How Lamborghini-driving con man conned dozens of investors out of $35 million with fake marijuana deal
David Bunevacz’s life seemed too good to be true.
The handsome international athlete, who represented UCLA and the Philippines in the decathlon, roared through Los Angeles in his yellow Lamborghini, returning home with his wife, a former model, and daughter, a model, for lavish parties at the mansion he once owned. It was once owned by Kylie. Jenner.
To his friends, he was a high-society businessman, who generously included them in his lucrative deals, since 2010, involved in the booming marijuana business.
Last year, however, those friends learned to their horror that Bunevacz’s seemingly golden existence was too good to be true, after he was arrested and charged with more than $35 million in fraud.
David Bunevacz and his wife Jessica Rodriguez. He was arrested in April and sentenced in November to 17 years in prison for a $35 million fraud.
Bunevacz and his family lived in this Calabasas mansion, previously owned by Kylie Jenner
Bunevacz’s astonishing rise and fall began in Los Angeles, where he was born: the son of a Hungarian restaurant owner, Joseph Bunevacz, and a Filipina nurse, Filomena, who moved from the Philippines to California in the late 1960s.
Young David was a track star in high school, excelling in the high jump, javelin, and hurdles.
He then competed for the Philippines at the Southeast Asian Games in 1997, placing second in the decathlon.
Bunevacz settled in Manila, worked in television co-hosting a TV show about sports and travel, and landed a few minor acting roles.
He met his wife Jessica Rodriguez, a model and talent manager, and in 2006 Bunevacz opened a plastic surgery clinic in Manila, advertised with a giant billboard reading “Miss Ugly No More.”
Jessica Rodriguez is pictured with her daughter Breanna, a model and equestrian.
Business soon turned sour, however: Bunevacz was accused of defrauding investors and was beaten, threatened at gunpoint and forced to give up his Porsche Cayenne Turbo, according to los angeles times.
He and his wife fled the country and returned to California.
Jessica wrote a book for ‘polished women’
When Bunevacz told the story of his departure to a friend, he was, he told the paper, “a little mix of Jason Bourne and Indiana Jones.”
Bunevacz seemed to thrive in Los Angeles.
His wife wrote a book on how to marry “well,” a manual for what she called “refined women.”
In 2008, he launched a bold plan to secure tickets to the Beijing Olympics, partnering with Gene Hammett, an Atlanta ticket broker.
Hammett was won over by the charming and gregarious businessman: Bunevacz invited Hammett to his suite at Birds Nest Stadium, where they watched Usain Bolt break a world record in the 100-meter dash.
Bunevacz told Hammett that he could get him tickets to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver: Hammett paid $2.9 million for $17,000.
The tickets never arrived.
Hammett was sued and went bankrupt: he lost his home.
The family shows up on one of their frequent luxury vacations.
Prosecutors displayed Jessica’s shoe and bag collection
Bunevacz, meanwhile, ripped through Hammett’s cash: The money was spent at Tiffany’s, Bloomingdales, Neiman Marcus, Giorgio Armani and Hermès, along with a Ritz Carlton spa in Georgia and the Bacara resort in Santa Barbara, Hammett’s lawyer said, Filippo Marchino.
Large sums were transferred to Bunevacz’s account at the Bellagio casino in Las Vegas, including $125,000 just before Christmas.
“He was just burning money as soon as he got it,” said Damon Rogers, another attorney for Hammett.
The case was settled four years later for just $325,000.
Meanwhile, the Bunevacz scam continued.
Around 2010, he came up with another scam: offering investors the “opportunity” to buy a company he claimed was buying vape pens from China and reselling them at a significant markup in the US.
He convinced dozens of friends and acquaintances to invest, including his dentist.
The money was not spent on the business.
His daughter Breanna received a $218,000 party for her 16th birthday.
Held at the Skirball Cultural Center in Brentwood, it featured rapper A Boogie wit da Hoodie.
They bought him a $330,000 horse named Vondel, and the elite show jumping circles he moved in gave his father access to other people he cheated on.
Breanna Bunevacz with her $300,000 Vondel horse and YSL bag, at the stables
Breanna and one of her horses in action.
Breanna was building a career as a model and appeared on the television series ‘Making a Model with Yolanda Hadid’, the mother of Bella and Gigi.
In January 2019, he gave his wife a lavish party at Nobu in Malibu and commissioned ‘Crazy Rich Asians’-style posters advertising the party.
The shopping sprees continued: At Beverly Hills jewelry stores, Bunevacz bought $209,500 diamond earrings; a diamond ring for $195,000; a Rolex submariner watch for $14,215; and three bracelets and two Hermès Birkin bags for $46,500.
Geoffrey Elliott, a Sheriff’s Department detective on a fraud team in Chatsworth, finally obtained a search warrant to search the Calabasas mansion.
Detectives seized files of documents with which to prosecute Bunevacz.
He was arrested in April and pleaded guilty to fraud in July.
In November he was sentenced to 17 years in prison and ordered to pay $35 million that he defrauded more than 100 investors.
It is believed unlikely that any of his victims will ever see their money again.
The FBI, the Internal Revenue Service and the Securities and Exchange Commission joined the investigation.
Elliott, in his arrest warrant request, called Bunevacz a “route con man” who falsified financial records to swindle investors out of millions.
US District Judge Dale S. Fischer, who sentenced him in November, decided to exceed the sentence recommended by prosecutors, saying he felt he showed no remorse for the lives he ruined.
“Their purpose was to provide him and his family with an extremely extravagant lifestyle that they flaunted on social media,” he said.
I am not in the least convinced that Mr. Bunevacz regrets anything other than getting caught.