BEVERLY HILLS – 66 year old founder of Aviron Pictures, William Sadleir, was arrested on Friday, May 22 on federal fraud charges. The charges allege that Sadleir applied for $1.7 million in loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to falsely certify that the funds would be used to finance the operations of other Aviron entities while they were actually utilized to fund his personal expenses.
The Paycheck Protection Program is a loan under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. It is designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll. The United States Small Business Administration will forgive loans if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities. Neither the government nor lenders will charge small businesses any fees.
The complaint filed against the defendant charges him with wire fraud, bank fraud, making false statements to a financial institution, and making false statements to the Small Business Administration. According to the affidavit in support of the complaint, Sadleir submitted PPP loan applications through JPMorgan Chase on behalf of Aviron Group, LLC. The bank approved the loans, and Sadleir received more than $1.7 million.
Avrion has produced films such as:
- Serenity (2019) featuring actress Anne Hathaway and actor Matthew McConaughey
- A Private War (2018) featuring actress Rosamund Pike and actor Jamie Dornan
- The Informer (2019) featuring actor Joel Kinnaman and actor Jamie Dornan
- Kidnap (2017) featuring actress Halle Berry.
“Immediately upon receiving the funds a significant amount was diverted to Sadleir’s personal accounts and used for personal expenses,” the complaint alleges. The defendant allegedly used the PPP loan funds to pay off his personal credit card debts and other personal expenses.
Sadleir was terminated from Aviron Pictures in late 2019, and persons associated with the film production company revealed to investigators that the defendant currently had no role in Aviron Pictures or the related entities. Authorities have linked Sadleir to the three PPP loan applications made on behalf of the three Aviron entities. All three applications claimed each company had 33 employees and monthly payroll expenses of well over $200,000.
The complaint filed alleges that on April 30, 2020, JPMorgan Chase approved the loan applications. By April 31, the funds were wired and nearly emptied the JPMorgan Chase bank accounts associated with the three entities. Within days, nearly $1 million of the PPP loan money was transferred into Sadleir’s personal account at JPMorgan Chase.
Investigators have determined that some of this money was used to pay personal expenses, including payments to Sadleir’s and his wife’s American Express cards. One payment allegedly made with PPP loan proceeds was a $40,000 payment on Sadleir’s car loan.
The four charges alleged in this criminal complaint collectively carry a maximum statutory penalty of 82 years in federal prison. The case against Sadleir is being investigated by the FBI, the SBA’s Office of Inspector General, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Office of Inspector General. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney, Alex Wyman, of the Major Frauds Section and Justice Department Trial Attorney, Amanda R. Vaughn, of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.
Anyone with information about allegations of fraud related to COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.