Paris Hilton’s Former Business Partner Accused of Trying to Bribe Witness From Jail

Jesse Grant
Jesse Grant

Fereidoun “Prince Fred” Khalilian, a former Florida nightclub owner and business partner of Paris Hilton, allegedly attempted to bribe a witness who was due to testify in a murder-for-hire case against him, according to court documents obtained by The Daily Beast.

Khalilian, who opened Club Paris in Orlando 2005, is charged with “murder-for-hire,” for allegedly offering to pay Michael Sherwood, his former bodyguard, to carry out a hit on J. Esco, a documentary filmmaker he believed was working on an unflattering film about him.

But Sherwood and Esco turned the plot back on Khalilian, faking a murder scene and sending him staged photographs, according to the original complaint against him. Khalilian fell for it, sending thousands of dollars in payment to the fake hitman, the FBI says, who by then was working with federal agents to bring Khalilian down.

After Khalilian was arrested at a Las Vegas Dunkin’ Donuts on June 24, he was held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles, according to the complaint.

Inside Paris Hilton’s Ex Biz Partner’s Wild Murder-For-Hire Plot

A new complaint against Khalilian, filed in California federal court and unsealed on Tuesday, alleges that while in the detention center, Khalilian used an intermediary to offer Sherwood $400,000 to change his testimony.

In August, Khalilian made a series of recorded phone calls from federal prison to his nephew and a former bodyguard called “James.” Sherwood told the FBI that “James” then offered him money “to withdraw his prior statement to law enforcement that Khalilian hired Sherwood to murder Esco,” according to the complaint.

The federal agents then advised Sherwood to begin recording his phone calls, the complaint says.

“Over the coming days and weeks, James called Sherwood numerous times,” the complaint states. “In at least one of the calls, James confirmed that the request for Sherwood to change his testimony came ‘from Fred,’ which is Khalilian’s nickname. In another phone call, James told Sherwood that ‘Fred’ was the person who wanted to pay Sherwood $400,000 to change his testimony.”

“Sherwood was asked to ‘tell the truth’ in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars and the promise that he and his family would be ‘taken care of’ for the rest of their lives,” the complaint continues.

When FBI agents interviewed “James” in October, he admitted to offering Sherwood $400,000, “but said he was just joking about the amount, and no one else had told him to offer that specific amount,” according to the complaint.

The latest charge against Khalilian is only the latest chapter in a colorful life.

Khalilian claimed to have fled Iran as a child and spent time in a German refugee camp, before making a name for himself on the Florida club circuit in the 2000s, where he palled around with Backstreet Boys, N’Sync and Tiger Woods.

Sylvester Stallone, Usher, Bruce Willis and Fred Khalilian

Sylvester Stallone, Usher, Bruce Willis and Fred Khalilian.

Denise Truscello

Over the last two decades Khalilian has had a string of encounters with law enforcement, and run multiple frauds, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Esco, the filmmaker Khalilian allegedly targeted, was working on a documentary about his “life of fraud and deception,” he told the FBI.

Khalilian’s extraordinary career included running two telemarketing businesses that were shut down by the FTC, and a stint as chief operating officer of Monster Products Inc, an audio company known for developing Beats By Dre headphones. He was “exited” from the company due to “threats of mutilation, death, and threats to family” he allegedly made against employees, Monster said in a 2018 statement.

Prior to this arrest, Khalilian lived “an extravagant lifestyle that included luxury vehicles, expensive jewelry, and a security detail of at least four bodyguards who accompanied him whenever he was out,” according to court documents. Social media posts reviewed by The Daily Beast at the time of his arrest showed Khalilian taking trips to Paris and Dubai, driving luxury cars, dating models, and hanging out with rappers Akon, Mally Mall and Tyga, singers Usher and Demi Lovato, actors Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis, and musician David Guetta.

While Khalilian was initially receptive to the idea of a documentary about his life, he later began to suspect the film would not paint him in a good light, court documents say. He asked Sherwood to arrange to have Esco killed in exchange for $20,000, federal investigators say.

But Sherwood and Esco turned the tables on Khalilian, conspiring to create a “a fake death scene,” showing Esco bound and apparently shot to death on the floor of an apartment, court documents say. Sherwood and Esco then reported the plot to the FBI.

Khalilian was previously being represented by David Chesnoff, a long-time criminal defense lawyer, who has represented a slew of celebrity clients including Paris Hilton, Martha Stewart, Britney Spears, and more recently, football player Henry Ruggs III. The two have now parted ways.

Khalilian’s public defenders did not respond to a request for comment.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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