David Bunevacz handed 17 1/2 years prison, order to pay $35M

Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 22 2022 08:04 AM | Updated as of Nov 22 2022 11:21 AM

LOS ANGELES -- Former Philippine team decathlete turned TV personality David Bunevacz was sentenced to 210 months or 17 years and 6 months in prison and ordered to pay some $35 million in restitution to victims in his alleged ponzi scheme.

In July, Bunevacz pleaded guilty to one count of securities fraud and one count of wire fraud. 

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He had been in custody since April 2022.

Under the scheme, which he allegedly started in 2010, Bunevacz recruited investors for 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 scheme raised some $45 million, which prosecutors say funded his lavish lifestyle including a luxurious house in Calabasas instead of the businesses.

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The maximum penalty he was originally facing prior to the plea deal was 240 months.

While Bunevacz declined to make statements in court, his lawyer requested that he be given an 87-month sentence, saying that the 53-year-old was diagnosed with advanced heart failure and had not seen a cardiologist since his arrest 8 months ago.

More than a dozen victims were present in court, and 6 spoke during the sentencing hearing.

Throughout each testimony, he 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. The victims say he used their personal relationships and false documents to convince them to invest.

The say he had victimized at least a hundred 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.

Despite the probation, which he hid from investors, he had continued his so-called ponzi scheme.

After the hearing, victims says they were hoping for the maximum penalty, citing that he and they accept the judge’s ruling.

Bunevacz’ family, who had not been charged with any crimes, were not present in the court house.

While he has the option to appeal plea or sentencing. Bunevacz and the judge have requested that he serve his term in a Southern California facility equipped to provide medical care.