Fenton man admits stealing $1.1 million from investors
ST. LOUIS – A man from Fenton on Thursday admitted bilking investors out of at least $1.1 million with false claims of lucrative contracts with a Texas airport.
From Sept. 2, 2020 through at least Nov. 16, 2021, Harish Sunkara falsely told potential investors that he had won contracts with the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport.
Sunkara’s company, Pace Solutions, had won a $49,500 contract to provide the airport with IT training software. But Sunkara on Thursday admitted using forged, altered and fraudulent versions of the past, legitimate contract documents to convince investors that he’d won far larger contracts, worth between $750,000 and $950,000. The documents also included the forged signature of the airport’s contract administrator.
One investor wired $150,000.00 to Sunkara’s Pace Solutions bank account. Another sent him $200,000. A third sent $100,000. A fourth sent $645,000, Sunkara’s plea says.
Sunkara did not use the money on the fictitious business venture, however. On multiple occasions when investors wired him money, he sent all or part of it to Las Vegas casinos. Between 2020 and 2021, Sunkara spent at least $5.5 million at casinos in eastern Missouri and Nevada.
Sunkara, 51, pleaded guilty Thursday in front of U.S. District Judge Matthew T. Schelp to two counts of aggravated identity theft. Each charge carries a penalty of two years in prison and the possibility of a fine up to $250,000. At Sunkara’s sentencing, scheduled for Nov. 1, he will also be ordered to repay the money.
“Harish Sunkara lured investors with false promises of a low-risk, high-return investment, when all he did was steal their money,” said Special Agent in Charge Jay Greenberg of the FBI St. Louis Division. “Verify investment information independently, especially when an offer seems too good to be true.”
The case was investigated by the FBI. Assistant U.S. Attorney Derek Wiseman is prosecuting the case.