Hollywood Executive Pleads Guilty to Defrauding New York Investment Fund of $30 Million

William K. Sadleir, Chairman and CEO of Clarius Entertainment, and guest seen at Clarius Entertainment Los Angeles Premiere of 'My All American' at The Grove on Monday, November 9, 2015, in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Clarius Entertainment/AP Images)
Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Clarius Entertainment/AP Images

Hollywood executive William Sadleir pled guilty on Thursday to two counts of wire fraud in connection with his participation in two schemes involving the defrauding of an investment fund called the Fund, according to a press release from U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Sadleir, who is the founder and former chairman of Aviron Pictures, was arrested last year on charges of involvement in a fraud scheme that allowed him to net over $30 million.

The Hollywood executive is now scheduled for sentencing on May 10 by U.S. District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer.

“William Sadleir used his talent for selling stories to con a New York investment fund out of over $30 million using a fake company, fake documents, and even a fake identity,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said.

“In a brazen plot that could be ripped from one of the films he distributed, Sadleir even made up a character that he named ‘Amanda Stevens,’ and masqueraded as her in an effort to get away with his fraud,” Williams added. “We called a wrap on Sadleir’s scheming, and he now faces significant time in federal prison.”

According to the Attorney’s Office, Sadleir was the chairman and CEO of Aviron, a production company that helped distribute of a number of films in the United States during his tenure, including My All American, Kidnap, The Strangers: Prey at Night, A Private War, Destination Wedding, Serenity, and After.

“Sadleir engaged in two fraudulent schemes relating to an approximately $75 million investment made by the Fund in Aviron,” the Attorney’s Office noted in its press release.

The first scheme, dubbed the “Advertising Scheme,” involved Sadleir telling the Fund that Aviron had invested in pre-paid media credits with the advertising placement company MediaCom Worldwide — a subsidiary of the advertising and media agency GroupM Worldwide.

Instead, Sadleir set up a bank account for a sham New York-based company he created called “GroupM Media Services, LLC,” and used it to illicitly transfer more than $25 million out of Aviron.

The Hollywood exec then used “a significant portion of those illicitly transferred funds for his personal benefit,” which included buying himself a $14 million Beverly Hills home.

The Attorney’s Office goes on to say that Sadleir then told the Fund that he had bought an approximately $27 million balance in pre-paid media credits with MediaCom, and pledged a portion of those credits to the Fund as collateral for additional loans — but the credits did not exist.

That’s when the Hollywood executive created a fake identity — a New York-based female employee of the sham GroupM LLC named Amanda Stevens — who he used to correspond with representatives of the Fund.

“But Sadleir himself posed as Amanda Stevens when engaging in email exchanges with a representative from the Fund,” the Attorney’s Office said.

The second scheme, dubbed the “UCC Scheme,” involved Sadleir engineering the illicit and fraudulent sale and refinancing of assets worth over $3 million that secured the Fund’s loans to Aviron.

The Fund had secured its investment in Aviron by, in part, obtaining UCC liens on intellectual property and other assets relating to Aviron’s films. And in 2019, Sadleir used a forged signature belonging to a portfolio manager of the Fund to remove the Fund’s UCC liens.

Sadleir’s two guilty pleas each carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, and a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense.

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Facebook and Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, and on Instagram.

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