an investment opportunity he proposed to them.

But, the statement said, he "never invested anything and instead used the money provided for personal expenses and to pay a portion of what was owed for the Miami Heat tickets."

It was unclear from court records if Zafar had retained an attorney.

(Reporting by Daniel Wallis; Editing by David Adams and Bill Trott)

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