Khemraj Hardat Arrested for Wire Fraud
Khemraj Dave Hardat and his wife Cecilia registered two of their three children at Calvary Christian School for the 2015-2016 school year. The family, which had recently moved from Florida, appeared to be well-off.
Where did Hardat’s money come from? That’s not a question one usually poses to a new parent at a school, but parents learned that he was allegedly a beverage executive. More than one family at Calvary knew he supposedly had a pending deal with PepsiCo and Dr. Pepper for his water company, 04 Worldwide Holdings, which included his triple oxygenated Calo4nia water.
Shortly after school started, Hardat performed a demonstration of his water to an eighth-grade Calvary science class. He even brought the water to a flag football game. A parent, R.S., later told Circling the News, “It didn’t taste any different.”
No one questioned Hardat’s credentials, which alleged to include a Ph.D. from Yale. No one questioned his company. The man obviously had money because he drove a Lamborghini (about $200,000) and his wife Cecilia drove a 2015 Maserati Quattroporte S Q4 (prices start at $108,700).
The family of five was living at the Ritz-Carlton Residences at LA Live in downtown Los Angeles, where three-bedroom rentals go for $11,250 a month and three-bedroom condos range in price from $3.2 to $7.75 million with the following amenities: rooftop swimming pool, fitness center, spa & salon, screening room, access to Ritz Carlton Hotel Service, complimentary breakfast, 24-hour full-service concierge, housekeeping services and secure parking.
Hardat, 50, also had a suite at Staples Center. According to a July 2015 L.A. Times story (“Suite Rental Companies Make Premium Sports Experiences More Attainable”) those suites for the Kings, Lakers and Clippers start at $300,000.
According to R.S. and other school families, the Hardats invited school administrators and parents to events at Staples. There were also school/birthday parties at the Ritz Carlton.
On November 29, 2018, Hardat was arrested on a federal wire fraud charge and the people who had been scammed were numerous.
According to a U.S. Attorney’s office, Hardat had allegedly defrauded at least seven victims into wiring him more than $5 million. Two of them were Calvary families, and one family apparently played an essential role in Hardat’s undoing.
Circling the News spoke to Palisadian R.S, the husband of one of the victims (all names will be kept as initials until after the trial).
“He [Hardat] told my husband, J.S., that he needed $400,000 to close a deal and said, ‘In four weeks, I’ll pay you back and you’ll get a super commission,’” R.S. said in an interview. Then Hardat took it one step further, telling J.S., “I have a check from PepsiCo in my bank account and I can’t get it until I sign the deal.”
Hardat, a Canadian national who was living in the Los Angeles area on an expired tourist visa, flashed a bank statement that showed he had almost $500 million in his bank account.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Los Angeles, “Rather than invest these funds in the businesses Hardat claimed to run, he allegedly used the money for personal expenses or, in the style of a Ponzi scheme, made partial repayments to previous victims.”
J.S., who was not independently wealthy, thought this was an investment opportunity that could present his family with a little cushion. He mortgaged his Palisades home in order to present Hardat with a check.
When his wife, R.S., heard what her husband had done, she instantly went to the computer and started Googling. “I found a lot of lawsuits [in Florida and Louisiana],” she said. Furious and frightened, she showed her husband what she had found. He didn’t want to believe her—after all, Hardat was successful; his lifestyle was a testament to it.
R.S. discovered that her husband had made out a check for $200,000 to Hardat and a second check for $200,000 to A.P., dated 2016.
When R.S. saw that check, she told her husband, “A.P. is a father at the school.”
Hardat had told J.S. that A.P. was a partner, but it appears the first family had also been owed money by Hardat and now J.S. was paying A.P.
When people have been conned, they sometimes clam up, because they don’t want people to know they’ve been fooled–but that’s not what R.S. did. She talked to several moms at Calvary and they helped her find lawyers.
A meeting was arranged between Hardat and J.S.–and then unexpectedly the lawyers and R.S. appeared at the meeting. According to R.S., the lawyers warned Hardat “This is a Ponzi scheme,” and “You found the wrong victim. Give this guy’s money back.”
Within the week, J.S. received a check for $200,000. But despite calls and emails, the family did not receive the remaining $200,000.
R.S continued to sleuth. She had been told that the Galaxy pro soccer team was going to sell Calo4nia water at its Carson stadium. R.S. called and asked about the water. “They had never heard of the name,” R.S. said.
What R.S. didn’t know was that Hardat did have a relationship with the Galaxy company, albeit, through a lawsuit (BC637127).
In October 2016, LA Arena Funding LLC (which includes AEG, which manages sporting events for the Galaxy) filed against Hardat’s companies (04 Worldwide Holdings LLC, Calo4nia Beverages, Calo4nia Capital LLC and Blue04/04 Water Products).
In January 2017, the court found a default judgment against Hardat: that case was still underway in mid-2018.
Meanwhile, the Palisades family continued to seek the rest of their money from Hardat. “We met with them [Hardat and wife Cecilia] at Starbucks [on Swarthmore],” R.S. said.
When R.S demanded their money back, Cecilia told her they had been “given an opportunity” to invest. When voices began to rise and other customers started starring, the Hardats walked out.
From February to April 2016, Hardat claimed, through phone calls and text messages to the family, that he was sending the $200,000 he still owed them. It was supposed to come in six installments. Hardat had even supposedly received wiring instructions from the family’s bank.
In March 2018, R.S. told her husband, “If he would pay back, it would be from another victim. This guy deserves to be in jail—no more victims. Let’s go to the F.B.I.”
The Palisades family had kept a record of every transaction, email and text message and presented them to the F.B.I.
The F.B.I. discovered the family was not alone; that other people, including experienced investors, had been fooled and had lost money to Hardat.
As early as October 2014, Hardat had received $4 million from L.K., a financial professional. Hardat promised he would repay the $4 million, plus $200,000 in interest, within one week. With the exception of one late payment of $205,000 in November, L.K. received no more money, nor his original “loan.”
In L.A. County Superior Court (Case No. BC587529), L.K. filed a July 7, 2015 compliant for breach of promissory note against Khemraj Dave Hardat. And even though L.K. won judgement on December 2015, the civil case dragged on.
The court noted a satisfaction of partial judgment on January 12, 2017. But by January 2018, the court had an “order directing the levying officer to seize property in a private place.”
A notice of a Sheriff’s sale showed that Hardat still owed L.K. more than $4 million and the family’s Maserati would be sold. Minimum bid for the vehicle was placed at $3050.
When the F.B.I. finally arrested Hardat last November 29, contempt hearings were still underway in civil court.
According to a November 2018 story in Newsweek (“Canadian Posing as Beverage Executive in Los Angeles Ran $5 Million Ponzi Scheme”), another victim, W.J., lost $50,000 to Hardat, and had allegedly filed a report at the Beverly Hills Police Department.
According to the story, Hardat’s victims included C.B., and then S.K., both of whom were owed money.
The Palisades family (R.S. and J.S.) never got its check back from A.P., the other Calvary school family, who have relocated to Argentina. The suite at Staples Center actually belonged to A.P. How Hardat obtained access to the suite is unclear.
R.S. said that Hardat’s son was an eighth grader who graduated and then enrolled at Crossroads.
R.S. said she tried to warn Crossroads administrators about Hardat, but was told there was nothing they could do. So, she went through the mom “information line”—asking moms to tell other moms in an attempt to prevent Hardat from seeking any more victims.
The Hardats have since moved their two younger children to Sierra Canyon School in Chatsworth.
On November 30, Hardat, who had been charged with one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in Federal prison, was denied bail.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael R. Wilner ruled that Hardat was a “danger to the community” based on his “pervasive” conduct. “He just talks to people and gets their money,” the judge said.
(Other cases filed against Hardat include: 1. March 2016, Louisiana Eastern District Court 2:16-cv-02518-JCZ-MBN Ravannack vs. Hardat et al; 2. March 2017, Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles BC655513 Bank of Montreal vs. Khemraj Dave Hardat et al; and 3. June 2018 Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles BC710260 1760 Del Mar LLC vs. Dave Hardat.)