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18 people charged in scheme to defraud investors in indie-film productions

Eighteen people have been charged with fraud, money laundering and conspiracy in a scheme that involved cold-calling investors to bankroll independent-film productions, the FBI and U.S attorney’s office said Friday.

The multi-count indictments allege that since 2004, Burbank-based Q Media Assets and Sherman Oaks-based Cinamour Entertainment LLC solicited $25 million from investors for a handful of films — some of which were never made or went straight to DVD.

FBI Special Agent Steven Goldman said the companies used high-pressure sales tactics that misrepresented facts.

The indictment alleges that the movie companies and telemarketers used only about a third of investors’ funds to produce and market the films and pocketed the rest. “That’s what makes the case criminal,” Goldman said.

Cinamour released “From Mexico With Love,” a movie starring Mexican actor Kuno Becker, in 2009. The film, for which Cinamour collected $15 million from 450 investors, had a budget of $5 million and grossed $550,000, according to the Internet Movie Database.

Investigators say Cinamour raised $2.7 million for another film that was never made.

Q Media raised $9 million for two films — one flopped, making only $700,000, and the other went straight to DVD.

The 45-count indictment against Cinamour charges 12 defendants: Daniel Toll, 56, of Encino; Joel Lee Craft Jr., 41, of San Clemente; James Lloyd, 47, of Lake Arrowhead; Paul Baker, 50, of Palm Springs; Bart Douglas Slanaker, 48, of Panorama City; Allen Bruce Agler, 54, of Canyon Country; Albert Greenhouse, 58, of Delray Beach, Fla.; DeLitha Jones-Floyd, 54, of Lancaster; Brian Emmanuel Ellis, 35, of Saugus; Daniel Morabito, 31, of Redondo Beach; David Nelson, 40, of Eagle Rock; and Daryll Van Snowden, 40 of West Hollywood.

The 33-count indictment against Q Media charged an additional five people: Robert Keskemety, 56, of Hallandale Beach, Fla.; Jady Laurence Herrmann, 34, of Lake Arrowhead; Joseph McCarthy, 37, of Boynton Beach, Fla.; Matthew Bryan Wellman-Mackin, 30, of Manhattan Beach; and Robert Ramirez, 44, of Sunland.

Federal prosecutors charged an 18th person in the investigation, but that is not included in the two indictments.

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-- Ricardo Lopez

 
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