Three men were arrested on fraud charges brought by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan over $12 million that investors were told would be used to produce major films.
Gerald Seppala, Steven Brown and James David Williams face conspiracy, money laundering and wire fraud charges. If convicted, they could face decades in prison. Prosecutors claim that the men lied about producing feature-length films and documentaries. In a 2014 civil lawsuit filed against the men, investors claimed they were told their money would go toward films starring Harry Connick Jr., Nicolas Cage and Willie Nelson.
Prosecutors claim that the men made false representations and promises from 2012 to 2016. They allege that the men used the money for personal expenses, paying back previous investors and funding other projects. Williams was accused of using some of the money to purchase a house and car for himself. The civil lawsuit alleges that an individual and two companies lost $10.9 million that was supposed to be invested in four films. The suit claims that the defendants sent falsified financial records to investors showing investments that had not been made.
Brown was arrested in New York City and was freed on $200,000 bail. Williams was arrested in Los Angeles and Seppala was arrested in Wayzata, Minnesota.