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Two executive producers, whose credits include the 2018 Sundance hit “The Tale,” are facing federal fraud and money laundering charges for allegedly running a scheme to bilk millions from investors who thought they were backing independent film projects. According to their indictment, the men instead used the money to spend lavishly on themselves: luxury cars, private air travel, real estate, and more.
Jason Van Eman, who heads the Oklahoma-based WeatherVane Prods., and producer Ben McConley allegedly teamed with a former Miami-based Wells Fargo Bank employee, Benjamin Rafael, who helped pull off the scam.
Indictment - McConley - Van - Eman - Investors
According to the indictment, McConley and Van Eman lured potential investors with the promise of “matching” their investments dollar for dollar, which they claimed to use to secure a loan to pay for the film’s production. The victim would transfer money to accounts controlled by the men, which they would use for their own purposes. Rafael would falsely assure victims about the security of their funds, using Wells Fargo emails and letterhead to write that the funds had been matched and/or lines of credit applied for. He continued to pose as a bank employee following his 2015 termination.
Each man faces four charges in federal court in Florida, according to court documents that imply the amount stolen could have been in the tens of millions.
WeatherVane - Lawyers - Men - Requests - Comment
WeatherVane and lawyers representing the men did not return requests for comment. A Wells Fargo spokeswoman said as a matter of policy the bank cannot comment on current or former employees.
Beginning in 2015, several alleged victims filed lawsuits against the men, laying the groundwork for the current criminal case. The would-be investors said they put up as much as $1.55 million to fund various film projects, including “Inside Game,” a fact-based drama due out this year starring Will Sasso and Scott Wolf about an NBA referee...
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