U.S. District Judge Raag Singhal in South Florida sentenced Jason Van Eman, a 44-year-old movie producer from Oklahoma to 262 months in prison for his part in a financing scheme that defrauded investors out of more than $60 million. The defendant was also ordered to pay $9 million in restitution.
 
After a six-week jury trial, a  federal jury found Van Eman, doing business as Weathervane Productions, guilty of conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering.  Van Eman promised the victims that his partner Benjamin McConley  would match any funds that the victims contributed to their projects.
 
Van Eman and his co-conspirators then stole the victims’ money by moving it to their personal and corporate bank accounts. To make the scam more credible,  they recruited Benjamin Rafael, a Wells Fargo 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 cars, watercraft, real estate, jewelry, home furnishings, designer clothes, and private and commercial air travel. Van Eman used some of the stolen cash to fund movies in which he was cast.  
 
Co-conspirator McConley was sentenced to 13 years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Bank employee Benjamin Rafael was sentenced to 30 months in prison plus  three years of supervised release.
 
Van Eman’s credits include producing the Sundance hit “The Tale”  with Laura Dern and Jason Ritter. He has 23 producer  credits and 10 acting credits listed on IMDB.
 
To learn how investors can better protect themselves see my article: The Hollywood Shuffle: Protecting Film Investors published in the Vanderbilt Law Journal.