Movie Producer Found Guilty in Film Financing Scheme
(STL.News) Following a six-week trial, a federal jury in Fort Lauderdale has convicted a 44-year-old former actor and movie producer from Bartlesville, Oklahoma of conspiracy, wire fraud, and money laundering for his role in a financing scheme that defrauded movie and theatre producers out of more than $60 million.
According to court records and evidence introduced during trial, Jason 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.
Van Eman is scheduled to be sentenced on July 21, at 10 a.m. before U.S. District Judge Raag Singhal. He faces up to several decades in prison.
McConley previously pled guilty in this case and was sentenced to a prison term of 13 years. Rafael was sentenced to 42 months’ imprisonment for participating in two frauds: the first, the film financing scheme; the second, concealing his criminal history on applications for COVID-19 relief.
Juan Antonio Gonzalez, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), announced the guilty verdict.
FBI Miami Field Division investigated this case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christopher Browne and Yisel Valdes are prosecuting it. Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily Stone is handling asset forfeiture.