Wine Grifter Gets Two Years

Photo: SHAUN MADER/PatrickMcMullan

A judge in lower Manhattan this morning sentenced Omar Khan to two years in a federal prison for his role in a long-running scheme that defrauded many of the city’s fine-wine enthusiasts. In March, Khan pleaded guilty to one count of identity theft stemming from his impersonation of his own attorney in service of the nearly $7 million scheme. As part of that plea, a second charge of wire fraud, which would have carried a significantly longer prison term, was dropped.

“You are very, very, very, very fortunate there is a two-year cap,” U.S. district judge Paul A. Engelmayer told Khan during the hearing, referring to the maximum sentence he could impose for the charge to which Khan pleaded. “The facts of this crime would favor a much higher sentence.” Hammering his point home, Engelmayer ordered Khan to turn to and thank his attorney, Andrew Dalack of the Federal Defenders of New York.

Khan was first charged with wire fraud and identity theft in early 2020 but, at that point, he was living in Sri Lanka. The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York spent years trying to extradite Khan from Sri Lanka, but he was ultimately forced to leave the country for overstaying a visa. In February, he was arrested by the FBI. Judge Engelmayer also ordered Khan to pay $6,699,582 in restitution to his victims.

Khan’s wife, Leslie, was on hand for his sentencing. Though she was a named party in at least one major civil lawsuit against Khan, she was not charged in the criminal case against him. In a letter to the judge before sentencing, Leslie wrote of her husband, “Even with all Omar has done and achieved, he has always been an extremely warm and loving husband and always ensures that his closest relationships are given high priority in his life.” The letter continues, “Omar has been terribly badly affected emotionally by this case from the outset. He is very remorseful about the poor choices he made.” In court, Khan said he looked “forward to demonstrating remorse in due course.” Asked by the judge whether that meant he didn’t feel remorse now, Khan clarified. “I feel it today.”

Also in attendance was Krešimir Penavić, who lost more money than any other victims named in multiple civil lawsuits against Khan. For years, Penavić, a retired mathematician who made a fortune at the Long Island hedge fund Renaissance Technologies, attended Khan’s wine-tasting events and eventually invested some $5 million in Khan’s events before realizing he was being taken for a ride. Penavić ultimately hired Rob Seiden, a former prosecutor, to bring a lawsuit against Khan. At sentencing, Penavić gave a statement, saying that Khan had yet to express any remorse or pay a dime in restitution.

Engelmayer asked Penavić whether he knew where all of the money Khan stole went. The judge asked the same question to both Dalack and assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Chiuchiolo. All three men had the same response: No.


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