Ex-Cinar Co-Founder Ronald Weinberg Guilty of Fraud
The 'Busy World of Richard Scarry' producer imploded in the early 2000s, with offshore investments leading to Canada's longest jury trial.
Ronald Weinberg, Canada’s high-riding animation producer that was felled during the late 1990s by a series of corporate scandals, was found guilty of fraud on Thursday.
The jury trial, which lasted two years, ended in a Montreal courthouse with Weinberg, co-founder and former CEO of Cinar Corp., and two former business associates, Lino Matteo and John Xanthoudakis, being found guilty of orchestrating an elaborate $122 million fraud. In the 1990s, Weinberg and Cinar co-founder Micheline Charest were high-flying Canadian cartoon producers behind such popular kids series as Arthur, Lassie and The Busy World of Richard Scarry.
The Hollywood Reporter in 1997 ranked Charest as one of the most powerful women in the international entertainment business. But Weinberg and Charest's gilded world fell apart three years later when they were found to have put the names of Canadians on scripts written by Americans to secure lucrative tax credits and other government subsidies.
Canadian animator Claude Robinson in 2013 won a court battle with Cinar over the theft of one of his cartoon characters. The two decade-long investigation into the pitch for a kids show eventually led to the scandals that sank Cinar.
Charest died in 2004 from medical complications in a Montreal hospital after undergoing plastic surgery. Weinberg, Matteo and Xanthoudakis went on trial in 2014 for fraud-related charges stemming from $122 million in offshore investments made by Cinar executives between August 1998 and March 2000 without the knowledge or approval of the company’s board of directors.
Montreal-based Cinar was eventually purchased in 2004 by a consortium led by Nelvana co-founder Michael Hirsh and rebranded as Cookie Jar Entertainment.