Report: Billionaire developer Jeffrey Soffer triggers prosecution of fake “sultan”

Soffer initially thought the confessed con man was an investor and gave him $50,000 in gifts before doubting his claimed status as a rich Saudi prince

Jul.July 08, 2018 05:20 PM

Jeffrey Soffer

The Miami Herald reported that billionaire real estate developer Jeffrey Soffer triggered an investigation that led to the prosecution of a Colombian-born con man who pretended to be a rich Saudi “sultan” and a diplomat.

Soffer initially believed Anthony Gignac when he posed as a Saudi prince and expressed interest in paying $440 million for 30 percent ownership of one of Soffer’s hotels, according to a criminal complaint by the Diplomatic Security Service.

The criminal complaint doesn’t identify Soffer or the hotel by name, but unidentified sources told the Miami Herald that the unnamed hotelier in the complaint is Soffer and the hotel is the Fontainebleau resort in Miami Beach.

A federal indictment subsequently led Gignac, 47, to plead guilty to charges of fraud, identity theft, and impersonating an official of a foreign government. He is scheduled to be sentenced in August.

The Herald reported that Soffer was traveling and unavailable for comment. He owns Aventura-based Turnberry Associates together with his sister Jackie Soffer. Their family developed the Turnberry Isle resort and the Aventura Mall.

An attorney for Gignac also was unavailable. The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the case.

The original indictment of Gignac and a business partner doesn’t identify Soffer by name and refers to Turnberry Associates only by its initials, “T.A.” But the Miami Herald reported that Soffer is one of 26 individuals whom Gignac conned to steal a total of $8 million from 2015 to 2017, citing unidentified sources.

Soffer’s loss was limited to $50,000 in gifts he gave to Gignac before the Fontainebleau hotel’s private security firm did its own investigation of the “sultan,” which led to the discovery that Gignac was a con artist, not a wealthy member of the royal family that rules Saudi Arabia.

Gignac was introduced to Soffer as “Saudi Crown Prince Khalid bin Al-Saud.” Citing an unidentified source who knows about the case, the Miami Herald reported that Soffer gradually grew suspicious of the “sultan” for reasons including Gignac’s consumption of bacon and other pork products, which a religious Muslim prince would avoid.

Soffer reported his suspicions to federal authorities, which triggered an investigation of Gignac, who was arrested in November when he flew to New York from London using a passport with another person’s name. He has been incarcerated at a Miami detention facility since then.

His arrest triggered the issuance of a search warrant for Gignac’s Fisher Island residence, where investigators for the Diplomatic Security Service found his business cards with such titles as “Prince,” “Sultan” and “His Royal Highness.” Investigators also found fraudulent diplomatic license plates, a fake security badge for a diplomat, cash and unauthorized credit cards, among other items. [Miami Herald]Mike Seemuth

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