Hollywood producer arrested in alleged US$30 mn fraud scheme

The ousted chairman of a movie production and distribution company was arrested in Los Angeles on Friday for his alleged role in a nearly US$30 million fraud scheme and for bilking a COVID-19 fund set up to help businesses.

William Sadleir, 66, of Beverly Hills, was taken into custody by FBI agents and other law enforcement following complaints filed both in California and New York.

Prosecutors say Sadleir, the former head of indie distributor Aviron Pictures, fraudulently filed bank loan applications seeking more than $1.7 million from a federal scheme set up in the wake of the pandemic.

Sadleir allegedly made false statements claiming he still had a role at Aviron in order to obtain the forgivable loans.

“Immediately upon receiving the funds, a significant amount was diverted to Sadleir’s personal accounts and used for personal expenses,” the California complaint said.

Some of the money was used to make payments to American Express cards belonging to Sadleir and his wife, as well as to pay off a car loan, according to the charge sheet.

A separate criminal complaint filed in New York charged Sadleir with engaging in multiple fraudulent schemes relating to investments in Aviron Pictures and its affiliated entities.

Prosecutors accuse Sadleir of illicitly transferring $25 million in Aviron funds and using much of the money — $14 million — to purchase a private residence in Beverly Hills.

“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,” said William Sweeney Jr, the FBI assistant director for New York.

Prosecutors said Sadleir also illicitly sold and refinanced $3 million in assets that had been used as collateral to secure loans to Aviron.

Sadleir founded Aviron and was removed as top executive late last year. 

The company has only five titles to its name, including “After,” its most successful project, “Serenity” and the sequel to the horror franchise “The Strangers.”

If convicted on the four fraud charges in California, Sadleir faces up to 82 years in prison. 

The New York charges — two counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft — collectively carry up to 42 years in prison.