MIAMI — A man who repeatedly impersonates Saudi royals to con investors and live a lavish lifestyle has been sentenced to 18 years in prison for a ruse that fell apart when a victim saw him eating pork, which is prohibited in Islam.
Anthony Gignac, 48, received the sentence Friday in Miami for stealing at least $8 million while pretending to be "Sultan Bin Kahlid Al-Saud." He bought a Ferrari, Rolex watches and rented a condo on an exclusive South Florida island with his loot. He pleaded guilty in March to wire fraud, impersonating a diplomat and other crimes.
The Miami Herald reports that U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga called him a "mastermind." Prosecutors said it was at least the 11th time Gignac, 48, had been arrested for impersonating a Saudi prince.
"He was the so-called Saudi prince. He enveloped himself in the trappings of Saudi royalty. He had everyone believing he was a Saudi prince," Altonaga said.
Gignac was born in Colombia but was adopted by a Michigan family as a young child. He is an American citizen.
He told Altonaga on Friday that while he accepted responsibility, other people were involved and should have been charged.
"I am not a monster," he said.
His public defender, Ayana Harris, told the judge that Gignac's difficult childhood contributed to his problems. She read a letter from his younger brother, Daniel Gignac, who described how they were abandoned in Colombia. Their adoptive parents later divorced. Daniel Gignac said his brother was forced to care for him.
"This horrific history is the underlying reason for his criminal life," Harris read from the brother's statement.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Gignac stole more than $10,000 from a limo company and the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in 1991. He pleaded no contest. The New York Times reports that in 2006, Gignac pleaded guilty to charging $28,000 at Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus to the account of a Saudi royal. He also tried to withdraw nearly $4 million from a Citibank account that didn't exist.
In Gignac's latest scam, he and a now-dead business partner, Carl Williamson, created a fraudulent investment company, Marden Williamson International, in 2015.
They told investors that Gignac was Saudi royalty and that he had access to exclusive deals. A Swiss victim invested $5 million.
In 2017, he convinced Jeffrey Soffer, the owner of Miami Beach's Fountainebleau hotel, that he wanted to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into his famed resort. Soffer gave him $50,000 in gifts.
Soffer caught on when he saw Gignac wolfing down bacon and other pork products at meals. He alerted authorities.