Hollywood producer arrested on federal charges, defrauding coronavirus relief program of millions
Photo: William Sadleir, right
Read below the intense and detailed story from Business Insider of a high-placed Hollywood man who apparently went after the easy but illegal buck. The buck stopped with him –
“Hollywood producer William Sadleir, the former chairman and CEO of Aviron Pictures, is accused of defrauding the government out of millions of dollars meant for coronavirus relief, and of using nearly $30 million in investor funds for his personal use — including buying a $14-million Beverly Hills Mansion.
The 66-year-old was arrested on federal charges in both cases on Friday.
In the California case, federal prosecutors said Sadleir applied for $1.7 million in coronavirus relief loans from the Paycheck Protection Program to finance Aviron payroll. Within days of receiving the funds, the Department of Justice alleges the money was transferred to his personal accounts to pay his and his wife’s American Express cards, his car loan, and other personal expenses.
In an unrelated case out of New York, which was also unsealed Friday, Sadleir is accused of running two even larger fraud schemes involving $75 million of Aviron investments.
Aviron’s films have included “Kidnap” starring Halle Berry, “Destination Wedding” starring Keanu Reeves, and “Serenity” starring Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway.
Sadleir was fired from Aviron Pictures in late 2019, and people associated with the film production company told investigators that he currently has no role in Aviron Pictures or the related entities, according to the Department of Justice.
Despite that, prosecutors said Sadleir had applied for PPP loans, which are intended for suffering small businesses, for three Aviron entities.
All three applications claimed each company had 33 employees and monthly payroll expenses more than $200,000, according to the DOJ.
On April 30, JPMorgan Chase approved the loan applications, and the money was wired to “nearly empty” bank accounts associated with the entities the next day, according to a DOJ statement.
Then almost $1 million in the loan money was transferred to Sadleir’s account at JPMorgan Chase, and later used to pay for expenses, including Sadleir’s $40,000 car loan, prosecutors allege.
“These funds were designed to be a lifeline to businesses struggling to stay afloat during the current crisis,” Paul Delacourt, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, said in a written statement. “The FBI is committed to maintaining the integrity of the PPP and will hold accountable those who cheat the system at the expense of American taxpayers.”
He is charged with wire fraud, bank fraud, making false statements to a financial institution, and making false statements to the Small Business Administration.
Sadleir is also accused of two even larger schemes out of New York, in which he is accused of misappropriating nearly $30 million in investments made to Aviron films for his own use, including using $14 million of the money to buy a Beverly Hills home.
After BlackRock Multi-Sector Income Trust Fund invested $75 million in Aviron, the DOJ alleges Sadleir created the “sham entity” GroupM Media Services to conceal his fraudulent use of the investment funds.
Sadleir assumed the fake identity “Amanda Stevens” to communicate by email with the BlackRock fund about its investment, according to the allegations filed in a Manhattan federal court.
“He allegedly even went so far as to pose as a female employee of the sham New-York based company he created to further his illegal activity,” FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said in a written statement. “Today’s arrest serves as a reminder of the FBI’s dedication to holding people accountable for egregious financial crimes of this nature.”
In the Manhattan case, Sadleir is charged with two counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.
The BlackRock fund sued Sadleir for fraud in a New York state court in December, Reuters reported, which prompted Aviron to fire him.
Sadleir has yet to issue a plea or a statement on the charges, and an attorney for Sadleir wasn’t identified in the court files.”