S’pore resident previously convicted over Google pre-IPO scheme faces fraud charges in New York

The man is accused of fraudulently selling pre-initial public offering shares. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) - A man who was previously convicted of fraudulently selling pre-initial public offering shares in Google is facing new charges that he conducted a similar scam while posing as representatives of a billionaire family's investment office.

Shamoon Rafiq, 47, was charged on Friday (March 12) by federal prosecutors in Manhattan.

According to the criminal complaint, Rafiq, a Dutch citizen residing in Singapore, impersonated two senior officials of the investment firm of a "prominent billionaire family", falsely claiming to have access to pre-IPO shares in Airbnb and other companies.

Prosecutors did not identify the family but said its investment office was headquartered in Europe and was an arm of a family-controlled global conglomerate.

According to the complaint, Rafiq used his claimed association with the family to solicit funds from other investment firms, with one New York company and its overseas subsidiary wiring him US$9 million (S$12 million) in August.

He created a fake website for the family office and fake e-mails for the two officials as part of the scheme.

"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," Manhattan US Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement.

Rafiq, who remains at large, is charged with securities fraud, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

He faces as much as 20 years in prison on the most serious charge.

The Securities and Exchange Commission also sued Rafiq on Friday.

He was previously convicted in 2004 in federal court in Brooklyn for fraudulently offering investors access to "friends and family" shares in Google's IPO.

In that scheme, he falsely claimed to have attended Stanford with Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin and said he worked at prominent Silicon Valley venture capital firm and Google backer Kleiner Perkins.

His victims, who included an unnamed telecommunications chief executive officer, invested nearly US$3 million in the fake Google shares.

Rafiq pleaded guilty, served 41 months and was deported from the US.

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