Lawsuits, lies, and Colombian prisons: The downfall of two wildly successful tech entrepreneurs

Omar amanat

  • Prominent tech entrepreneurs Omar Amanat and Kaleil Isaza Tuzman were found guilty on numerous accounts of fraudulent charges in their dealings with former video management company KIT digital. 
  • Both Amanat and Tuzman have led successful but controversial entrepreneurial careers — and their guilty verdict marks a striking fall from prominence. 

 

For the past six weeks, a tangled case of complex fraud leveled against two prominent tech entrepreneurs unfolded in federal court. On December 26, the trial’s defendants, Omar Amanat and Kaleil Isaza Tuzman, were found guilty on numerous accounts of fraudulent charges, as originally reported by Bloomberg

For both Amanat and Tuzman, the conviction is a striking fall from power: The two defendants have made millions of dollars and led successful entrepreneurial careers that have all but unraveled over the course of the past year. 

The court case revealed a series of convoluted legal infractions performed by Amanat and Tuzman in their work with the presently insolvent video-technology company, KIT Digital, a former multi-million dollar leader in the cloud-based video management industry. 

According to Bloomberg, Tuzman, who served as the company’s CEO, and Amanat, who dealt in a series of company investments, covered up losses, inflated the value of shares, and defrauded investors. 

The pair are expected to serve a minimum of a decade in jail and their sentencing will be delivered in April 2018. 

Here’s a breakdown of Amanat and Tuzman’s descent:

Lavish wealth and lurid lawsuits

By the time he was 30 years old, Omar Amanat had sold off his brokerage firm, Tradespace, for $100 million. Amanat was already flush in wealth and had turned his interests towards philanthropy and film production, flaunting connections with A-list celebrities like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. He was known for his lavish lifestyle, an tendency for quoting the Persian poet Rumi, and appearing in designer garb alongside his wife, supermodel Helena Houdova, at high-profile events. omar amanat

But despite Amanat’s effortless exterior, a series of sensational controversies had begun to dog his career. 

In 2014, a multi-million-dollar real estate deal in Thailand collapsed amid a lurid lawsuit with Amanat and his business partner, the Russian oligarch Vladislav Doronin.

Two years later, Amanat’s name was once more featured prominently in the papers. He had leased his lavish Hampton home to a hedge-fund trader, Brett Barna, who allegedly trashed the $20 million estate in a widely publicized madcap party

The New York Times reported that  Amanat had threatened to sue Barna for $1 million and was hounding him for thousands of dollars in damages.  

But Amanat’s threats were short-lived. Days after he had threatened to sue, Amanat received a visit in his New Jersey home from the FBI, which charged Amanat with multiple counts of fraud.

Right now, Amanat awaits his sentencing in jail. 

On his personal website, he describes the trial’s outcome as an “injustice in America.”

The facts of this case will all be made plain to see shortly,” Amanat wrote. “You’ve only seen snippets. You’ve only seen what they want you to see.”

A successful dot-com millionaire serves time in a Colombian prison

Kaleil Isaza Tuzman is considered one of the preeminent figures of the dot-com boom. 

 A Harvard graduate, Tuzman worked as an analyst for five years on Wall Street, before launching his own company, govWorks.com, which is featured in the documentary ‘Startup.com.’

Kaleil Isaza Tuzman

Tuzman, who is considered an expert in the field of digital media, went on to join KIT Digital as the company’s chief executive.

Tuzman was charged with fraud for his involvement with KIT Digital in 2015. He was reportedly apprehended on a business trip in Bogotá, Colombia by Colombian officials, which had been sent to arrest Tuzman at the behest of the US government. Tuzman spent 10 months in “La Picota,” a notorious local prison.

Tuzman described his prison time to the New York Times as a harrowing ordeal: The former CEO claims he was abused, raped, and threatened at knifepoint by Colombian authorities. Multiple attempts on Tuzman’s behalf by his attorneys to the US Embassy were met to no avail. 

He was later extradited to the US where he faced trial alongside Amanat.

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