'The Wire' Actor's Ex-Agent Pleads Guilty to Embezzling From Clients

Peter Strain is accused of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of client money on jewelry and artwork and covering up his theft by robbing from one client to pay another.
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'Wire' actor John Doman

Talent agent Peter Strain has pleaded guilty to stealing more than $500,000 from his clients, according to law enforcement authorities.

According to allegations made by prosecutors, between 2011 and 2013, Strain diverted money he received on behalf of three clients in the TV industry and used it to pay for $161,000 in jewelry, more than $310,000 in artwork and more than $57,000 at luxury goods retailers. He is also accused of paying back clients by stealing from other clients.

"Peter Strain was making the old saying of robbing one person to pay someone else come to life," says New York FBI Assistant Director in Charge George Venizelos. "In this case, he was robbing his clients and then paying himself, lying all along the way to try to cover his tracks."

Law enforcement officials say that in late 2011, he received more than $1.4 million in his trust account on behalf of "Client-1," a TV actor. When Strain discussed the missing payments with the client, Strain allegedly asked if he could delay making the payments because he was short on funds as a result of his partners embezzling from his firm. The following year, say authorities, that client was repaid after Strain stole money from "Client-2," another TV actor. When that money was discussed, Strain allegedly blamed it on a new business management team that misplaced the money. Later that year, Strain is said to have stolen yet more tens of thousands of dollars from "Client-3," another TV actor.

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The feds don't identify the identity of the actors.

However, Strain filed for bankruptcy last year, and after he did, he was hit with an embezzlement lawsuit in bankruptcy court from John Doman, who is known for playing Deputy Police Commissioner William Rawls in HBO's The Wire.

Most recently, Doman played the title character on Borgia, distributed on Canal Plus and Netflix. Doman's agreement entitled the actor to $600,000 less foreign taxes for the first 12-episode season and $510,000 for the second season. The production company deposited the money into an escrow account.

According to Doman's complaint, Strain wrongfully appropriated most of the money in the account. (The bankruptcy and lawsuit were resolved earlier this year.)

Finally, there's Strain's dispute with his former partners at Peter Strain & Associates.

In February 2011, Strain was sued in New York Supreme Court by his firm with claims of "hijacking control of PSA from its board of directors." Strain allegedly went to the firm's banks, misrepresented himself as secretary of the corporation and changed the signatories on the accounts. Strain was charged by his colleagues of not paying bills and failing to sign or re-sign clients to representation agreements on behalf of the firm.

The following month, Strain submitted his own sworn affidavit in this dispute and claimed it wasn't more than a "garden variety shareholder dispute" with his partner Lewis Friedman, whom he accused of seeking to destroy the bicoastal talent agency. He alleged that it was Friedman who was surreptitiously diverting company funds and threatening to steal client money.

So claiming a fiduciary duty, Strain says he took "immediate, necessary action to protect PSA's client funds and PSA," which included transferring bank money. In the affidavit, Strain also reported being subjected to legal threats from clients, the Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA.

In December, this lawsuit was discontinued with the consent of all the parties.

Now the FBI says Strain used some of the money for personal benefit. He's scheduled to be sentenced April 30. After pleading guilty to one count of interstate transportation of stolen property, Strain faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

E-mail: Eriq.Gardner@THR.com
Twitter: @eriqgardner