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High-profile Wall Streeters hit by ‘Ponzi-like’ wine scam: lawsuit

  (Press Release) A New York business consultant known for throwing lavish wine parties at five-star eateries like Daniel has bilked a cadre of Wall Street bigwigs out of millions, according to a shocking new lawsuit.
Omar Khan, who runs the Sensei International consulting firm on Park Avenue, used his fancy Rolodex to stage wine-fueled shindigs that lured more than a dozen captains of industry into a “Ponzi-like scheme,” according to the lawsuit filed in New York State Supreme Court on Wednesday.
The suit claims Khan met many of his alleged victims at his own parties, which “centered around vintage wines and expensive cuisine.” Khan then used his well-heeled connections — as well as claimed ties to famous names like Philippe Rothschild of the Mouton winery — to convince his alleged victims to invest in his growing events business, the suit said.
In addition to Robert Van Brugge, CEO and chairman of Sanford C. Bernstein, victims include Kresimir Penavic, a former senior research scientist at Renaissance Capital, the $110 billion hedge fund founded by James Simons; Robert Gelfond, director at the Cato Institute; Peter Slagowitz, CEO of Spurs Capital; and Lorine Schaefer, a vice president at Morgan Stanley, court documents say.
They are suing for $8.3 million, plus interest, although the bulk of the losses allegedly belong to Penavic, who invested close to $5 million with Khan through 27 events from 2015 to 2018. “He was larger than life,” Penavic said of Khan, who scored glowing write-ups about his “elite supper club” in Forbes and Bloomberg. “Not only by his volume, by his voice, the way he talked,” Penavic said in an interview with The Post. “He liked to position himself as in the know and bask in the limelight.” Penavic’s suit is the latest in a string of civil suits making similar claims filed against Khan since 2015. According to a lawsuit filed in December by Jean-Claude Bernard, the owner of a hotel in Beaune, France, Khan allegedly failed to pay out the profits at an exclusive dinner where sommeliers uncorked 36 different bottles of wine during an evening for a group of guests at the Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris. Those included rarities like a Mandive Vigo from 1814 and a $5,000 Domaine de la Romanee Conti Montrachet from 1973. “Those are exactly the same wines that were supposed to be served at a dinner in Paris that I was supposed to attend — that he canceled!” Penavic fumed. Khan has denied Bernard’s allegations and is seeking to dismiss the case. Bernard didn’t return a request for comment. In January, Napa Valley winery owner David Sinegal sued Khan over a $75,000 investment for 23 bottles of Chateau Petrus bottled from 1923 to 2005 — a series of extremely rare and expensive vintages, according to San Francisco federal court papers.
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