Man convicted in $60M film finance fraud scheme
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — An Oklahoma man claiming to be a film financier was convicted Tuesday in South Florida of participating in a scheme to steal more than $60 million from investors and producers seeking financing for movies and Broadway shows.
A federal jury in Fort Lauderdale found Jason Van Eman, 44, guilty of conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering, according to court records. His sentencing is scheduled for July 21.
According to court records, Van Eman and co-defendant Benjamin McConley, operating as Weathervane Productions, offered to provide financing to investors and producers seeking funds to produce motion pictures, theater performances and other projects. McConley and Van Eman promised the victims they would match their cash contributions and use the combined funds to secure financing from financial institutions in South Florida and elsewhere, investigators said.
Benjamin Rafael, a former Wells Fargo bank employee recruited by McConley and Van Eman, furthered the scheme by lying to victims about the security of their funds, prosecutors said. Victims lost millions of dollars and their contributions were never matched. Instead of financing projects, the money was transferred to personal and corporate bank accounts and spent on luxury automobiles, personal watercraft, real estate, stocks, jewelry, home furnishings, designer clothes, hotel accommodations and air travel.
McConley was previously sentenced to 13 years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Rafael previously pleaded guilty to his part in the scheme, as well as another case involving fraudulent applications for COVID-19 relief loans. He was sentenced to three and a half years in prison.