Airbnb, FOMO & Fraud — How Shamoon Rafiq Fooled Investors with Fugazi Stocks

By Jaime Getto
May 16, 2024
Airbnb, FOMO & Fraud — How Shamoon Rafiq Fooled Investors with Fugazi Stocks

In 2020, as COVID cases exploded off the charts and businesses braced for impact, tech stocks skyrocketed into new stratospheres, with investors in a collective race, mad dashing to acquire stocks like Snowflake, Unity Software, DoorDash & Airbnb before they went public. Sometimes investors were even taking shady routes and side stepping important vetting to get their hands on them first.  That was the case with the investors lured in by Rafiq Shamoon, a man posing to be connected to a prominent wealthy family, as he seduced them with the shiniest of shiny new objects, pre-IPO Airbnb stocks.  Airbnb stocks sprang to the top of investors’ wish list in 2019 when the company released their plans to go public. COVID postponed their plans, but by August 2020 reports emerged confirming Airbnb’s intent to file for an IPO confidentially.  While the family Rafiq was masquerading under was not named in the complaint, it has since been identified as Man Capital and its parent company the Mansour Group. The Mansour Group is one of the wealthiest families in Egypt and a major dealer and distributor of General Motors and Caterpillar. Rafiq claimed to be a close associate and friend of Mansour Group’s CEO as he created fake domains and emails and fine tuned his pitch, posturing as a trusted participant of the entity to hungry investors driven by their fear of missing out.  

Rafiq shopped the alleged Airbnb Series C shares to boutique investment accounts and institutional investors, with one unnamed New York boutique investment bank taking the bait. Days after Airbnb confirmed the market’s musings of going public, the boutique investor in conversation with Rafiq wired $9 million to an escrow to purchase the hot, albeit hokey, stocks. 

The only snag? Neither the entity nor the stocks existed. Rather it was dreamed up by Rafiq, a web of lies carefully spun to serve his scheme. Not only did investors get caught up in this sticky situation by bypassing proper due diligence but the Mansour family and Airbnb’s reputable names got woven into this notorious narrative set in motion by Rafiq.  This isn’t the first time Rafiq swindled investors. Two decades prior, Rafiq was convicted for a similar crime, when he attempted to sell pre-IPO shares of Google. He served 41 months in federal prison before being deported. Rafiq, a resident of Singapore, was charged with securities fraud, wire fraud and identity theft for the Airbnb scheme in 2021. He was extradited and detained in January and pleaded guilty on February 22nd, facing up to five years in prison. Had adequate reputational due diligence been performed, investors would have quickly uncovered Rafiq’s criminal past, avoiding this scam altogether. 

Make sure your investments are legit with Intelligo Before getting seduced by flashy investment opportunities, make sure you’re buying the real deal. Intelligo offers a suite of services to protect you and your money from fraud. Pre-investment due diligence is paramount in a world where fraudsters feed off the FOMO around time sensitive highly lucrative opportunities like pre-IPO opportunities. With multiple levels of background checks and an easy to use platform where the information you need is always at your fingertips, you can avoid waiting around for an email or weeding through lengthy PDFs. Intelligo equips you with results as fast as possible so you can assess your investments quickly without missing out or mistaking a fraudulent stock for the real deal. Sign up for a demo today and protect your assets with peace of mind powered by Intelligo.

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