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Alleged PokerTribes.com Con Man Indicted for Murder-for-Hire Plot

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Posted on: December 5, 2023, 11:29h. 

Last updated on: December 5, 2023, 11:39h.

An alleged con man who infamously tried to sell online poker to two Oklahoma-based tribes has been indicted in Nevada on murder-for-hire charges.

Fereidoun Khalilian, Juan Esco, PokerTribes.com
Paris Hilton posing in 2004 with her former business partner, Fereidoun Khalilian, who is facing charges of murder for hire and witness tampering after a failed attempt to have a documentary maker killed. (Image: Daily Beast)

Fereidoun “Prince Fred” Khalilian, who often falsely claimed to be an Arab prince, is accused of paying his bodyguard, Michael Sherwood, $20K to kill documentary maker Juan Esco.

Esco is producing a film about Khalilian, which the latter believed — not without good reason — would portray him in a negative light. Instead of carrying out the deed, in March 2023 Sherwood told Esco about the plot, and the two agreed to fake the killing.

In what will no doubt be the OMG moment in the forthcoming documentary, Esco posed for photographs while pretending to be dead, fake blood pouring from his head.    

He then contacted the FBI, who advised him to lie low. Meanwhile, agents fitted Sherwood with a wire, and Khalilian was recorded discussing the murder plot.

Witness Tampering

Prince Fred was in the parking lot of Las Vegas Dunkin’ Donuts when the FBI descended and arrested him in June this year. He was initially charged in California but the case was dismissed for lack of standing because Khalilian happened to be in France when he allegedly ordered the hit.

The case was revived this week in Nevada because that’s where Sherwood was when he took Khalilian’s call. This time, federal prosecutors have added a witness-tampering charge because Khalilian allegedly attempted to bribe Sherwood with $400K to change his testimony. Instead, Sherwood told the FBI.

PokerTribes.com Debacle

In 2012, Khalilian partnered with the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma (CATO) on a project, PokerTribes.com. The plan was for the tribe to become the first entity to offer real-money online poker to players outside the US from sovereign tribal land.

The tribe paid Khalilian $9.4 million to provide online poker software but all it got was a website with no functioning internet gaming, according to subsequent court documents.

Incredibly, Khalilian then partnered with another Oklahoma tribe, the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma, on a similar project, this time called PokerTribe.com (note the absence of an ‘s’). The Iowas also sunk millions into the project, with a similar outcome.

Checkered Career

In 2004, Khalilian opened a nightclub with Paris Hilton, Club Paris, in Orlando. The venture was short-lived, but Khalilian remained in the Florida nightclub business. During this time, he was charged with rape and investigated for three separate sexual assaults, once telling police he couldn’t be charged because he had diplomatic immunity. He was also charged with punching one of his cocktail waitresses in the face.

In 2011, the FTC fined Khalilian $4.2 million and banned him from the telemarketing industry after he was found to have sold worthless extensions on auto warranties by “blasting consumers with pre-recorded robocalls.”

In 2017, Khalilian somehow found himself installed as the COO of audio accessory company Monster Inc. He was fired a year later amid allegations of a failed hostile takeover, death threats, and corruption.

Monster was forced to file a restraining order against him in California’s Superior Court “for the protection of numerous employees of Monster against threats of mutilation, death, and threats to family.”

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