Former UCLA decathlete to plead guilty in $28.4 million cannabis vaping scam

A former UCLA decathlete who competed with the Philippines national team will plead guilty on Monday to federal charges of raising more than $28 million from investors who were falsely told their funds would be used to finance companies marketing cannabis vape pens.

David Bunevacz, 53, of Calabasas, has agreed to plead to one count of securities fraud and wire fraud, according to his plea agreement filed in federal court in Los Angeles.

The crimes each carry a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison, prosecutors said.

Bunevacz has solicited investments in various companies – CB Holding Group Corp. and CaesarBrutus LLC, among others – which he said were involved in the sale of vape pens containing cannabis products such as CBD oil and THC, according to the criminal complaint.

The defendant falsely told at least one investor that he had a long-standing relationship with a Chinese disposable vape pen manufacturer and that he obtained “pesticide-free raw oil” which was sent to a “laboratory that infuses the flavors into the oil with our proprietary custom process that makes the vape aroma smooth and understated,” the complaint states.

Bunevacz also provided investors with false documents, including bank statements, invoices and purchase orders, to support his claims about the companies’ success and the investors’ need for funds, prosecutors say.

Instead of using the funds to finance business operations, Bunevacz diverted the majority of the funds to pay for his own opulent lifestyle, “including a luxurious house in Calabasas, trips to Las Vegas, jewelry, handbags designer hand, a lavish birthday party for her daughter, and horses,” according to an affidavit filed with the complaint.

He reportedly spent more than $8.1 million on casinos, paid an event planner $218,700 as part of the birthday party, and bought a horse for $330,000. According to federal prosecutors, some investor funds were used to pay off previous investors in a manner consistent with a Ponzi scheme.

Bunevacz’s blog touts his success as a former decathlete who competed for the Philippines, and said his wife and daughter appeared on a reality TV show, the affidavit states.

The investigation found that Bunevacz worked to conceal negative information from investors, such as his 2017 felony conviction for illegally selling securities, prosecutors said.

After an investor uncovers a civil lawsuit against Bunevacz, the defendant allegedly emailed a forged version of the settlement agreement to falsely believe he was paid $325,000 in a settlement . In reality, it was Bunevacz who had agreed to pay $325,000 to settle the claim, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Operating through his cannabis companies, Bunevacz caused investor losses of at least $28.4 million, according to his plea agreement.

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