Turnberry Associates developer Jeffrey Soffer thought he had an offer from the prince of Saudi Arabia to buy the Fontainebleau Miami Beach in 2017 for $140 million more than what it was worth.
Negotiations spanned for months, as Soffer allegedly wined and dined the supposed prince and bought him a Cartier bracelet worth $50,000, along with expensive artwork to court his investment, according to Vanity Fair. In total, he gave the prince $150,000 in gifts.
But the deal ultimately turned out to be an allegedly elaborate scam perpetrated by a Colombian-born convicted con man named Anthony Enrique Gignac, Vanity Fair reported.
According to the report, Soffer first got a call from a London-based investment banker who said she represented Saudi Prince Khalid bin al-Saud on March 24, 2017. The prince allegedly told Soffer that he was in “a direct line to the throne.”
Soffer later flew the prince to Aspen on his private jet. In Aspen, Gignac stayed at the St. Regis hotel and spent time at Soffer’s Aspen home, once owned by Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia, that is now on the market for $29.5 million.
The prince’s elaborate hoax was uncovered when Soffer noticed that the prince ordered prosciutto (pork is forbidden under the Koran) as an appetizer while out to dinner with the Soffer family in Aspen, Vanity Fair reported.
The Fontainebleau’s security team then began investigating the prince, and the prince was eventually arrested at JFK airport in New York City in November 2017 when he presented a fake passport. [Vanity Fair] — Keith Larsen