Hollywood producer charged with defrauding Covid-19 aid program, stealing from studio

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Prosecutors in New York and Los Angeles have charged William Sadleir, former chair of Aviron Pictures, with defrauding both studio investors and the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program to pay for personal expenses.

Sadleir took more than $25 million from Aviron to buy a $14 million mansion in Beverly Hills, California and other personal expenses, according to a criminal indictment in New York. Another case, brought against him in Los Angeles, accuses the producer of taking $1.7 million in PPP loans – intended for small businesses to survive the Covid-19 pandemic – and using them to make car and credit card payments. 

According to New York prosecutors, Sadleir told an unnamed investor that he had transferred $27 million from the studio to buy advertising time. Instead, he allegedly handed it to a sham business entity and even posed as a fictitious female employee “Amanda Stevens” in an email to the investor, telling them  the media credits had been reserved.

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While the investor has not been directly identified, the case cites allegations of fraudulent lien releases brought up in the December 2019 lawsuit by BlackRock Multi-Sector Income Trust. A month later, Sadleir was ousted from Aviron, for reasons undisclosed at the time.

Los Angeles prosecutors accuse Sadleir of fraudulently applying for PPP loans in the name of three Aviron entities with 33 employees each. However, most of the company’s employees had been laid off since January. 

About $87,000 of the money was used to pay Sadleir and his wife’s credit card bills, with another $40,000 went to a car loan, prosecutors say. 

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Sadleir faces two counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft in New York, as well as wire fraud, bank fraud, false statements to a financial institution and lying to the Small Business Administration in Los Angeles.

Aviron, which Sadleir founded in 2017, released films such as ‘Kidnap’ with Halle Berry; “Destination Wedding’ with Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves; ‘A Private War’ with Rosamund Pike; ‘Serenity’ with Matthew McConaghey and Ann Hathaway; and the teen romantic drama ‘After.’

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