6 Southern Californians charged with taking millions with phony movie investment scams

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Six Southern California men have been charged with stealing millions of dollars by offering investments in phony movies with names like "The Smuggler," federal prosecutors said Thursday.

The men were charged with fraud in two federal grand jury indictments and could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted, authorities said. Four were arrested on Thursday and one other man agreed to surrender to authorities, prosecutors said.

The men ran companies that used "boiler room" telemarketing operations to call people around the country and convinced some 140 people to invest nearly $5 million in bogus film projects, prosecutors contend.

"While one movie script was written, no movies were ever actually produced," the U.S. attorney's office statement said in a statement.

One movie initially was called "Marcel" but in 2011 the Alabama Securities Commission filed an order against the company for violating state investment law. The company name was changed and the movie was renamed "The Smuggler" to hide the order from potential investors, the federal indictment alleged.

Investors were told that well-known actors had contracted to appear in the film, prosecutors said, although the indictment doesn't mention any specific names.

The other movie was called "Beyond the Mat," authorities said.

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