Convicted con artist to serve 10 years behind bars
HOUSTON Dinesh Shah, 44, is now behind bars, convicted of stealing millions of dollars from families in River Oaks. Now, some of his victims say he went to great lengths to lie, cheat and steal. Four years ago, Shah assaulted a very wealthy but very young girl. He pleaded guilty to that crime years ago. But that was just the beginning. What unraveled from there was a frightening story of financial and physical control of victims that prosecutors say amounted to brainwashing. Now it's clear probation didn't slow Shah down at all. Shah sure was quiet when we caught up with him. "Can you explain why so there are many people around town who think you stole money or cheated or hurt them?" we asked Shah. He wouldn't say a thing, but he'd said enough over the last few years to allegedly rope in several high-dollar victims. "He actually sort of consumes his victims," Harris County Assistant District Attorney Kelli Johnson said. According to court testimony, victims and their families, he always started by reeling off his impressive, but fake personal resume. "He introduced himself as an attorney," alleged victim Jennifer Estopinal said. "Said he was in the CIA," another alleged victim, Steve Loy, said. As he worked those tales he told people, he had a mansion in River Oaks. In reality, medical records show he was living at the Greenway Inn & Suites off the Southwest Freeway, where rent is less than $60 a night -- hardly the life of a wealthy man. "His whole life is a façade," Johnson said. "It's very pathetic, and unfortunately, he finds people who fall for it along the way." "He befriended my father on the premise of discussing my dad's vintage cars," Estopinal said. She says Shah then found out her father was an FBI agent who worked on the Kennedy assassination, and Shah used that nugget to keep building a friendship, eventually convincing her father and his wife to sign over their estates to Shah, losing thousands in the process and allegedly threatening Estopinal when she tried to stop it. "He made a threat against my life," she said. And she knows they're not the only victims. "I think it's hundreds," Estopinal said. "He knows how to brainwash people; he knows how to take people hostage," Loy said. Loy says he gave $9,300 to Shah to invest after Shah allegedly told him he was a broker. Shah isn't one. When he tried to untangle himself from Shah's web, Loy claims, "He said he knew how to put slow-acting poison in my air conditioner." Now, the threats are over. Shah was sent to prison for 10 years on Monday morning, but few expect his ways will change. "It's not going to stop him, but it's going to slow him down for a little while," Johnson said. Shah will be back in court for more charges next month. His story is now the focus of a book called 'Monster in River Oaks,' written by one of Shah's own attorneys. His alleged victims certainly agree that the title fits.