HOLLYWOOD—On Friday, May 22, the U.S. Department of Justice, the Security and Exchange Committee, and the U.S Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York announced fraud charges on former Hollywood executive producer William Sadleir. Sadleir allegedly embezzled over $30 million from a publicly traded investment fund and the Paycheck Protection Program.
Sadleir is the founder and former chairman of film production company Aviron Pictures, which he allegedly used to embezzle the over $30 million to pay off personal debt and purchase a Beverly Hills mansion.
The SEC charges Sadleir with violating the anti-fraud provisions of federal security laws by creating a fake company to mislead an investment from investment management company BlackRock Multi-Sector Income Trust (BIT). BIT allegedly invested over $75 million in Avian Pictures’ distribution leg of the production company.
The Southern District of New York’s Attorney Office separate but parallel case charges Sadleir with two counts of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. The first wire fraud charge regards the alleged embezzled funds from BIT for the personal use of purchasing a Beverly Hills mansion.
The second charge regards an illegal sale of intellectual property worth an estimated $3 million that BIT had acquired as part of the $75 million investment. Sadleir forged the signature of BIT’s portfolio manager in order to eventually sell or refinance the assets BIT secured as collateral for their investments without consent from BIT.
The FBI charged Sadleir with aggravated identity theft for the creation of a fake person named Amanda Stevens who confirmed with BIT that over $27 million had been used to purchase pre-paid media credits.
The U.S. Department of Justice charged Seidler in a separate case with allegedly applying for bank loan applications requesting over $1.7 million from the Paycheck Protection Program that was instituted to “help small businesses stay afloat during the financial crisis” of COVID-19 as U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna says.
The DOJ alleges that Sadleir applied for these forgivable loans to finance payroll for three film production companies under the Aviron umbrella, but instead “intended to and did use a significant portion of the funds for personal use” for personal credit cards and to pay off a car loan.
Sadleir was pushed out of the Aviron Pictures as operating manager due to a contractual agreement with BIT after a lawsuit in late 2019. Sadleir reached out to Deadline in January of 2020 claiming he remains in charge of Aviron Group, the parent company of Aviron Pictures. In the investigation that led to the current charges against Sadleir, associates of Aviron claimed Sadleir has no current involvement in Aviron or any related companies.
On May 22 Sadleir was arrested by the FBI and other federal agencies for the fraudulent PPP loans he applied for. The United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California announced the charges related to the PPP fraud collectively carry a maximum statutory penalty of 82 years in prison.