Former UCLA decathlete gets over 17 years in prison for cannabis pen fraud
A former track and field star who supposedly pivoted to a career in business was sentenced to 17 1/2 years in federal prison on Monday for allegedly defrauding cannabis industry investors out of more than $45 million, the Department of Justice announced.
David Bunevacz, 53, is accused of deceiving investors — including some who reportedly faced severe financial instability — into paying for his own vacations, horses, designer garments and even his family's home in Calabasas, which authorities described as "luxurious" in a news release. Bunevacz is said to have collected money from the alleged fraud victims under the guise of entrepreneurship, telling them that their investments would be used to fund companies marketing cannabis vape pens, according to the Justice Department.
His alleged scheme dates back to at least 2010, authorities said, when Bunevacz began to establish business entities with names like CB Holding Group Corp. and Caesarbrutus LLC. Bunevacz allegedly claimed that the companies were involved in the cannabis industry, and specifically the sale of vape pens containing cannabis products like CBS oil and THC. He also purportedly shared false information with at least one investor about his relationship with a Chinese manufacturer of disposable vape pens that were non-toxic and high-quality.
Meanwhile, Bunevacz is also accused of registering shell companies, some of which borrowed names from legitimate companies, in order "to create the false appearance that his companies were engaged in legitimate business activities," according to the Justice Department. He apparently took care to distance himself from some of the shell entities, listing other people, including his stepdaughter, as their corporate officers instead of himself.
The federal court filing suggests that Bunevacz raised upwards of $45.2 million in fraudulent investments, which came from more than 100 victims, the Justice Department said. U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer, who sentenced Bunevacz to 210 months in federal prison, claimed he is responsible for losses amounting to more than $35 million.
"The sense of violation, the assault on personal dignity, and the lasting trauma [Bunevacz] has caused are very much reminiscent of the harm typically associated with violent crimes," prosecutors said in a sentencing memo, according to the Justice Department. "And, with well over a hundred victims, [Bunevacz] caused these harms at a scale rarely seen."
Bunevacz was a successful decathlete at UCLA and went on to compete in track and field events with the Filipino national team. He and his wife, Jessica Rodriguez, a Filipino actor and model, share three children.
Bunevacz already had one felony conviction for unlawful sale of securities in 2017, according to the Justice Department. After his initial arrest in April, Bunevacz pleaded guilty in July to one count of securities fraud and one count of wire fraud. He remains in federal custody.