Fake Miami Movie Producers Sentenced To 21 Years In Prison For Scamming Investors Out Of $60 Million
The court also ordered Jason Van Eman to pay certain victims over $9 million in restitution.
A federal jury found Van Eman guilty of conspiracy and wire fraud. In addition to money laundering in May.
The court found Van Eman partnered with Benjamin McConley. The pair held themselves out as film producers and financiers.
The Fake Miami Movie Producers Get Help From Wells Fargo Banker
The duo was assisted by former Wells Fargo banker Benjamin Rafael. Rafael admitted his role in the sophisticated fraud scheme during a change-of-plea hearing in November 2019.
The fake movie producers convinced the former banker to deceive victims about the security of their funds. Rafael’s job was to assure victims that their contributions or loans had been “matched” as promised.
Unbeknownst to the victims, Rafael was terminated from Wells Fargo in 2015. However, the trio repeatedly assured victims that Rafael was still a Wells Fargo banker during the scam..
Rafael and the fake movie producers would also create and transmit false and fraudulent bank documents. This included purported bank letters including forged “proof-of-funds” letters. They would also create fake account signature cards and deposit account balance summaries.
Fake Miami Movie Producers Fed Investors Lies
McConley and Van Eman told the victims that they would match the victim’s contribution. In turn, they would use the combined funds to secure financing from financial institutions.
Federal prosecutors also charged McConley and Van Eman with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. They also charged them with conspiracy to commit money laundering and money laundering.
The indictment also alleges that McConley and Van Eman entered into fraudulent short-term loan agreements with third-party lenders. The lenders gave the fake movie producers low-interest bridge loans on behalf of investors and producers.
The Fake Miami Movie Producers Used Fake Funding Agreements
The fake agreements claimed the victims’ cash contributions would be “matched” dollar-for-dollar and held in a secured account by McConley.
McConley also promised investors that the funds would not be transferred without the victims’ consent.
The funding agreements required McConley to deposit funds into the secure account immediately after the victims provided their contribution. However, Van Eman instructed victims to transfer money to bank accounts controlled by McConley.
The funding agreements state that the conmen were to apply for a line of credit from the same bank.
Several funding agreements required the prompt return of the funds plus interest once the bank authorized a line of credit.
The fake producers also lied to investors by misleading them about the approval of the lines of credit.
The fake Miami movie producers also promised they would buy performance bonds to protect the investments.
The duo also claimed they would pay for the performance bonds issued by a third-party insurance company.
Investors Threw Money At The Fake Miami Movie Producers
Victims relied on the false promises from the protections in the funding agreements and performance bonds. As a result of these fake promises, victims sent tens of millions of dollars to accounts controlled by McConley.
McConley never “matched” the victims’ contributions as promised. Nor did they apply for lines of credit on behalf of victims. Neither McConley nor Van Eman paid for or secured bonds on behalf of victims.
Prosecutors argued McConley and Van Eman transferred funds from the purportedly secure bank accounts to their personal accounts.
Federal prosecutors say the two men directed Rafael to falsely assure victims about the security of their funds.
The three conmen also created and transmitted false and fraudulent bank documents. This included fake bank letters and deposit account balance summaries.
The Fake Movie Producers Begin A Ponzi Scheme To Pay For Lawsuits
Thus, several victims filed civil lawsuits against the fake movie producers.
The two conmen continued to lure victims with false and fraudulent promises and documents even with the pending lawsuits.
They used the funds from later victims to pay earlier victims.
They also used the funds to pay attorneys to settle lawsuits and legal fees.
The duo also engaged an “online reputation management” firm to “suppress” information about the lawsuits.
McConley, Van Eman, and Rafael used stolen money to purchase luxury automobiles and personal watercraft. In addition, they purchased real estate and jewelry. They also bought home furnishings and designer clothes.