- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
Aviron Pictures founder William Sadleir, an executive producer on projects including Kidnap, A Private War and Serenity, was sentenced Friday to six years in prison for swindling a BlackRock investment fund out of over $30 million.
A federal judge in New York delivered the sentence after Sadleir pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud relating to stealing millions of dollars the fund had invested in Aviron, according to court documents. He was also ordered to pay $31.6 million in restitution.
Sadleir was ousted from the indie film distributor in January 2020 after he and the company were sued by BlackRock for fraud. He was subsequently charged by federal prosecutors and the Securities and Exchange Commission. The 68-year-old producer has also pleaded guilty to money laundering and fraud charges for pocketing nearly $1 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans meant to help Aviron stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic and is awaiting sentencing.
“Mr. Sadleir is obviously disappointed with today’s sentence, but accepts the court’s judgment,” his attorney Matthew Schwartz told The Hollywood Reporter. “Mr. Sadleir apologizes to his family and to the men and women of Aviron Pictures who have been so hurt by his conduct.”
Prosecutors alleged Sadleir led two schemes relating to roughly $75 million in investments made by BlackRock in Aviron. In one of them, he stole more than $25 million of the funds by lying that the money had been invested in pre-paid media credits — advance payments that can be redeemed for specific advertising at a later time — that he said would be used to promote future Aviron films. He posed as ad executive “Amanda Stevens” to communicate with the fund.
In the other scheme, Sadleir forged a BlackRock manager’s signature to sell assets worth over $3 million that secured the fund’s loans to Aviron. BlackRock had secured its investment by obtaining liens on certain intellectual property and other assets relating to the production company’s films. Sadleir, who used the money to buy a $14 million mansion in Beverly Hills among other things, subsequently sold or refinanced the assets. Aviron ultimately defaulted on the loans.
“Today’s sentence holds Sadleir accountable for his crimes, and sends a message that there will be no happy ending for executives who defraud their investors,” said U.S. Attorney Damian Williams in a statement.
Sadleir will be sentenced for Paycheck Protection Program fraud charges on Sept. 28 in federal court in California.
A status conference is scheduled for Sept. 30 in BlackRock’s lawsuit against Aviron, which hasn’t distributed or produced a film since 2019.
Aviron and BlackRock did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day