Cops nab elusive Rincon scammer, 'Dark Prince' co-conspirator

Courtesy PhotoHigh-rollin’ con man: Jay Shah took part in a scam involving the luxury condo tower One Rincon Hill in which he and another man posed as interested buyers and were able to secure a bank loan that was then laundered through a Nevada company and confidential Swiss bank account.

The Dark Prince’s elusive co-conspirator has been brought out of the shadows.

Two weeks ago, high-rolling 48-year-old Jay Shah vanished before his guilty verdict was handed down in a big-bucks San Francisco real estate scam trial that involved Kaushal Niroula, the con man famously known as the Dark Prince.

Shah, the former owner of a Silicon Valley telecommunications company who faces 35 years in prison, had been out of custody after posting a whopping $7.5 million bail. He claimed he could not show up to court Sept. 20 because he was in the hospital with a foot injury.

Though he had been in the hospital at one point, prosecutors said, Shah reportedly lied about being transferred to a private care facility. After the ruse was revealed, Shah was declared a fugitive. He was on the run until Wednesday, when police acted on information that he was in Watsonville.

Shah had reportedly driven to San Diego, Los Angeles and the Las Vegas area before authorities learned that he was back in Northern California. Watsonville police arrested him in his Land Rover outside a motel in their city, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón said Thursday.

Exhibiting his elation over the arrest, Gascón quoted boxer Joe Louis.

“Bottom line,” Gascón said, “you can run, but you can’t hide.”

Shah was one of five people who pulled off a sophisticated scam involving three condominiums in the posh One Rincon Hill tower in The City. Although none of the five crooks own the units, prosecutors said, they convinced a bank lender to hand out a $2.2 million loan against the properties. That money was then laundered through shell companies.

The path to the money wasn’t simple. First of all, it involved prolific and notorious con artist Niroula. The 31-year-old Nepalese national is known for a separate high-profile con that contributed to the demise of the New College of California. In that scam, he reportedly persuaded the school’s president to believe he was a Nepalese prince and promised a $1 million donation for course credits that could extend his visa.

Niroula has not been tried for the One Rincon Hill scam, prosecutors said, as he’s in prison in Riverside County after being convicted of murdering a Palm Springs retiree for his money, property and home.

In the condo scam, prosecutors said, Niroula and 48-year-old Winston Lum impersonated a series of wacky characters, including wealthy investor Syd Jones, adviser and translator Joshua Beam and a retired former tennis pro who speaks poor English.

In order to obtain keys to the condos, prosecutors said, they convinced real estate agents they wanted to purchase the units. After gaining access, they convinced a bank lender that they were the owners and secured a $2.2 million loan.

Shah used “his extensive business contacts” to handle the loan, most of which was paid to a Nevada company or deposited into a confidential Swiss bank account, prosecutors said.

Lum was the only defendant present for the verdict. Another person who was charged, Grachelle Languban, remains a fugitive and is believed to have fled to the Philippines.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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