International businessman sentenced to prison for ‘wine-and-dine scheme’

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An New York-based international businessman once described as one of “the most global consultants and speakers in the world,” was sentenced to prison and ordered to pay back over $6 million to victims of a wine-and-dine fraud scheme he operated. 

The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on Monday that 58-year-old Omar Khan was sentenced to two years in prison in connection with an investment fraud scheme involving rare and expensive wines and the impersonation of his attorney during the scheme.

On March 28, 2024, Khan pleaded guilty to a single count of aggravated identity theft.

“Whether a fraudulent scheme involves business ventures, cryptocurrency, or expensive wines, the career prosecutors of this Office will bring justice to the perpetrators of these crimes,” said Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. “Omar Khan fleeced his victims of millions of dollars, leaving devastation in the wake of his lies, but he now justly faces two years in federal prison and has been ordered to make restitution to his victims.”

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The DOJ said that between 2015 and 2019 Khan orchestrated a global fraud scheme involving the solicitation of investments for wine tasting and networking events.

Khan was the founder and operator of Firm-1, a management consulting firm in New York City, and his site described him as one of “the most global consultants and speakers in the world.”

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He was also called a “fanatical wine connoisseur” by Forbes Magazine in an article profiling Khan that was published on July 2, 2015, titled “The Elite Supper Club for Business Experts and Wine Fanatics.”

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To find investors for ventures and events involving rare, vintage wines and expensive dinners, Khan would host networking events for wealthy and successful individuals, the DOJ said.

One of those dinners took place on Dec. 13, 2017, which was called “An Evening of Daring Duos and Tantalizing Trios.” During the event, Khan had vintage wines served along with Nantucket bay scallops, oysters, caviar, risotto cooked in bone marrow broth and other expensive food items.

The DOJ said, according to charging documents and statements made in court, Khan sold the idea that if guests invested in other expensive dinners, networking events and ventures, they would earn a profit on their investment.

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But he also allegedly lied to prospective investors to induce investments, and with only a few exceptions, he embezzled the investment money and used the funds on personal expenditures.

When he was unable to pay them back, Khan made false statements to the investors.

In one example, Khan met a New York retiree, identified as Victim-1, who attended one of the dinner parties in early 2015. Khan remained in communication with Victim-1 and developed a friendship, until eventually Khan solicited the victim to become an investor.

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In the beginning, Victim-1 invested small amounts of money, but that progressed to larger sums. For instance, in 2018, Khan convinced Victim-1 to invest about $5 million with a famous French vineyard in Bordeaux, France.

Khan pitched the investment as a consulting deal involving a New York club backed by the vineyard. He then stalled for several months and made up excuses about why the deal had not been closed, the DOJ alleged.

In an email to Victim-1, Khan said the money “was on the move,” but the next day he falsely claimed the IRS placed a lien on his business account for unrelated activity in Dubai.

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In February 2018, Khan told another victim, identified as Victim-2, that his bank delayed a transfer to the victim because of a lack of authorization documents.

The next month, Khan told Victim-2 that his attorneys sent legal demands to the bank to resolve the issued.

In both emails, Khan claimed to have forwarded emails from his attorney about the bank wire that was delayed. He also said in the email that his attorneys had “issued a legal demand” to the bank to resolve the issue.

The DOJ said the emails that appeared to be sent from Khan’s lawyer were fraudulent, adding he had sent them while impersonating his own attorney.

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More victims began to emerge and on Sept. 3, 2019, several filed a civil lawsuit against Khan, alleging he convinced them to invest in wine dinners and ventures on the basis of fraudulent misrepresentations.

After a series of articles by the New York Post that shed light on Khan and the lawsuit, he fled the country to Sri Lanka. He was expelled from Sri Lanka in February 2024 and arrested at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York.

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“Omar Khan’s wine-and-dine scheme did not age well. For four years, Khan exploited the prestigious reputation of the wine industry to embezzle millions of dollars from well-intended investors using empty promises of future, lavish networking events while offering excuses for the lack of returns,” FBI Assistant Director in Charge James Smith said. “He utilized his public notoriety as a wine aficionado to lure and coax his victims into financing significant amounts, costing some the entirety of their investments.”

Along with being sentenced to two years in prison, Khan was sentenced to a year of supervised release and ordered to pay the victims $6,699,582 in restitution.

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