Movie Producer Sentenced to Over 21 Years for Role in Film Financing Scheme
Yesterday, a federal district judge in South Florida sentenced a 44-year-old former actor and movie producer from Bartlesville, Oklahoma, to 262 months in prison for his role in a financing scheme that defrauded investors out of more than $60 million. The defendant, Jason Van Eman, also was ordered to pay certain victims over $9 million in restitution.
The sentence comes after a federal jury found Van Eman guilty of conspiracy, wire fraud, and money laundering in May.
According to the evidence, Van Eman held himself out as a film producer and financier, offering to fund independent motion pictures, Broadway shows, music festivals, and other productions. Van Eman promised the victims (producers and others seeking financing), that his partner (a co-conspirator named Benjamin McConley) would match any cash that the victims contributed to their projects. Then, with the combined starting capital (which made the projects more attractive to investors), McConley would apply for and secure financing from financial institutions.
Based on these lies, victims sent over $60 million to accounts controlled by the fraudsters. Contrary to what Van Eman promised victims, his partner never matched their cash contributions or applied for financing. Instead, Van Eman and his co-conspirators stole the victims’ money by transferring it to their personal and corporate bank accounts, often within days of deposit. To make the scam more believable, Van Eman and McConley recruited Benjamin Rafael, a bank employee, whose role was to assure victims that their cash contributions had been matched and that their money was secure – neither of which was true.
Van Eman, McConley, and Rafael used the stolen money to purchase luxury automobiles, personal watercraft, real estate, jewelry, home furnishings, designer clothes, hotel accommodations, and private and commercial air travel. Van Eman used some of the stolen cash to fund movies in which he was cast as an actor.
Juan Antonio Gonzalez, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and John J. Bernardo, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), announced the sentence imposed by U.S. District Judge Raag Singhal.
FBI Miami Field Division investigated this case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christopher Browne and Yisel Valdes prosecuted it. Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily Stone is handling asset forfeiture.