Howsam cleared of fraud charges


Nearly a year and a half after his arrest on the way home from the 2007 American Film Market, authorities have dropped all federal bank-fraud charges against former Peace Arch Entertainment CEO Gary Howsam.

The Toronto-based film producer said Tuesday that the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California dismissed all charges regarding film-finance dealings Howsam and partner Harel Goldstein had with the Comerica Bank of California in 1999 and 2000.

Howsam faced one count of bank fraud and six counts of allegedly falsifying international film distribution agreements to secure $7 million in bank loans from Comerica.

But before his case could go to trial, Howsam's defense team, led by Donald Randolph of Randolph and Associates in Santa Monica, uncovered evidence that the government's star witness, his former partner Goldstein, lied when implicating Howsam in a ruse to deceive Comerica.

"We compiled a dossier against him (Goldstein), discrediting what he told the FBI and implicating Howsam, and we proved he had a history of similar acts against other people," Randolph said.

The lawyer said that U.S. authorities reviewed the two-volume dossier before a California judge on Tuesday signed a motion from the prosecution to dismiss all charges.

Howsam, who disappeared from public view while on bail, broke his silence Tuesday to say that the legal ordeal took a huge toll on him.

"When your world turns against you and you're suddenly dealing with the U.S. government, it's a wheel that you get caught into. And you just fight for your innocence," he said.

The federal case against Howsam followed a three-year FBI investigation that included a wiretap of a Nov. 2, 2007, dinner he had with Goldstein at a Los Angeles steakhouse.

That evidence clinched an arrest warrant that was carried out on Howsam three days later as he boarded an airplane at LAX after the 2007 AFM.

But as Howsam tells it, he first met Goldstein, a film sales agent, in 1999 while producing films from his Toronto base. And it was only in 2001 that Howsam became aware of a civil lawsuit filed against Goldstein by Comerica.

By 2003, Howsam was president of Peace Arch, where his credits included one as a producer on Showtime's "The Tudors."

But in mid-2007, Goldstein secured a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney's Office over his film dealings with Comerica and attempted to implicate Howsam in return for a reduced sentence, Howsam said.

Howsam was ousted from his Peace Arch post after he was indicted in December 2007. He said Tuesday he retains a minority stake in the company and intends to resume his film production career.

He has a producer credit in "Casino Jack or Bagman," the upcoming Kevin Spacey starrer loosely based on the story of disgraced Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff. (partialdiff)