A 'peripatetic grifter' stole $35 million from investors through a fake vape pen business while living in a Calabasas mansion once owned by Kylie Jenner

A man uses a vape device in this illustration picture, September 19, 2019. REUTERS/Adnan Abisi/IllustrationREUTERS/Adnan Abisi
  • A Los Angeles man was convicted on federal wire fraud charges and sentenced in November 2022.

  • David Bunevacz was caught after years of convincing friends to invest in phony weed businesses.

  • When he secured cash, he spent the money on horses, gambling, and Porsches, per prosecutors.

A Los Angeles grifter was sentenced to over 17 years in prison in November 2022 after he spent years traveling the country as a high-powered marijuana snake oil salesman who stole millions from investors.

David Bunevacz stole close to $35 million from investors and was convicted on counts of securities and wire fraud, federal prosecutors said in court documents. The one-time actor's scheme, detailed in a criminal complaint and by The Los Angeles Times, involved securing investments by posing as a weed vape pen executive and quickly burning the cash on horses, casino runs, and rent at Kylie Jenner's former Calabasas mansion, obfuscating the money's trace.

He drove around in a rotating cast of Porsches and splurged investor money on $46,500 worth of Birkin handbags, and at least $920,000 in jewelry, prosecutors said.

The appearance of success was critical to his scheme, and through part of the pandemic, Bunevacz and his family rented out Kylie Jenner's former Calabasas mansion for $18,000 a month. Bunevacz conned more than 100 people and lost at least $8 million worth of investor money at Las Vegas casinos, according to The Times, which chronicled the years-long series of scams and its effect on Bunevacz's victims.

Prosecutors said in court documents that Bunevacz routinely befriended wealthy Los Angeles residents, even after he had been convicted on three counts of grand theft in the Los Angeles Superior Court in 2016.

Ultimately, Bunevacz enriched himself to portray the kind of lifestyle he hoped the Los Angeles elite would keep sustaining — until federal prosecutors found out he was blowing smoke.

Bunevacz did not immediately return Insider's request for comment.

Fake weed pen businesses were the central part of the scheme

When approaching investors for what he described as a weed pen business, Bunevacz concealed a past criminal conviction and settlement, forging invoices, bank statements, and purchase orders.

One of his victims traveled to California in 2019 several times to meet with Bunevacz as the fraudster attempted to secure a $1 million loan for one of the shell companies he used to conduct business.

"Bunevacz told Victim 2A during these meetings that he needed an additional $1 million to purchase CBD oil to fill vape pens to satisfy a pending purchase order," prosecutors said.

By March 2019, the investor had granted Bunevacz his wish, and the money was immediately spent.

About $330,000 from the $1 million loan was spent on a horse named Vondel, according to prosecutors, and Bunevacz did not purchase any weed pen parts or oil.

Bunevacz found success bringing his show on the road

Horses were Bunevacz's other golden ticket, allowing him to infiltrate the lives of rich equestrian parents around the US.

Over a period of years, his daughter trained as an equestrian, and he spent at least $1.3 million of investor money on horse-related expenses, securing millions from others, prosecutors said.

Also central to his efforts was Bunevacz's ability to psychologically manipulate those he became close to.

Tom Danford, an investor and former friend said that Bunevacz and his wife Jessica preyed on his family's substance abuse recovery and "manipulated us from the beginning of the relationship while pretending to care about us and the well-being of our children," according to The Times.

After the victim impact statements, U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer sentenced Bunevacz to 17.5 years in prison, higher than the 11 years prosecutors had called for, The Times reported.

Bunevacz's dentist — who was conned out of $800,000 — said at the sentencing that Bunevacz's behavior was "sociopathic," per The Times. "I think he's a different level of crook."

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