MIAMI (AP) – A South Florida man claiming to be a movie financier was sentenced to 13 years in prison on Tuesday for carrying out a scheme to steal more than $ 60 million from investors and producers looking for fundraising for Broadway movies and shows.
Benjamin Forrest McConley, 39, has been sentenced in Miami federal court, court records show. In addition to serving a prison sentence, he must also pay restitution. He pleaded guilty in 2019 to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
According to an indictment, McConley and his co-defendant Jason Van Eman, operating as Weathervane Productions, offered to provide funding to investors and producers seeking funds to produce films, theatrical performances and other projects. McConley and Van Eman promised victims that they would match their cash contributions and use the combined funds to secure funding from financial institutions in South Florida and elsewhere, investigators said.
Benjamin Rafael, a former Wells Fargo bank employee recruited by McConley and Van Eman, bolstered the scheme by lying to victims about the safety of their funds, prosecutors said. Victims have lost millions of dollars and their contributions have never been matched. Instead of funding projects, the money was transferred to personal and corporate bank accounts and spent on luxury cars, personal watercraft, real estate, stocks, jewelry, home furnishings, designer clothes, hotel rooms and air travel.
Rafael had previously pleaded guilty for his part in the scheme, as well as in another case involving fraudulent applications for COVID-19 relief loans. He was sentenced to three and a half years in prison.
Van Eman is due to stand trial in March 2022. His lawyer, Sidney Fleischman, said Van Eman maintained his innocence and looked forward to being fully exonerated after the trial.