A Florida businessman has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for two separate fraud schemes, including scamming South Carolina economic officials with promises of a new diaper plant.
44-year-old Navin Xavier was sentenced Wednesday after pleading guilty in January to two separate wire fraud charges. Federal prosecutors say Xavier’s schemes totaled more than $33 million in fraudulently-obtained money.
Xavier owned Essex Holdings, a Miami company which purportedly planned to open a diaper plant and rice packaging facility in Marion County. The company announced in a 2013 press conference that it planned $54 million of eventual investment and more than 200 new jobs. Attending the press conference were Marion County officials and then-Gov. Nikki Haley.
But Justice Department prosecutors say it was a scam. Essex was able to obtain $1.2 million in payments from the South Carolina Coordinating Council for Economic Development and access to the former Blumenthal Mill site (approximately $1.5 million worth of commercial real estate, according to court testimony). The money was supposed to develop the dilapidated industrial property so it could be converted into a new plant.
According to court documents, Xavier provided false financial documentation to the Coordinating Council in order to obtain the contract, and later provided fake contractor invoices and fake bank statements in order to continue getting paid. But prosecutors said Nam spent a significant portion of the development money for his personal living expenses, and wired some of it to overseas accounts that he used to fund a lavish lifestyle, such as expensive jewelry and wedding expenses.
Investigators have not said how they discovered the fraud, but Marion residents say no work has occurred on the Blumenthal mill.
Xavier also pleaded guilty to a much-larger $30 million Ponzi scheme involving what he insisted were investments in sugar transportation, shipping and ore mining in Chile. Prosecutors said the money actually funded his lavish lifestyle, while later investors were used to pay off initial ones.