A wealthy musician lost $20 million over six years to scammers who persuaded him of threats against him coming out of Central America, the conservative Catholic movement Opus Dei and the CIA, a prosecutor said Tuesday.
Westchester District Attorney Janet DiFiore said Vickram Bedi, 37, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a charge of grand larceny. he was held on $5 million bail.
DiFiore said Bedi was indicted last week in a scam targeting pianist and composer Roger Davidson, who is founder and president of the Society for Universal Sacred Music. His great-grandfather and great-uncle founded the oil services company Schlumberger Ltd.
Bedi and a co-defendant were arrested last year as they prepared to leave for Iceland. Officials said at the time that they had stolen at least $6 million from Davidson. The district attorney's office said Tuesday the amount was more than $20 million and investigators were working to find the assets.
The co-defendant, Helga Invarsdottir, 40, pleaded guilty last year to grand larceny and is awaiting sentencing.
The indictment says that in 2004, Davidson went to Bedi's store because of a virus on the computer on which he composed and stored music. Bedi allegedly told Davidson that the virus was powerful, that it had specifically targeted his computer, that it threatened his life's work and that he and his family were in grave danger.
The district attorney said Davidson was persuaded to pay not just for computer data retrieval and security but also for personal physical protection.
The indictment says Bedi's business began charging millions of dollars to Davidson's American Express accounts.
Bedi allegedly told Davidson that he had arranged for an uncle in the Indian military to fly to Honduras and obtain a hard drive there that he said was causing the virus. He said the uncle had learned that Polish priests affiliated with Opus Dei, the conservative Catholic movement portrayed as a murderous sect in Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code," might be trying to harm Davidson, the district attorney said. He also told Davidson the CIA was watching him, she said.
"It's an incredible story because it's not true," Bedi's attorney, Anthony Giordano, said Tuesday. "For every dollar transferred, there is a written contract, and most of them were evaluated by Mr. Davidson's attorneys."
Giordano said he believes Invarsdottir will testify against Bedi at trial.
Calls to Davidson, 59, and his manager were not immediately returned.
If convicted, Bedi could be sentenced to up to 25 years in prison.