Movie producer gets 6 years for scamming BlackRock trust

Published Sat, Sep 10, 2022 · 10:10 AM

A HOLLYWOOD producer will spend 6 years in federal prison for scamming a BlackRock trust out of more than US$30 million it invested in his company.

William Sadleir, 68, was sentenced on Friday (Sep 9) by US District Judge Paul A Engelmayer in Manhattan, who also ordered him to pay nearly US$32 million in forfeiture and restitution.

Sadleir pleaded guilty in January to 2 counts of wire fraud for diverting a part of the US$75 million that the BlackRock Multi-Sector Income Trust had put into his film production and distribution company, Aviron Group LLC. Aviron participated in the distribution of films including My All-American, Kidnap and The Strangers: Prey at Night.

“Mr Sadleir is obviously disappointed with today’s sentence, but accepts the court’s judgment,” the producer’s lawyer Matthew Schwartz said in a statement. “Mr Sadleir apologises to his family and to the men and women of Aviron Pictures who have been so hurt by his conduct.”

Prosecutors said Sadleir promised BlackRock that some of the money had been invested in prepaid media credits with a unit of advertising agency GroupM Worldwide, when he actually had sent US$25 million to a fake company he had created. He then used some of the money to buy a 7-bedroom Beverly Hills mansion featured in Architectural Digest, make payments on a Tesla Model X and charter a private jet.

The government said Sadleir tried to conceal his scheme in part by pretending to be a female advertising executive at Aviron. He claimed to be on maternity leave when BlackRock made inquiries about its investment. 

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Sadleir also forged the signatures of BlackRock personnel to authorise the release of around US$3 million in liens on intellectual property and other assets relating to the company’s films that the trust had used to secure its Aviron investment.

He was the chairman and chief executive of Aviron from 2015 until December 2019, when he lost control of the company after defaulting on a BlackRock note. BLOOMBERG

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