Swindlers sentenced for multimillion-dollar scam


It's quite a tale with all the makings of a novel or movie -- a ring of con artists making off with millions, Swiss bank accounts, money laundering, luxury condos, a fugitive on the lam and even a murder.

The mastermind of the ring of thieves, Kaushal Niroula, was dubbed "the dark prince." He may never be tried in this case. He's spending a life sentence for murdering a 74 year old Palm Springs man when he tried to steal his pricey estate.

His two accomplices appeared in a San Francisco courtroom Tuesday to face their fate.

Telecommunications executive Jay Shah and tennis instructor Winston Lum were convicted last fall for defrauding their victims out of millions of dollars in real estate.

Tuesday, Judge Charlene Kiesselbach passed sentence.

"Mr. Shah you are sentenced to state prison to serve the aggregate term of 20 years," Kiesselbach said.

She also ordered shah to pay a fine of $14 million.

Lum got 13 years and a $4.5 million fine.

"Mr. Shah masterminded an audacious scheme of fraud, lies and false identities," Kiesselbach said. "The crime involved great harm to the victims and showed a high degree of callousness."

The swindlers' biggest victim was Shirley Hwang. They stole three exclusive condos from her at One Rincon Hill. Shah and Lum forged her deeds, then transferred the condos to a shell corporation and took out millions of dollars in loans on those properties.

The day of his conviction in September, Shah was out on bail. The next day, he disappeared. Shah was later arrested in Watsonville.

"They were serious criminals and they obviously were sophisticated in what they did," San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said. "This is the kind of stuff for a movie script right?"

The trial lasted three months. The jury deliberated for another three months.

Two of them came to the sentencing. They said the judge did the right thing.

"That was quite a bit of money involved so yes, I think it was fair," Michael Carmody said.

A San Jose attorney was also a defendant in the trial where Shah and Lum were convicted. But there was a hung jury on his charges. Prosecutors are deciding whether to try him again.

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